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How to stop the ‘hire and fire’ burnout

High employee turnover can hurt a firm’s bottom line as well as damaging morale, so here is a guide on how to retain your best accountants.

Insights Louise Pope, Aequalis Consulting 11 August 2017
— 4 minute read

High employee turnover hurts a company’s bottom line. Experts estimate its costs upwards of twice an employee’s salary to find and train a replacement. Further, churn can damage morale among remaining employees.


Despite the growing trend for companies to turnover their staff frequently, or fire them and use consultants on an “as needed” basis, there is still a requirement for organisations to keep their best performers for the permanent positions needed in the business. With more and more people taking to working for themselves, or moving around experimenting with careers and employers, the task of keeping good staff becomes more challenging.

Employee turnover can cost organisations thousands of dollars when you consider lost production time, re-training, etc. One of the key ways to keep good staff is to instill in them a sense of loyalty and commitment. Here are some ideas to achieve this:

1. Hiring the right people from the start. Most experts agree, is the single best way to reduce employee turnover. Interview and vet candidates carefully, not just to ensure they have the right skills but also that they fit well with the company culture, managers and co-workers. Get the right people in place to lead the change. What skills do you need? What attitudes are you looking for? And who has them?

2. Setting the right compensation and benefits. Look into current data on industry pay packages, and get creative when necessary with benefits, flexible work schedules and bonus structures. Brainstorm and ask staff for their ideas on reward/bonus systems. Rewards need not entail cash bonuses, but may include benefits such as child crèches, flexible hours, time off, payment of professional association fees, etc.

3. Pay attention to employees’ personal needs and offer more flexibility where you can. Consider offering telecommuting, If the type of work they are doing permits, consider allowing them one or two days a week when they can "work from home".

4. Bolster employees’ engagement. Employees need social interaction and a rewarding work environment. They need respect and recognition from managers, and a challenging position with room to learn and move up.

5. Create a positive work environment. Managers often overlook how important a positive work environment is, and how far meaningful recognition and praise from managers can go to achieve that. Awards, recognition and praise might just be the single most cost-effective way to maintain a happy, productive work force. Show an active interest in your staff’s welfare and enjoyment in their employment – don’t wait until the once a year review.

6. Simple emails of praise at the completion of a project, monthly memos outlining achievements of your team to the wider division, and peer-recognition programs are all ways to inject some positive feedback into a workforce. Also, consider reporting accomplishments up the chain. A thank you note or in person to the employee is good. Copying higher-ups makes that note even more effective. To make it easier to identify accomplishments, ask your team for weekly or monthly updates of their achievements. Ask for specific numbers, examples or emails of praise from co-workers or customers.

7. Outline challenging, clear career paths. Employees want to know where they could be headed and how they can get there. Annual reviews or midyear check-ins are one obvious venue for these discussion, but you should also encourage workers to come to you with career questions and wishes throughout the year.

8. Keep an ear to the ground. Don’t wait until disgruntled staff come to you – by then, much damage has already been done. Whether the problem is at an individual level, or involves an entire department, or an individual manager, act quickly and be seen to be taking steps to rectify any problem areas. Consult with all levels of staff. Encourage your management to take weekly walks around departments, letting their presence be known, asking friendly questions, showing concern, and taking steps to rectify problems.

9. Identify some short-term wins. Nothing motivates like success! Changes, like providing new PCs before the implementation of a new IT system, can help people see some benefits from the change, and at an early stage.

10. Encourage risk taking, new ideas, activities and actions. Involving people along the way helps them to understand what’s in it for them. Remember that there are lots of examples from history of many failures before a great success, so encouragement from you could lead to more benefits than you ever expected.

11. Be honest. If the job opening you are offering is potentially a short-term arrangement, or likely to change or disappear in the future, be open and honest about it up front. Never mislead employees. Remember many employees think of their company (employer) as an extension of their family. Treat them as you would a valued family member and you will have lifelong loyalty. Treat them as a ‘number’, a disposable commodity, and you will have nothing.

Final thought

Listen, listen, listen. Money is one of the least common reasons for turnover (lower pay scale positions are sometimes exceptions) so if you are experiencing a high turnover, throwing money at the problem will not make it go away (although it might hide the problem for a while).

Debrief employees that quit and find out the "why" behind their decision. If you continue to allow the employees to leave without any efforts or actions to stop it, you effectively create a culture that becomes the norm in your business.

Louise Pope, Aequalis Consulting

How to stop the ‘hire and fire’ burnout
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Louise Pope

Louise Pope

Louise has accumulated more than 20 years of recruitment experience in the UK and Australia. After successfully managing teams for one of the largest finance recruiters in the world, Louise transferred to Sydney in April 1999 and launched new offices and new product lines, managing the group through significant growth as head of the Accounting and Finance division.

In 2004, Louise founded Aequalis Consulting. Louise has a down to earth approach, but her energy, passion and ambition still fuel the business today, and will continue to contribute to Aequalis’s long-term success. She is a strong advocate of acknowledging the shortcomings of the recruitment industry, and is known for telling it like it is.