In short, there is something funky happening in respect of accounting personnel and all firms should be wary. We appreciate staff, good staff, are never easy to come by, especially in regional centres, although perhaps with the pandemic we have had some reprieve from the significant need to recruit. That said, since around October last year, staff turnover has been on the rise, particularly in the Eastern States.

What we have been hearing from an increasing number of firms is one of two trends:

  1. Professional staff are being offered significant ($10K – $15K) sign on fees to leave their current position and move to another practice. I suspect this is being driven in part by larger firms who reportedly let go of staff as the pandemic hit, so larger firms are head hunting from those slightly smaller than themselves and so on it goes down the chain. It is also being driven by firms who utilise outsourcing services in India and Asia that were experiencing their own lockdowns and are therefore unavailable to provide services at the required times, so these firms are having to resource locally. Hopefully this part will ease up once outsourcing personnel become available again.
  2. Staff are leaving firms to take up positions in commerce / industry which are offering up to 50% salary increases on their current remuneration. It makes me wonder whether staff are burnt out following the last 12 months of madness.

That said, as a profession, we simply can’t afford to increase all professional staff salaries by 20%, 30%, 40% or 50%. Trying to compete on price will be simply a short term gain, if you are able to retain the staff member, for long term pain, as this eats further into profitability. It will also ‘hold a gun’ to the heads of partners to once again be essentially blackmailed next year when the same personnel trot back to the negotiation table with similar demands or they will walk. Whilst some selective significant reviews might keep those who you are super keen to retain, this too can lead to issues should other personnel find out their reviews weren’t quite so generous.

For those firms finding it difficult to recruit staff then perhaps outsourcing, where available, is an opportunity for you. I appreciate that everyone has their own view regarding outsourcing or offshoring or similar types of set ups, and from discussions with firms, those who have gone down such avenues have done so with varying degrees of success. However, for particularly regional practices, this is how some of your peers have partly resolved this issue.

Lastly, all the employment surveys telling us that money isn’t the number one reason why staff stay with their employers, thus if that is correct, I feel that trying to keep staff that are constantly chasing the money just isn’t great for a firm’s culture. I’m a big believer in paying staff fairly and acknowledging performance above and beyond. Perhaps it is time to revisit what the key reasons are that staff stay in their jobs and work on those aspects within our firms.

If your firm is interested or concerned whether its staff remuneration is competitive with market, our current Charge Rates & Salaries Survey will be released on 4th June with registrations to participate or purchase this report open.

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