In Pursuit of Profit
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However, employers can do their part to reduce the accounting exodus by recognizing the warning signs of accountant burnout and taking the right steps to find help. Companies that prioritize the needs of their accounting team can not only help keep accountants in the pipeline, but also increase their own revenue and profitability.
Find out what kind of red flags to be on the lookout for that indicate accounting team burnout, as well as how you can offer your accountants the support they need to thrive in their roles.
Don’t wait until your accountant packs up their desk and leaves without any warning! Honestly assess your team’s behavior and performance to look for these early warning signs that may indicate that your team is overwhelmed.
If you’re already losing people, it’s not too late to right the ship! (But it does mean that you missed the earlier signs.) Unfortunately, losing even one employee can signal to the rest of the team that they should start looking elsewhere as well. With the hot job market for accountants right now, the rest of the team may not be too keen to stick around with extra work on their plates once a coworker quits if they don’t feel like their employer is going to give them the support they need. If you are experiencing sudden turnover or people aren’t staying in the role for more than a year or two before leaving, this is a clear sign that you need to find a way to lighten the workload or ease the burden of deliverables for your remaining employees.
Increased Sick Time
Just because employees haven’t left, doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re working when they should be. Employees that are out sick cost the company money due to their lack of productivity and hint at a bigger problem that must be addressed immediately. Sure, some employees are naturally out more than others due to medical differences, but employees that suddenly begin to miss more time than usual may be feeling the physical effects of their mental burnout in a way that’s inhibiting their ability to do their jobs. Remember, these employees are likely not “playing hooky,” instead they are potentially dealing with things like difficulty sleeping, fatigue, headaches, nausea, and other very real physical effects that can manifest due to being overworked. Unfortunately, just like turnover, increased sick time can negatively affect the rest of the team because they will have to pick up the slack when their coworker is out. This is an area where managers need to tread lightly when making decisions related to job responsibilities and wages to avoid causing an HR incident or opening the company up to an employment-related lawsuit, but focusing on supporting accounting staff in their roles should reduce sick time because when employees feel energized by their work, they are less likely to miss time. The result is not only improved individual morale but also better collaboration across the team, both of which improve business outcomes.
Even among employees that aren’t missing time, you may still notice that their work is affected by the mental burden of the role. Employees that are burnt out are more likely to make mistakes, which can have serious implications for the business given the nature of the work that accountants do. If you are noticing financial errors or the company is experiencing cash flow or A/P issues, there may not be a nefarious cause behind it. Your accounting employees may simply be overworked. Hurrying or trying to multitask can result in sloppy work, especially at month or year-end because of the added work that accountants are responsible for during those periods. Often accountants that are making mistakes just need someone (or something) to take the “grunt work” off their plates so that they can focus on the higher level, more advisory-type work that they do. This kind of help can come from hiring a bookkeeper to handle ongoing bookkeeping activities, cross training another employee to help lighten the load, or using AI to automate accounting tasks.
When accountants are inundated with tasks and deliverables and are taking the time needed to do them well, they can end up missing deadlines. If you notice that reports aren’t being run on time or filings are late, this can be a sign that your accountants need help. If you aren’t getting timely communications from your accountant, this may seem less dire, but it can signal the same issue. For smaller operations, missed deadlines may also signal that your accountants are struggling with deliverables because of a lack of knowledge or resources. In this type of scenario, what your accountant may need is not simply someone else to share the burden, but someone to advise them on how to do their work more efficiently or effectively.
Falling Behind on Compliance
If your accountants are not keeping up to date with regulatory and legal changes that could affect the business’s finances, this is a big problem and a huge red flag because this is something that financial professionals are typically eager to do so that they can stay at the forefront of their profession. Ensure that they are being given the time that they need to stay abreast of the latest financial news that could affect your business and are seeking out formal training, professional seminars, and other development opportunities to stay up to date.
Diminished Team Morale
When team morale for customer-facing departments like sales or support is in the tank, you can easily feel it because these typically more gregarious groups will start to fall quiet and give off a clear indication that something is troubling them. But when an accounting or finance team is suffering from diminished morale, it can be trickier to spot because professionals in these fields tend to be a bit more introverted and tends to be more committed to the role and their individual contributions than the team or the company even in the best of scenarios. (Additionally, they are also more likely to work remotely than some of their corporate counterparts, which inherently carries its own team morale challenges.) Therefore, the goal here isn’t to look for a certain set of behaviors that indicates a culture problem, but rather to notice if a change begins to occur. If you notice that your accounting team is starting to be less social together, and isn’t working together as well as they used to, they may be dealing with a morale issue. Remember, bringing in help isn’t necessarily going to improve morale, but demonstrating that you’re committed to helping your team succeed helps employees feel seen and valued, which makes them more likely to communicate honestly when they do need help.
When accounting staff has gotten to the point of demanding help, don’t treat it like a frivolous complaint. Accountants and finance professionals are people that natural problem-solvers who typically take great pride in their work, so indicating that they need more than they are being provided is a real cry for help. Reward their honesty by listening and coming up with a plan for how the company can give them what they’re asking for in a reasonable timeframe. Remember, you may not be able to give them what they need right away, but there are solutions available to hold them over while you work on a more long-term solution.
If you notice any of these red flags, it’s time to get help! Assess how much help you need by figuring out what you need help with, which kind of professional you’ll need to do them (a bookkeeper, staff accountant, senior accountant, accounting manager, or controller), and how long they’ll take each day/week/month. If your team has really significant ongoing needs that don’t fluctuate much from month to month, you may look at hiring another full-time accountant. But if you don’t have needs that necessitate another full-time accountant, it’s probably going to make more financial sense to outsource the accounting activities that you need help with to an accounting company that can leverage their experienced team to help.
Now, with the current accounting shortage, you may find that utilizing a fractional accountant is actually a shrewd business move regardless of how much work you have because doing so provides relief for your team immediately for as long as it takes for you to find the right candidate for your open role. These days this kind of interim engagement is far more common than you might imagine because with a tight hiring market, hiring an accountant is taking longer than in years past.
When you need accounting help, reach out to us! We have a team of highly experienced accountants ready to come alongside your team to provide the much-needed assistance that they need. Whether it’s ongoing accounting activities, short-term project work, weathering an audit, tax preparation, or even just basic bookkeeping, our consulting accountants can help! We work with all major accounting platforms and can provide as many or as few hours as you need each week or month. Contact us today for more information about our fees and availability.