How to retain good employees in your modern firm

minute read

Last Updated September 29, 2023


Take a look around your firm. How many staff members do you suppose are thinking right now, “Am I OK?”

(Hint: You may be surprised.)

And under the guise of, “Am I OK?”, they may also be wondering if they’re secure in their job; if someone was intentionally passive-aggressive toward them in a meeting; if they even know what they’re supposed to do at work on a day-to-day basis; if today is the day they walk out the door for good.

I’m going to be honest with you: Those are the symptoms of an unhealthy firm culture, and if any of this sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. Those unhealthy cultures have also left many firms wondering how to retain good employees.

But there’s good news. You can turn this around by becoming a modern accounting firm and building a business model that supports your firm’s two most valuable assets: your clients and your team.

You have the choice to make a change that shifts the focus from running your firm the way you’ve always done it. So, settle in, take a deep breath and let’s dive into how to retain good employees in your firm by focusing on three initiatives.

Initiative 1: An intentional business model

At the heart of every modern firm is a sustainable and intentional business model. This means that you have clearly defined:

  • WHO you want to serve.
  • WHAT products and services you want to provide.
  • HOW you want to deliver your services.

One of the most valuable byproducts of an intentional business model is the ability to attract and retain top talent. When you know who your firm serves (i.e., your ideal clients), what products and services you provide and how you want to deliver those products (i.e., the processes and tech stack you use), you set clear expectations for every member of your firm.

An unintentional business model leads to distress throughout your team, lowers job satisfaction and causes chaos during busy season. Defining clear expectations through an intentional business model keeps your employees engaged. Not only that, but it sets the tone for a healthy work environment. You empower your team because they come to work knowing what to expect each day.

Initiative 2: A strong culture

Learn how to retain good employees in your accounting firm by shifting your focus to three important initiatives.

When your business model is crystal clear, it protects your firm’s two most valuable assets: your client list and your team. As your focus shifts from centering around the bottom line to supporting your people, you proactively create an irresistible firm culture.

A strong and healthy culture is made up of what we like to call the Four Cs:

  • Clarity: The awareness around your firm’s business model (i.e., the WHO, WHAT and HOW).
  • Candor: The space you create to encourage honest feedback from your team without fear of repercussion.
  • Connection: The result of creating an atmosphere where your team feels seen, heard and valued.
  • Consistency: The consistent strides you take to create clarity, build candor and establish connections within your firm.

You want to create an environment that promotes work-life balance, offers development opportunities for career growth, encourages employees to be candid and helps employees feel valued. Putting the Four Cs into action ensures that you’re creating a culture that prioritizes people and retains top talent.

Initiative 3: The prioritization of people (or how to retain good employees)

If there’s one thing you take away from this article today, it should be this: People matter most. Part of being a modern firm is prioritizing your people, and when you do that, you organically begin to value your team.

Many firms struggle to do the “right” things when it comes to their staff. And by “right,” I mean the initiatives larger companies take to implement DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging) and mental health awareness. But the difference between large businesses and modern accounting firms is that firms don’t have to manufacture these initiatives. They’re natural byproducts of an intentional business model and a people-driven culture.

I want to challenge you to start implementing one thing with your team right now: 15-minute check-in meetings with each staff member once a month. (Yes, even during busy season. Trust me—just do it.)

Here are some tips to get the most out of these check-ins:

  • Create a recurring meeting for each member of your team. I recommend checking in at least once a month.
  • Promote this check-in meeting as a time for your staff members to be candid about how they’re doing. This should serve as an outlet for them, not feedback on their job performance.
  • Ask about their mental health and allow them to be honest. Are they overwhelmed? Are they unsure about where they stand? Listen, validate their feelings and take steps to help encourage positive mental health.

During these one-on-one meetings, you’ll learn how your staff members are doing and how they feel about their work. And meeting with them consistently (yes, even during busy season) will make a world of difference. Your team will feel valued and validated knowing they have dedicated time on your calendar.

You can make mistakes in your firm, such as implementing the wrong technology or taking on a non-ideal client or two, if you prioritize people. When you get the people right—and you treat them right—they will more patient and more engaged, and it creates the sense of “we’re in this together.” Because you are. Without the right people, your firm will struggle to succeed.

How to retain good employees? Shift your focus

Part of being a modern firm is paying attention to what’s next and being open-minded about changes you need to make. Whether that’s adjusting your business model, creating clear processes or making an effort to create a healthy culture, you have to prioritize your people.

Remember: People. Matter. Most. 

To learn more about how to retain good employees in your modern firm, watch our on-demand webinar.

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