4 Tips to Onboard Your Tax Staff for Long-Term Retention

Practice Management Planning with team

With the official start of tax season just a few weeks away, you’re already preparing your staff for your busiest time of the year, but what if you need to add more people to your team?

Every year, we promise ourselves that the next tax season will be different in terms of staffing. We even promise to start the recruiting process earlier, hoping to find the ideal candidate. During the early planning phases, we spend hours and weeks recruiting to find the best talent: that one diamond nugget. However, it’s heartbreaking to spend time and energy training a seemingly perfect candidate, only to find their desk empty around day 32. Losing an employee during the onboarding phase is one of the biggest struggles our profession faces.

Let me share with you four best practices for your new hire process that will help ensure long- term engagement with your new employees.

#1: Provide an Introduction to Company Culture, Values and Principles

It’s important that the company’s employee value proposition and mission statement speak to the same values and principles. A lot of times, new employee attrition happens due to a lack of cultural fit. For example, new hires coming from multinational companies often find it difficult to adjust to small- and mid-size practices.

To ensure transparency, employers should organize meet and greet events to help expose the new employee to the company’s culture. It is through these interactions that your new hire will discover the confidence they need to succeed. This may not guarantee long-term tenure, but it will help make the early decision to stay.

#2: Offer a Solid Training Program

Onboarding would be considered incomplete without effective training – it not only gets employees comfortable with the existing tools, applications and workflow, but it will also polish and enhance their existing skills.

There will always be a need for application and workflow-specific trainings. While workflow and standard operating procedures are ideal to be taught on the job, training specific to using certain tax software, tools and applications should be part of the initial phase. There are some great training modules for Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax Online, Lacerte® and ProSeries®.

Career and personal development are some of the top non-financial motivators for any employee. Try to create learning opportunities and celebrate the employees who help others learn.

#3: Set Expectations and Goals

Having unclear goals is the same as shooting an arrow while wearing a blindfold; hitting the target successfully is never guaranteed! This is why understanding and communicating performance goals is another important aspect of onboarding – and the sooner you can set expectations, the better off you’ll be. These include the necessity of working odd and long hours during busier times and/or the option of flexible hours, as well as the time expected to complete a project.

In addition, it’s important to communicate expectations during less busy times of the year. For example, tax work can be seasonal, so cross training tax professionals in accounting and other areas could convert to more productive and billable time, and further develop a company’s employees, resulting in better retention rates.

#4: Provide Performance Reviews and Feedback

A formal performance review and feedback process helps create a unique perspective for management and employees. Performance reviews allow a manager to provide positive feedback, and assists in providing areas of improvement and development for new employees. Feedback motivates employees to work harder and provides points for professional development that pinpoint where they can improve their skillset. In addition, more firms are encouraging 360-degree feedback that builds employee confidence and boosts morale.

It’s not all About the Money

The secret recipe to successful onboarding for your tax staff who will stick around throughout the season and beyond is a combination of attention, training, direction and performance appraisal. Based on my experience, salary is not the most important factor for an applicant to take a position. What matters more is how they are treated as an employee. Treat them better than you ever wanted to be treated yourself. Provide tools, resources, training and an ideal culture. A team is a reflection of its leader. Find your inner strength and you will find a strong team to grow your business.

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