In Pursuit of Profit
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So, what can you do to prepare yourself for the wave of turnover that may be coming?
When they hear about this trend most employers will go into “fix it” mode and ask what they can do to keep their accountants from bolting soon. Unfortunately, at this point there’s probably very little that can be done to keep them long-term. If the year-end bonus they just got wasn’t enough persuasion, any sort of incentive you throw at them is likely just going to delay the inevitable. (Plus, the quality of work they do and passion they bring to the role is only going to suffer further if they already have one foot out the door.) Instead, your best bet is to get ready for what’s coming next. Take the steps now to be prepared in case your accountant leaves so that you’re not scrambling during tax season to find and onboard someone new.
The good news is that while some accountants may leave their role and then walk away from the profession entirely, most that leave a previous role will then be on the market. So, how do you prepare your business to pursue this available talent?
Develop an Accounting Manual
One of the best ways that you can be prepared for your accountant or bookkeeper leaving is by creating an accounting policies and procedures manual. Jason McGill explains why this is so important when he says,
This one can’t be stressed enough. It is difficult to train new employees on how to initiate, approve, and record transactions. Learning by trial and error is a costly path for growing or maintaining a business. When an employee leaves, employers lose the experience, data, best practices, and other information employees developed on the job. Since this knowledge is often held independently it’s critical to capture it and make it accessible to others.
While an accounting manual can take many forms (with some being more formal than others), at a minimum, it should document:
Once you have taken the time to put this together, be sure to update it regularly as processes and involved personnel change so that it can be as helpful as possible when you need to use it.
Being able to point a candidate for the role to a well-documented accounting policy and procedures handbook when is going to be music to their ears because it signals that you take the position seriously and you are willing to help them succeed in the role, which can certainly help you attract more serious candidates.
Move to the Cloud
Using a cloud-based accounting system allows multiple users to have simultaneous access to financial data from multiple locations so that if your accountant leaves, other staff members will be able to continue carrying out critical accounting functions without interruption. If you are still utilizing a traditional desktop-based accounting system, when key staff leave, you will need to ensure their access is handed off to other personnel, and that can sometimes be tricky when you have remote staff involved. Cloud accounting platforms offer a wide variety of benefits, such as:
When you start trying to recruit a replacement, one of the first questions candidates will likely ask is which accounting platform you use. As professionals they probably have experience across various software systems and can tell a lot about a company based on which platform they use. Experienced candidates are going to want to see that a potential employer is using a more modern accounting platform because it indicates that they are keeping up with the times and are willing to invest in more streamlined solutions.
A key component of internal controls is segregation of duties, which implicitly means that other employees will need to be trained on how to complete various accounting and bookkeeping tasks. Cross training staff in this way not only mitigates fraud risk but also provides some backup in case your accountant decides to leave. The more redundancy you have built into the system the more prepared you’ll be when you lose someone. Take the time now to get other staff up to speed with normal accounting policies, procedures, and deliverables so that they’re ready when you need them.
Having a team of people with knowledge of what needs to be done and the skills to do it also provides a great foundation for a new hire. This means that whoever you bring into the role will have a support system that they can draw on instead of feeling like they are on an island alone, which is likely to increase both a new hire’s immediate effectiveness and their long-term retention.
Create a Succession Plan
Putting together a formal succession plan is a great way to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding what will happen any time key personnel leave the company. In the same way that a business owner or CEO would create a succession plan to spell out who will take over when they leave and what kinds of activities need to be undertaken to ensure a smooth transition, your head of accounting should also have a detailed plan for what will happen someday when they leave. The fact of the matter is that no one sticks around forever, so whether your accountant decides to leave for retirement at the end of a long career with the company or decides to pursue a better opportunity earlier in their career, their departure is going to happen eventually.
Take what you have learned from your earlier steps of creating an accounting manual and cross-training staff to understand what will need to be done and who can do it. Use this information to detail a clear step-by-step plan of what will happen and what is needed to ensure success along the way.
With a formal succession plan in place, you can hit the ground running. That means you’ll be getting started right away so you can take the time that you need to be selective and find the best candidate, not just the first candidate.
Learn from Your MistakesOnce you have a new employee hired, don’t fall back into the same old routines and habits that caused your former accountant to get fed up or burnt out and leave. Implement and maintain the kind of changes that will improve job satisfaction so that your new accountant wants to stay! How? Our team has written extensively on how to increase retention in accounting, and our top tips for convincing accountants to stay include:
These are important to keep in mind because after you spend the time, money, and effort required to recruit a replacement, you’ll want to do everything that you can to ensure that they stick around long enough for it to be worth it. The more effectively you re-envision the role after your accountant leaves the more likely you are to avoid turnover in the role again soon.
Showing that you are committed to working together over the long-haul is going to be very appealing to highly driven professionals. Focus on the person too instead of just the role to stand out among top talent during the application process.
When you need an outsourced accounting solution, look no further! Our team provides third-party accounting services to companies of all sizes across many different industries when they need accounting help on a part-time, interim, or project basis. Contact us today to find out more!