How to keep hold of your qualified accountants
While investment in training and qualifications for the junior members of your accounting and finance team can be a costly and time consuming process, it is a necessity that must be adhered to in order to develop the best members of staff and safeguard the future of your firm.
However, what happens when a member of staff decides to leave a business as soon as they have finished their ACCA or CIMA? While most businesses typically enforce clauses into their contracts to protect their best interests and prevent staff from ‘jumping ship’ as soon as they have qualified, it is important that employers create an environment that encourages longevity for their junior members of staff.
Here, James Calder, CEO at Distinct Recruitment, explains how employers can create an environment that encourages staff to continue their career development with the company they qualified with, and how companies can help facilitate staff development and create the best financial leaders.
Many junior members of the team could be lulled into a sense of thinking that once they have completed their CIMA, ACCA or AAT studies that the learning stops there for a while – at least until they gain the experience to warrant a promotion or more senior role. For companies, having junior members of staff with this mindset is potentially dangerous as it could lead to members of the team that you have invested valuable time and money into moving onto pastures new – not because they hate the job necessarily – but because they are bored and can’t envisage progression.
The key thing is to keep providing new experiences and opportunities to learn to those in the company that are currently studying or have recently qualified. The most successful businesses at retaining talent manage to develop their teams in line with theoretical aspects of their qualification, meaning employees can fully recognise the value of their learnings and have full autonomy of being able to put their studies into practise.
You can also showcase your company’s culture during the study period to junior members of the team too and can encourage retention and loyalty further down the line. Providing adequate time off for revision and exams, or encouraging flexible working can go a way for staff during a stressful period which they will recognise.
While it goes without saying that companies should protect themselves with a strong study contract should a member of staff decide to leave as soon as they have qualified, there are a number of other ways to encourage accounting professionals to stick with the business that has already invested heavily in them.
We have found that most candidates at this level will stick with a company or practice if they can see a clear development plan in place. While this could come in a clearly documented set of goals and KPIs for an individual to reach each year in order to progress, this can also be done by assigning more complex tasks or shadowing opportunities. Providing a chance for them to dip their toe in the water can often provide the drive and impetus to continue to working hard towards the opportunities that are available in your business.
Based on the companies I have worked with, the ethos and mentality of developing more junior members of the team streams from from the top. For example, if a ‘finance director’ or ‘head of finance’ is happy to pass some of their work down to help their teams build experience, then their successor can pass on parts of their role to ensure that the team maintains knowledge and experience. This also ensures that the knowledge of somebody’s work remains elsewhere in the team if someone does decide to leave.
Taking an active interest in what is being covered in CIMA, ACCA or AAT studies also means the right experience can be passed on, providing further practical experience that will only benefit their studies and results.
Accountancy professionals can also benefit from learning about the wider implications of business operations outside of the finance team such as in sales, marketing or logistics. Encourage your team to learn from other members of staff outside of your immediate team – not only will this develop their knowledge – but it will also help to enhance communication skills.
Now that they have the qualifications, it’s important that staff carefully consider their aims and ambitions and where they want to be in one year, three years and a decade’s time.
Businesses, and in particular managers, must think about their future career goals, and what they need to gain experience wise to reach those roles. It is unrealistic to expect all members of your junior finance team to stick with a company for the rest of their career, so finding a balance that allows employees to develop themselves as an individual and within a business is key.
The key for staff is to be ‘like a sponge’ at this level and absorb as much relevant experience as possible. It’s not always essential to leave a company to do this for you, the key is to share these goals with your team and ask for their support to get involved in more projects and tasks.
I would say the key is listening to each other and not being afraid to pass on responsibility. Replacing PQ accountants, for example, is very tough due to a lack of talent in the market, therefore development and retention is essential.
If you can mould a role around a candidate’s career goals and studies then it means the team can grow by recruiting more junior team members and take advantage of initiatives such as the apprenticeship levy. This gives companies the opportunity to hire on cultural fit and train the experience – which typically results in better working relationships and higher retention levels. One simple question to ask the team regularly is ‘what one thing could we do to make you happier at work?’ This will allow conversations to arise before someone thinks about leaving.
Developing a strong junior finance team safeguards the future of your business and ensures it can continue to grow and remain ahead of competitors and while it might seem like a major investment in time and money in the short term, you can’t put a cap on learning potential. When have you ever been told that a member of the team knows too much?