How to address staffing concerns

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies had to quickly restructure and re-evaluate their work models.

The term “The Great Resignation,” coined by Anthony Klotz of Texas A&M University in May 2021, describes the prediction that workers would leave their current jobs. As time went by, record-high resignations took place, creating a labor shortage across different sectors and  leaving companies reeling to find help.

Even before the pandemic, turnover at accounting firms has been an ongoing issue for decades. When The Great Resignation took place, the accounting profession was  severely affected. Some offices that were filled with employees 70 hours a week were now completely empty due to shutdown restraints. Corporate cultures that were  built with employees working side by side and in person were replaced with Zoom meetings, Slack, and Microsoft Team chats, while workers navigated balancing work life with working from home. Firms have seen more rising stars and partner-track managers, whom they have  invested in for years, end up quitting for another firm or leaving the profession altogether. But the problem is neither the pandemic nor The Great Resignation. These are merely symptoms of a greater disease—and that disease is a lack of vision.

Casting vision like a nonprofit

If you want to look at what great vision is and what great buy-in looks like, look no farther than the nonprofit. When you think about the nature of nonprofits such as churches, the central thing that brings them together is a shared belief. And leadership of these nonprofits is continually casting vision for its stakeholders on this premise: “We gather because we believe in something greater than ourselves.” Leadership will share success stories, and how the charitable donations are used to transform lives. Members of the organization are not paid with a compensation package; in fact, these members donate their time and money to these causes.

There is an intangible spiritual aspect that is lacking in the modern-day accounting firm.

The Great Resignation was a time when many left their organizations because of lack of belief in those organizations. They believed that the grass was greener elsewhere. So how does your firm create that kind of culture in a for-profit business where employees are incentivized and paid to help create value? Step one is to understand what that landscape is for your current work culture.

Understanding the current culture

Creating culture happens whether it’s well intended or not. Many firm leaders will implement the same management style they were raised in. But usually these management styles catered to one or two generations removed from millennials or Gen Z. What worked for you will probably not fly with the younger generations. Uncover what your employees believe about the state of the organization, and the best way is to sit down and have a conversation. Some firms will opt for “anonymous surveys,” but those only communicate that leadership is too busy to have a relationship with the people creating value. In addition, staff would be less likely to tell the truth of what they think, because they would be in fear of being found out if they did speak the truth in those surveys. Face- to-face and one-on-one meetings would allow the leader to communicate their desire to own areas of success and areas of improvement for the firm.

Creating a culture of care

As an employer, you get the opportunity to build a team, and pay people to help them make a living and put food on the table. While employers may think a competitive offer letter is their way to show they care, it’s actually a table stake; the minimum it takes to get into the game. It’s the starting point, but it’s not the end. Caring isn’t just giving financial bonuses, either. Leadership needs to understand that caring, when done right, produces feelings of respect for those employees. These employees are the people who help you create value to the clients you serve. If you model care to your employees, they will model care to your clients. 

Leaders who care are focused on the employee’s holistic well-being, and continue to foster care and build a positive work culture outside the confines of an office setting. What this looks like is being patient with staff as they grow and providing them continual affirmation as they progress toward their goal.


The best way to address staffing concerns is to have direct one-on-one conversations with your team on what you can do better to lead the organization. For some firms, it means re-evaluating your core values and leading with casting vision of why your organization exists, with the goal of empowering current staff and reminding them why your firm is the best one out there for them.

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