There are many reasons behind a valued employee unexpectedly giving notice. They could have a sudden personal issue, have been presented with an offer out of the blue or even have to leave the country! The reaction is most often frustration with a degree of panic about who is going to carry out the work. How are you going to ensure there is a handover in place, let alone a good handover? Will you have to pay more for a replacement? Is there suitable talent available in the current accounting employment market? All of these questions will be going through your mind and some!
Not only is the pressure on to hire unexpectedly, but because the process may be rushed, the results can be less positive for your team and overall business in the future. The good news is there are options available whether you are currently in this situation or if you want to plan for such an occurrence in the future.
If you’re presented with an unexpected resignation scenario then the first thing to do is to take a breath and consider what this change means to your current team. Most organisations believe (rightly or wrongly) that it is preferable to hire a direct permanent replacement. If that is your preference, there are a few options that may be available to you. Start with identifying what internal resources are available; perhaps there is already a suitably experienced candidate in the business or someone who you believe may have the potential to learn the role. The bonus is that they are familiar with the company and its processes which would definitely give them an advantage. Also, speak with your networks as there may be an excellent candidate who has recently become available.
If you have exhausted these options and none of these solutions are available, the next step is to get an understanding of the current market by getting in touch with your specialist accounting recruitment partner. We’re constantly speaking with professionals across the full finance spectrum so can fill in any gaps around market pay (download a copy of our 2019/20 Sydney Accounting Salaries Report here), provide an insight into the current hiring time for that particular role and of course, advise who is currently available.
While we will always endeavour to provide the quickest solution available, in most circumstances accounting professionals in Sydney are on four weeks’ notice. Add that to the time your organisation normally takes to recruit (interviews, background checks etc.) and we have seen timeframes blow out to 3 months before the ideal candidate joins the company. If your business can’t afford a gap, then interim cover in the form of an accounting temp can provide short-term relief and keep things running smoothly. Temps are generally available on short notice, are used to getting up to speed quickly and have the added bonus of reducing the stress levels in your team. Even if the temp isn’t the perfect fit, they will still buy you valuable time to find the right long-term hire. In addition, that temp may turn out to be your perfect candidate who you would never have considered for a permanent job in the first place.
If a temp isn’t an option then sometimes simply stretching an already valued and dependable employee for a few weeks, while you find a new permanent hire can be an alternative solution. Be aware however that unless managed carefully, this does come with the obvious risk of increased stress levels leading to burnout and the possibility of both jobs not being done thoroughly. If you do take this route, it’s important to be sure you judge workloads appropriately and be certain the person taking on the extra work is comfortable with the additional pressure and is happy for the challenge.
Temporary cover also doesn’t have to be in the form of a like-for-like replacement. I recently worked with a client whose Finance Manager was leaving and instead of recruiting a temporary Finance Manager, they asked Richard Lloyd to source someone who had an additional 5-10 years of experience. Whilst this temp resource came at a greater cost, the advantage was that due to their experience, the handover didn’t need to focus on how to do the role itself, but more on the specific nuances of the company’s systems and processes meaning that there were no skill gaps and it maintained confidence within the workplace. In addition, the situation was also used to review the position itself and look at any changes needed in the job description prior to a new permanent employee joining.
In the event that you don’t have or can’t source an immediate replacement or temporary cover, it’s critical to ensure your soon-to-be ex-employee is tasked with preparing detailed handover documentation. If possible it’s highly preferable to prioritise this over regular duties, as after they have left the business, it is significantly harder to get the information you need.
When hiring accountants in a hurry, it’s tempting to settle for second best, bypass elements of your regular recruitment process, or even progress with someone that you wouldn’t normally consider. However, for the sake of your business, it’s critical to avoid these scenarios at all costs. Be certain the candidate is appropriately qualified, well versed in the role, and that you have confidence in their skills through sound references (click here to read our blog on reference checking).
As mentioned above, one smart move to make if you do find yourself with an unexpected gap is to use it as an opportunity to review the role itself. It’s possible the duties of this role could be split amongst a few different employees, eliminating unnecessary spending and making room within your budget to bring on another position that would add even more value.
If you’re lucky enough to be reading this before you have an unexpected resignation, you have a great opportunity to plan for such an occurrence and thereby reduce the stress when it inevitably does happen.
The best practice is to have a succession plan in place for each role within your accounting team. The simplest way to do this is to have junior team members occasionally shadow their seniors or even step in as cover during holidays or sick leave. This isn’t always possible for every role, but having people trained to work in several areas of the business is the next best solution.
Keeping abreast of your local talent community is also beneficial. This way if you do have a gap you’ll know who is available, at what cost and how long it will take. You may even have a pipeline of talent available to tap into depending on how networked you are. The trick to staying ahead is to always keep an eye out for exceptional candidates even if you’re not actively recruiting. It could be that you met your next Financial Controller at the last CPA conference but just didn’t have a role available at the time.
Lastly, one of the best ways to mitigate potential surprise scenarios like an unexpected resignation is to focus on fostering open relationships with your team. Nobody wants to stay in the same role forever, so it’s important that they are aware that you have a genuine interest in their career and make sure they are happy. In cultivating this atmosphere of trust and honesty, they are more likely to approach you early on with their concerns or ambitions, allowing you the opportunity to address these or worst case, more time to plan for their eventual departure. Read more on this topic here.
If you do find yourself in a situation where you urgently need a talented accounting professional either permanently or on a temporary basis, please get in touch with the Sydney Accounting Recruitment team here at Richard Lloyd.
If you enjoyed reading this article, don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn for all our latest articles.