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Employee Retention Articles 

6th Annual Award for Biggest Problem in the CPA Profession: Treatment of Staff 

By Marc Rosenberg, CPA

What's a staff person worth? At an average firm, a $50,000 staff person generates about $70,000 of profits (after payroll expenses but before overhead); for excellent firms, the profit figure is closer to $100,000.

Most firms would consider a $70-$100,000 client a jewel. One would think that partners at CPA firms would treat their staff with the same passion, energy, respect and commitment to service that a $100,000 client would command. Sadly, the majority of CPA firms "just don't get it."

At a time in the profession when the supply of people has never been slimmer and the ability to retain people in the face of lucrative career alternatives has never been more difficult, one would think CPA firms would redouble their efforts to make their firms great places to work. But I'm still finding many firms paying lip service to the notion of treating staff at least as important as their best clients.

And that's why my award for the industry's biggest problem this year goes to Treatment of Staff (or lack thereof).

It's no secret what it takes to retain staff.

First and foremost, the key to staff retention is the way they are treated in the organization. The # 1 reason why employees leave any job is how they are treated by the boss. A large number of the firms I work with have at least one partner who is openly abusive to staff. This cannot be tolerated. On an interpersonal level, CPA partners need to treat employees with respect, trust and compassion.

But that's not all. Partners must go out of their way to develop staff. Part of this is training. In virtually every firm I worked with this year, partners had serious complaints about technical competence in staff members, and yet these same partners readily admitted that they personally had done little to train and develop staff. It's a vicious cycle: Firms hire staff, do little to train them, and get frustrated over competency and performance issues; staff jump ship because they can never meet the partners' expectations. Training should be a top priority for CPA firms, and partners should be held accountable for staff development.

Other suggestions for improving staff retention:

  • Keep the staff busy; don't coddle them with ridiculously low billable hour   expectations.

  • Give them flexibility; people today want control over their lives. Focus on what they produce, not when they work.

  • Communicate to the staff what's going on in the firm; partners are often needlessly secretive about too many things.

  • Make sure your firm has direction and a vision; firms that are treading water with no direction will see their good staff make a beeline for the door.

This article appeared in The Management Catalyst. Marc Rosenberg, CPA is a management and marketing consultant to CPA and law firms nationwide. He assist firms in retreat facilitating, profitability improvement, practice management reviews, strategic planning, partner compensation & retirement, partner conflict resolution, staff development, mergers and acquisitions, and marketing. His firm, The Rosenberg Associate is based in Northfield, Illinois. You can reach him at  (847) 501-4888  (847) 501-4888 and at

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Does it pay for talent to quit your company?
Here are some "Quit-Proofing" Tips to Consider!

By Patricia K. Zingheim and Jay R. Schuster 

The press is writing about talent being better off quitting a company than staying.  Top people can often get a better deal with a new employer.  We went from a time when more people than jobs existed to a time when more good jobs are chasing fewer great people.  This makes you bid for your own workers as they go out the door.  The problem calls for more than just a "patch and fix" solution because we are in for a long-term talent shortage.  So look at your talent strategy for gaps that need filling.

Four Talent-Securing Tips

Here are some tips to consider to become the company people are quitting to join rather than the company people are leaving to "do better":


1.  Provide a compelling future, not just good jobs.

In a scarce-talent market, "good jobs" are frankly a dime a dozen.  So what makes the difference?  People want to work for super companies.  They want to work for winners - companies that are financially successful.  The best talent wants a company with a vision and values they can buy into and be proud of.  They want a company with a super reputation and image.


People want to be stakeholders in the company's future- not just through stock options but through a sense of ownership as well.  Companies must offer people a win-win relationship where the workforce and the company both come out ahead. People can be loyal again- they just need something they are proud of to commit to.

2.  Provide individual growth, not just good training.

Just training isn't enough.  People want the chance to grow and improve.  They want a career with purpose and future-this means one-on-one career planning.

The best people want to know where they stand through coaching and performance management.   It means feedback on how they are doing and how they can get better all the time.  They want input so they can adjust and recalibrate during the performance period.  The best people want to be better off at the end of the year in terms of what they know and apply than at the beginning to ensure their employability.

3.  Provide a positive workplace, not just a "nice place to work."

Just "making nice" for a workplace is not enough to become an "employer of preference" or one of the "best places to work in the world." Commitment does not come by merely providing free lunches, T-shirts, and more time off.  It means providing a workplace that shows the company is strongly people focused.  This means more than most companies are either willing or able to provide.  The best people judge your company by leadership-are leaders people they respect and want to learn from?  Are colleagues people who make work exciting and eventful and do they collaborate to make the business a success?  How involved are people in the work and business process?  Do they have a chance to work on projects where they can make a difference?  Can they influence company directions and tactics- are they important to making the enterprise a success?  Are communications open-do people have the information they need to make a difference?  Are they trusted and is the company committed to letting them make a difference?

4.  Provide total pay, not just competitive pay.

People work for much more than pay, but pay is important.  Any company can match the pay of others if they have a compelling future and are able to afford it.  It's just too easy to match and outdo a pay approach that is geared only on competitiveness.  Paying people more makes your people accessible to companies that are willing to pay more than you do.  What's important is to put together a total pay solution that responds to the type of talent you need-making it tough for others to merely up the ante for your people.

Base pay does a great job of rewarding skill and career growth over time.  It can match the increasing value of talent and make your company attractive to people who will partner with you in their own growth.  Another element is incentives and stock options, not just for managers and executives, but for everyone in the workforce.  This helps emphasize business results and give leadership the chance to show the workforce what the company needs and values in terms of goal performance.  Recognition and celebration are important-the best people want to be recognized.  People want to celebrate noteworthy achievements and feel good about what is going on.  Benefits are important, especially those that provide the chance to make choices that match individual needs.


The Better Workforce Deal

The "new deal" had the workforce come more than half way to satisfy the company. That may have been an answer when companies were re-engineering, delayering, flattening, downsizing, and outsourcing-but no more.  As soon as your company chooses a strategy to grow rather than shrink to greatness, people become more important.  This mean the better workforce deal we have outlined is a priority.  How does your company stack up? 


What can you do to make yourself more attractive?  We'll bet it is more than just matching what others do-especially if you are in business for the longer term.


Patricia K. Zingheim and Jay R Schuster are partners in Schuster-Zingheim and Associates, Inc., a Los Angeles pay consulting firm founded in 1985.  This article is based on their book Pay People Right! Breakthrough Reward Strategies to Create Great Companies (Jossey-bass, 2000)as well as their 1996 book The New Pay. They can be reached at

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Employee Loyalty - A Quality Product
By Ron Rael, CPA

An article in the Wall Street Journal summarized a comprehensive survey of American workers. The survey found, “American workers are less loyal to employers than in the past.” Downsizing, weeding of management layers and fear of being fired are reasons cited for declining loyalty.

Another news article highlighted an AT&T phone repair center that saved employees’ jobs by getting employees involved. The managers reduced the cost of refurbishing telephones by asking their employees to find practical solutions. This center now repairs phones for less time and money than a sister center located in Mexico. Productivity increased as a direct result of the employees’ ideas.

Defining Continuous Improvements

Continuous improvements in quality require employees’ involvement in creating new and real solutions. How can an executive expect an employee, who fears losing their job, to stay emotionally involved? To ensure loyalty, we must do everything we can to reduce the “fear factor.” We must get every employee excited about their job, about their company and about their products and services. Three guaranteed ways to accomplish this are:

  1. Ask for, acknowledge and implement employee suggestions and ideas;

  2. Train employees to apply effective problem solving techniques; and

  3. Do not assume your employees know what is expected of them.

Employees who believe their employer cares about them and want them to succeed will care about their company.

Ron Rael, CPA. All Rights Reserved. Ron Rael, CPA is an authority on workplace culture. He works with Fast Forward business leaders, coaching them on ways to recognize, reenergize and revitalize their unique work cultures. He welcomes your thoughts and comments and can be reached by telephone at  425/898-8072  425/898-8072 or by e-mail at

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