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Task-focused firms ‘risk losing staff to rivals’


An unbalanced workplace culture fixated on results will be a handicap to employee retention, says one leadership consultant.

By Christine Chen 12 minute read

A tendency for accounting firms to fixate on tasks can cause workplace culture to “fall away” and damage their ability to recruit and retain staff, according to one leadership consultant.

Dean Anderson, CEO of Leading Teams, said establishing a robust culture was key to talent retention and while remuneration and benefits could help, businesses ultimately needed to give people a reason to go to work.

“Retention is increasingly topical. I think over time as cost cuttings come through and increased scrutiny comes over results and tasks, retention of staff in this industry has become very difficult,” he said.


Mr Anderson said the balance between tasks and relationships was “out of whack” in many firms. 

“Across the board in professional services, a lot of firms fall into the trap of creating culture centring on purpose and conversation around tasks and overburdening people,” he said.

“While tasks are important, there’s a balancing act. Businesses need to perform but people within businesses need to work in a sustainable way.”

“If the purpose of a business is task-driven, that can have an impact on sustainability because people want to thrive at work and a lot of that is down to how teams work together instead.”

Burnout and workplace toxicity has been widely reported in the profession, with recent scandals highlighting the consequences of poor culture. 

Mr Anderson described Leading Teams as "facilitators" for businesses looking to shake things up, using a ‘high performance model’ based around relationship building and an agreed behavioural framework to drive cultural change.

“The critical thing is finding the time to invest in culture, in dynamics, doing check-ins with people and building relationships that way,” he said.

However, he warned there would be no ‘quick fix’ for poor culture and that change had to start from the top.

“Leaders are important in this. They need to be brave enough to actually talk it through and do an audit. If we don’t have leaders who are prepared to be vulnerable like that, then it’s very difficult to implement change,” he said.

“Some people think we can come in and talk for two hours and they’re set and their business will be cured on culture and leadership forever.”

When workloads are high, “people could get angry and frustrated in an office” and complacency could easily creep in.

“It doesn’t take much for culture to fall away. You should always have a review mechanism: review a situation, commit to do something, do it, then review again.”

“But when you’ve got a team together that’s working coherently, it’s so powerful.”


Christine Chen

Christine Chen


Christine Chen is a graduate journalist at Accountants Daily and Accounting Times, the leading sources of news, insight, and educational content for professionals in the accounting sector.

Previously, Christine has written for City Hub, the South Sydney Herald and Honi Soit. She has also produced online content for LegalVision and completed internships at EY and Deloitte.

Christine has a commerce degree from the University of Western Australia and is studying a Juris Doctor degree at the University of Sydney. 

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