According to Controllers Council’s 2023 Corporate Accounting & Finance Talent Study, a lack of career advancement is the number one reason for accounting/finance employee attrition. Businesses are already struggling to fill accounting and CPA vacancies due to the ongoing shortage. They cannot afford to keep hemorrhaging existing employees as well.

Whether your organization is contending with high accounting professional attrition rates or you want to take a proactive approach to employee retention, fostering career advancement appears to hold the key. 

With that information in mind, here are six steps you can employ to create a growth culture within your organization:

1. Ensure Employees Know What They Are Evaluated On

If you don’t already have one, create a formalized employee evaluation process that measures staff performance using clearly defined metrics. While these evaluation metrics can be qualitative, they should include a scale so employees understand how they are doing.

Additionally, perform regular employee evaluations and review the results with your team members. Solicit feedback, find out what their short- and long-term goals are, and put resources in place to support them. 

For instance, if an employee expresses that they want to achieve a promotion, their supervisor should recommend additional classes or certifications, provide tips for building out their skill set, etc. 

2. Identify Staff Blindspots 

Every member of your team has unique strengths and weaknesses. This uniqueness is what makes them a valued part of the organization. However, because of the individuality of your staff, you cannot take a one-size-fits-all approach to employee training and education. Instead, you need to tailor your upskilling efforts to align with the needs of each team member.

To do that, you should consider engaging in skills testing. By administering skills tests, you can identify any skill blindspots while also pinpointing top performers. Once you know each person’s proficiencies and shortcomings, you can offer tailored training opportunities and nurture top talent. 

3. Provide Mentorship

Not all training has to be formal. In fact, much of the training and upskilling that takes place in your organization will (and should) be informal. 

Team leaders, line-level supervisors, and mid-level managers should provide mentorship to others. By doing so, they can help less-experienced accounting professionals learn new skills, grow, and adapt to changing business needs. 

Encouraging your leadership team to act as mentors is a great first step. However, CFOs and controllers need to exhibit the behavior they want to encourage. Consider bringing in your supervisors and managers to discuss your upskilling initiative. 

Make sure that their desires for advancement are addressed as well and lay out your plans for cultivating a more talented team. 

4. Train the Trainers (and Managers)

Remember, training staff, managers, and line-level supervisors want the organization to invest in their growth, too. Use a combination of formalized training and informal mentorship to expand the skill sets of your company’s leaders. When building your training strategy, make sure to address both soft and hard skills.

Hard skills are industry-specific abilities, such as accounting capabilities. Conversely, soft skills are more generalized abilities that are also essential for professional success. Emotional intelligence and communication are a few prime examples. A great leader needs a balance of soft and hard skills to thrive. 

5. Offer Professional Development Opportunities 

Once you have taken stock of your team’s skills, abilities, and weaknesses, you can create a formalized training and development strategy. While you can certainly build and administer all of these courses internally, you should also consider outsourcing, which is often a more cost-effective approach.

As you explore various development strategies, make sure to use a combination of short- and long-form approaches. 

For instance, you could send a few of your top performers to a multi-week course so they could earn a new accounting or CPA certification. Additionally, you could administer remote microtraining sessions that are designed to reinforce skills and keep your team sharp. 

Learn more in Seven Steps to Evolving Your Company CPE Plan.

6. Prioritize Promoting from Within

When an upstream vacancy is created within your organization, every qualified team member with advancement aspirations will take notice. However, if you immediately shift your focus outward to fill that vacancy, morale will plummet and some employees may decide that there is no room for them to advance within your organization.

To prevent this problem, strive to promote from within whenever practical. When a vacancy emerges, consider sending out a notice to your staff and giving them an opportunity to apply before advertising the position publicly. 

Nurture Loyalty and Curb Attrition by Providing Advancement Opportunities

There are several strategies you can employ to reduce attrition, nurture feelings of loyalty toward the organization, and retain top talent. 

Use these techniques to demonstrate that you value your employees and are committed to helping them reach their full potential. By doing so, you can create a thriving workplace culture that is attractive to both internal and outside talent.