Our firm has very low employee turnover and has had no partner turnover (other than retirement) in the 30 years I’ve been a partner. In many ways, our 160-person practice has been able to use its size to address work/life balance issues and make the firm a great place to work. The below tips have been extremely helpful in achieving this success within our firm.
Set reasonable hours. We make every effort to limit employees to 50 hours a week in busy season and no more than 40 hours per week year-round on average. That policy has been a big factor in our success in recruiting and retention.
Location, location, location. Firms should respect employee circumstances and consider these situations in schedules and assignments. For example, we try to arrange assignments based on which staff person would have the shortest commute and, as a result, a less stressful day. Because of our size, we’re often able to make assignment readjustments if necessary if that can improve employee quality of life. Of course the skills or experience required for the assignment are our first consideration, but we always try to consider the employee’s interests.
Stay in touch. Partners’ doors are open and we make an effort not to communicate indirectly—through email, for example—but rather on a one-to-one basis. That’s been an important part of our culture in the more than 70 years we’ve been in business.
Pick partners properly. We have great partner continuity because we take the time to vet our prospective partners to be sure they’re ready for their new responsibilities. At our semiannual partner retreat, we discuss the people we believe have partnership potential, identifying them well in advance. We then rate each potential candidate, with 1 lowest and 10 highest, on eight criteria: character; leadership; judgment; people skills; professional commitment; image; technical skill; and practice development. Before these specified employees make the move to partner, we review the ratings results and concentrate on areas where improvements are needed, stressing criteria in which they received less than an eight.
Have fun! We sponsor several social activities that allow staff to get together in a relaxed setting. Last month, we had an evening bowling party and next month the entire firm is invited to Magic Mountain, a local amusement park. Staff will have all-day access to the park and in the afternoon they’re invited to a buffet lunch where a DJ will be leading games and activities. They’ll also be given a one-day access to the water park that they can use any time. For our annual Christmas party, we’re going to the Globe Theater, inside the gates of Universal Studios Hollywood, where they create a beautiful winter scene. We’ll have a cocktail hour with a buffet and door prizes.
As you can see, holding on to employees at all levels has not involved expensive or complicated programs. Instead, it’s been a matter of giving some thought to some simple considerations that make our firm a great place to work.
George Nadel Rivin, CPA, is a partner of Miller Kaplan Arase LLP, a large firm in Los Angeles, California.