No one bats 1.000 when it comes to employee retention. Even when a workplace gets everything right, employees will need to move, retire, or just plain grow out of their job, causing them to move on through no fault of yours.
But then there are the reasons employees leave that you CAN control. Smart managers and firm principals always keep a steady finger on the pulse of employee sentiment. If yours isn’t, then you can be blindsided by one or (heaven forbid) more exits.
The so-called Great Resignation has been empowered by historically low unemployment, meaning even moderately unamused employees are confident they can find work somewhere else.
Even when the employee with one foot out the door isn’t one of your best, there can be domino effect consequences—not the least of which being the well-known and researched fact that it’s far less expensive for a business to retain an employee than to recruit and hire for their position.
So unless you’re okay with throwing money away, or the employee(s) about to leave were actively harming your firm in some way, it’s a smart move to work consistently to retain the employees you have.
In view of that, here are some of the top reasons employees decide to jump off the train.
Problems with the boss
This is probably the first or second reason that popped into your head. Whether the power differential is causing an issue between supervisor and employee, there's a personality conflict, poor behavior, unrealistic expectations... employees frequently offer that their supervisor made them want to leave.
And there are plenty of other ways staff can be displeased with their supervisors, too:
Unclear direction or priorities
Lack of sympathy/empathy
Unpleasant demeanor or unapproachable personality
Limited availability/often unreachable
Inequitable distribution of work
Lack of trust
"People don't leave jobs, they leave supervisors" is a term you might be familiar with. It's a bit of an exaggeration, but pretty close to hitting the target.
You might be resistant to this reasoning if YOU are the boss in question. No one likes to think they’re making people want to leave their job. But being the reason people aren’t happy in their jobs doesn’t translate directly into “you’re a BAD boss,” and definitely not “you’re a bad person.” But it does mean you might want to take a look at how you can do more to keep your direct reports happy. That can include team building, leadership training, scheduling mediation with aggrieved employees, restructuring your team or, if your issues seem to be minor—a good, old-fashioned pep talk.
Whatever you do to address the issue, your goal is to build strong relationships with your employees, and have their backs when they need you most.
Compensation and benefits
Simple, right? The employee isn't making enough money, doesn't have health insurance (or the health insurance they do have stinks), no 401k... on and on. A lack of regular raises or a convoluted or unfair bonus structure can also come into play in this area.
If your employees are making considerably less than the average for your location (or in the case of remote work—theirs), you should take a serious look at offering some pay boosts. As of this writing, the job market is super hot—if someone isn’t making what they should be, they can find it somewhere else. If you have questions about average pay for a position in your area, you can learn it from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Try your best to be equitable, while making sure staff get what they need. Many employers are now tying raises to objective measures to keep raises transparent. Those who accomplish the most against written, stated goals get the best bump. But if you can't afford to increase compensation, be honest.
Many businesses get by on relatively thin margins, and many accounting firms are included in this. Your staff are mostly, if not entirely accountants. They get it.
But that doesn't fully pardon you. Your responsibility is to outline the circumstances necessary to make raises possible. What does the staff need to accomplish to enable raises? Tell them. If "X" amount of revenue or "X" number of new clients will do the trick; share that goal, then promise them the raise if those goals are met. Brave? Make a written contract with your staff for this. They'll respect you more for holding yourself to the promise.
Benefits are trickier. Healthcare, 401k, Dental, Vision—these are the bare minimum, and should be as affordable as possible for your staff. When you can't offer the very best rates or options, however, some more creative options can help fill in the blanks—these are some of the fun things you might have heard of, like custom ice cream bars, theater rooms, ping pong tables and the like. A little enjoyment goes a long way.
There are many different ways to define culture, and no one of them is correct in all instances. In general, when culture is a primary reason for an employee's departure, it refers to:
staff demeanor and behavior (such as gossip or inappropriate workplace discussions or actions)
restrictive rules or a lack of trust as demonstrated by intrusive policies (such as "online" monitors)
feeling a lack of team cohesiveness or a lack of belonging
little or no recognition from leadership
tolerance of controversial, prejudicial or offensive speech or displays
lack of understanding, sympathy or empathy for extenuating circumstances such as illness, loss of a loved one or major life event such as a wedding or cultural celebration
You can survey employees or find other creative ways to get at the heart of what your culture looks like. When you find sticking points, ask for employee input on how best to solve the problem.
Oh yeah, and protip: DON’T schedule team building after hours or on weekends. Plan for it during work hours, over multiple days if necessary.
Is that all?
If only. There are even more reasons an employee might be motivated to leave your firm. And while these are some of the more prominent, you could be dealing with something else altogether.
A solid HR professional, if you don’t already have one, is the perfect person to address employee happiness and security. As a bonus, they’re familiar with the applicable laws and regulations that govern employment (for example, they can tell you that YES, it’s not only allowable for your employees to discuss their salaries, it’s a protected RIGHT).
And naturally we’re going to tell you how using Botkeeper can help: a big part of employee happiness is enjoying their work. And no one likes repetitive data entry. That’s why Botkeeper is a perfect solution to automate your bookkeeping—it frees up your employees to do even more for your firm. Get started today!