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5 Ways to Hold Onto Top Talent

What would your firm be without its people? While they may not appear on any balance sheet, people are your firm’s greatest asset.

According to research from IBM, organizations that lead in terms of employee experience report nearly three times the return on assets and double the return on sales compared to organizations that don’t have a positive employee experience. When firms lose their top talent to the competition, they weaken their competitive advantage, not to mention incurring the costs of recruiting, hiring and training replacements.

So how can your firm hold on to top talent and boost retention rates?

Don’t treat all employees the same

It’s important to create a diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace where people express mutual caring and respect for one another. But you don’t have to treat all employees the same or be “fair.”

Have you ever worked for a managing partner who instituted a firm-wide rule change to fix a problem caused by one person? Or found out you received the same “merit raise” as a coworker, even though you did twice the work? If so, you’ve experienced the frustration your top performers feel when everyone receives the same treatment.

Some of the ways you should consider treating your top performers differently from other employees include:

Assign them to the best engagements or projects

Give your best people the best engagements and special projects to work on. Note that I didn’t say the easiest engagements. The best projects are ones that will allow them to learn new skills, use their existing abilities in new ways, or connect with colleagues they don’t work with regularly.

According to the O.C. Tanner Institute’s Global Culture Report, 41% of employees said they would forgo a promotion to get more variety in their day-to-day work. And 20% of employees who work on special projects reported an increase in overall job satisfaction.

Provide additional training and development opportunities

Two major reasons top performers quit are because they feel stuck in a rut or believe there is no clear path to career progress. While it’s crucial to offer learning and development to all employees, pay special attention to your top performers.

Don’t focus solely on technical or job-specific skills. Your training initiatives should relate to broader professional development activities that will help them advance within the firm and realize their greater career ambitions. Not only will this keep your top talent happy, but your firm will benefit from a more skilled workforce.

Encourage them to participate in peer networks

We live in a time of unprecedented and rapid change, so it’s no wonder that professionals are finding peer networks to be increasingly valuable. Giving your top performers access to a community of peers within the profession makes them smarter, more knowledgeable and better grounded.

According to MIT Sloan Management Review, “what really distinguishes high performers from the rest of the pack is their ability to maintain and leverage personal networks.”

When you encourage your top performers to participate in peer networks, they (and your firm) will experience numerous benefits, including:

  • The opportunity to learn in a non-competitive environment

  • Advice from peers who have experienced similar issues

  • Confidence in their decisions

  • Discovering new ideas and becoming aware of common pitfalls

  • Relationships with top experts and technology providers

Provide flexibility in their work schedules and locations

Flexibility with work schedules and locations offers several benefits for your top performers. It helps them achieve better work/life balance, lets them work according to their personal ebb and flow of energy, helps them avoid burnout and increases productivity.

Many firms were forced to provide flexibility during the pandemic and realized the many benefits that flexible, remote work offers. Even if you intend to bring people back to the office this year, keep flexibility on the table for your top performers. They’re the ones who are most likely to make remote work successful.

Hold them accountable

Your top performers welcome accountability. Qualities of accountable people include:

  • Welcoming measurements

  • Speaking in specifics

  • Appreciating excellence and quality

  • Strengthen standards, policies and procedures

  • Expanding uniqueness and capabilities

  • Demonstrate commitment

Spend time upfront to establish expectations and then monitor progress to ensure success. This will instill confidence in your top talent and drive them to greater personal and professional development.

If you want to retain your top employees in a highly competitive talent market, make sure they’re treated well. An equitable (but not “fair”) working environment, opportunities to grow, flexibility and accountability will keep your best people busy, engaged and contributing to your firm’s growth.


Do the HR and talent leaders in your firm need a peer network?

The Boomer Talent Circle is a peer group of talent professionals from forward-thinking accounting firms who learn from each other, top experts and solution providers who understand the unique challenges our profession faces. Apply now to start shaping your firm for the future.


L. Gary Boomer, Visionary & Strategist of Boomer Consulting, Inc., is recognized in the accounting profession as the leading authority on technology and firm management. He consults and speaks around the globe on several topics including strategic and technology planning; mindset, skillsets and toolsets for the future; change management and developing a training and learning culture. He also acts as a planning facilitator and coach to some of the accounting profession's top firms.

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