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Remote work isn’t a perk; it’s expected

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How would your firm continue serving clients and keeping the lights on if 40% of your team quit next week? It’s hard to imagine such a dramatic event, but it’s one every firm leader should ponder during The Great Resignation.

Many firm leaders are looking forward to getting employees back in the office on a full-time basis. But that drive is clashing with employees who now consider remote work not as a perk but as a necessity for continued employment.

Work from home or bust

The pandemic accelerated an existing trend by proving that most of the work accountants do can be done anywhere. Why navigate lengthy commutes, noisy and distracting co-workers, and stuffy dress codes when they can be just as productive — sometimes even more so — while working from home?

In a survey conducted earlier this year by Ipsos in partnership with the World Economic Forum, 30% of workers would look for another job rather than work away from home full time. That number increases when we look at people under 35 and parents of children aged 17 and younger.

The new war for talent

The war for top talent is nothing new for the accounting profession, but after a brief lull in 2020, it’s back — and particularly aggressive.

Many firms remained highly profitable through the downturn by providing high-value advisory and consulting services. Now that we’re experiencing an economic upturn, it seems as though everyone is competing for the same talent.

Today, your firm is not just competing against other firms in your geographic area. You’re competing against firms across the country and even across the globe. Larger market firms are wooing regionally based professionals with massive pay hikes and promises of full-time remote work. Can you compete?

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Changing mindsets around remote work

In the past several months, we’ve talked to many firm leaders who want people back in the office. Too often, these leaders point to one or two low performers as the reason they need everyone in-person full-time.

By and large, productivity has increased since people began working from home. So, if one or two employees struggle to remain productive and accountable while working remotely, you should be addressing their performance individually. Making decisions based on the exception will only push your high performers out.

Losing talent and struggling to attract new recruits isn’t inevitable. If you’re concerned about winning this new war for talent, here are five areas to focus on.

  1. Uncertainty causes anxiety. Focus on clear communication around your remote and hybrid work plans and performance expectations.
  2. Learning and development. Many firm leaders indicate that training and mentoring have suffered during the pandemic but learning and development don’t have to take a back-seat when people aren’t working in the same physical location. Virtual learning opportunities can be extremely valuable when they’re well thought out, focusing on making the experience engaging and interactive.
  3. Give your employees the tools to make remote and hybrid work successful. Cloud-based systems, communication and collaboration tools, workflow and project management applications bring the team together no matter where people are located and allow them to do their jobs effectively and efficiently.
  4. Leadership skills. Partners and managers are front and center in the effort to retain talent. To be effective leaders, they need the skills to engage and listen, give and receive feedback, and engage with employees on their personal and professional goals and career aspirations. If firm leaders aren’t up to the task, investing in leadership training and coaching should be a top priority. Remember, people don’t leave companies; they leave bad managers.
  5. Efficient processes. Last year’s transition to remote work uncovered friction that your team may not have noticed when everyone was in the office. Identify those problem areas and ensure your processes are designed with a “remote first” point of view. Without standard firm-wide processes, people tend to fall back on their own preferences, which might not be ideal for the firm or its clients.

Don’t let your need to be back in the office drown out the voices of your employees. Continue to listen to them as you adjust to new ways of working. You will make mistakes along the way but listening to your people will help you identify and resolve problems quickly. How your firm responds to the call for remote and hybrid work will determine its success in the war for talent.

Sage 20 for 20 Accountant Accelerator Program

Designed by and for accountants like you, Sage 20 for 20 provides technology solutions and essential resources to help accountants grow and scale their practice.

 

Learn more

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