Increase Employee Retention With Flex Scheduling

Holding on to good people is a challenge. Every business owner knows this, and those who have historically needed their employees to adhere to long, rigid workdays feel the pressure even more. We can relate. Accounting is full of strict deadlines, long hours, and often very tedious work. To complicate matters, the competition is clamoring to recruit great talent. What’s the secret, then, to retaining the best people?

There are multiple strategies, but, by far, the one most impactful for us has been flexible scheduling. 

Details of how we customize flex scheduling to fit our company can be found below, but the thing to keep in mind is this: We’ve found it makes a big difference in people’s energy levels and enthusiasm for the job. Recognizing and honoring people’s personal lives — their desire to attend their children’s midday school functions, to be home with a child who is suddenly sick, keep personal appointments, or even just work quietly in the comfort of their own homes because they want to — matters. A healthy work-life balance is important to everyone regardless of age or position.

By no means are we alone in this employee-friendly shift. The accounting profession as a whole is experiencing lower turnover than it did just two years ago, according to a detailed, biennial survey the AICPA Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS) conducts of firms to gain insight into practice management trends, and retention is up at most firms, especially smaller ones, according to the AICPA’s National Management of an Accounting Practice (MAP) survey of more than 1,500 firms during 2018. 

We know flex scheduling can work for you, too. 

Ready to get try it out? Here are 3 tips from us on making flex scheduling work:

  1. Establish trust, and go from there.

    Trust around flex scheduling is the toughest pill for many business owners to swallow. That is, how to trust that off-site employees are actually working at all.

    So, here’s how we approach it: Any BGW employee is welcome to work from home on any given day provided they need to and it won’t interfere with what’s on tap for the day (i.e., a client meeting). If, after two years of employment, they seek a more routine work-from-home schedule, they can propose that schedule to their team leader(s) and usually get it approved — provided they’ve established a good work-from-home track record on the “random” days mentioned above and agree to return calls, emails, texts, etc. within two hours, among a few other requirements. That contract is then signed and periodically reviewed for compliance.

    What’s the lesson? You don’t have to jump “all in” to flex scheduling if it makes you nervous. You do, however, need to be open to it and work with employees to create a schedule that works for you both.

  2. Give employees a say in how they’ll use it.

    Our own flex policy is just that: flexible. That means we don’t dictate to staff when they can use it. After all, flex time isn’t flex time if it’s only available on Fridays after 2 p.m.!

    This is where the “random” days of telecommuting option comes in. Take it when you need it (so long as we can still meet our client obligations, of course).

    Another approach we take is having employees keep track of all overtime hours worked — which can be extensive during busy tax seasons. During slower seasons, staff can take those hours off as paid comp time.

    The key to a good flex schedule is allowing your staff to decide when and how to use it, not you.

  3. Don’t forget to reel everyone back in.

    Building and maintaining a strong company culture is incredibly important, and it’s nearly impossible to do if everyone is off-site all the time. Even if executed flawlessly, research tells us that digital interaction cannot replace the power of face-to-face communication.

    So, don’t neglect weekly group meetings, personal check-ins, team-building events, and so on. Come together as a group to collaborate on ideas, share successes and struggles, and reinforce the mission of your organization, and then head back to your telecommuting spaces. If you don’t, your team will disconnect emotionally, and it won’t be long before they’re searching for greener (work) pastures.

Your company’s biggest asset is your people, so keeping them satisfied and engaged is your first priority. Extensive training and development plans, generous parental leave and vacation policies, benefits, investment in company culture, along with flex scheduling, are all critical elements to any retention program. The key is to make people feel so personally valued that they can’t contemplate leaving. Honoring employees’ lives outside of work is a huge part of that. Don’t neglect it.

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