Paying competitive salaries tops firms' retention issues

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With low turnover rates and high average employee tenures, accounting firms are, by and large, more concerned about recruiting than retention, according to a new study -- though they do have concerns when it comes to keeping staff.

The research, part of the monthly Accountants Confidence Index study that Accounting Today conducts in partnership with ADP, asked 265 accountants from across the country about their issues and concerns regarding retention, and found that just over half (51 percent) find recruiting more difficult, and a third (31 percent) find them equally difficult. Less than a tenth (9 percent) reported that retention is more difficult.

Bearing that out was the fact that almost two-thirds of respondents (61 percent) reported average turnover rates below 5 percent, and a similar number (60 percent) said that their average employee tenure was five years or more.

Which isn't to say that they were entirely unconcerned about retention: Less than a tenth (9 percent) said that retention was easy, and they provided a long list of obstacles to keeping employees on board.

AT-101019- ADP Recruiting vs retention CHART
While more accountants find recruiting harder than retention, only 9 percent of respondents find them easy.
AT-101019-ADP turnover rate Chart
Opinions vary, but in general turnover rates between 10 and 15 percent are considered relatively healthy -- so the fact over 85 percent of accounting firms reported turnover rates below 10 percent is extraordinary.
AT-101019-ADP employee tenure CHART
For comparison, consider that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median employee tenure nationwide is 4.2 years
AT-101019-ADP Retention Issues - GRAPH
For all the focus on work-life balance, it ranked relatively low among obstacles to retention. Even less of a concern were poaching by other firms or organizations outside accounting, bad managers, failure to support remote work, and outdated technology, all of which were cited by fewer than 10 percent of respondents.