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Balancing work and play priority for accountants

30 June 2010

Linda Twiname

Balancing Act: Waikato University's Dr Linda Twiname.

A new survey shows staff in accounting firms place a high value on work-life balance, and for many employees it can make all the difference between staying or leaving.

The initial findings from a University of Waikato Management School survey of more than 60 employees in 20 accounting firms reveal that nearly half the respondents plan to move on from their current employers within three years, but more than two-thirds are looking for a long-term career in accounting.

Dr Linda Twiname developed the survey with Dr Helen Samujh and Summer Research Scholarship student Steven Rae to examine recruitment and retention within the accounting profession. She says that firms wanting to retain staff should focus on offering a good work-life balance.

“Our survey showed 87% of respondents see flexible employment arrangements as a real ‘enticement’ to stay with a firm or return after an OE break,” she says. “It’s all about seeing employees as a long-term investment, instead of just focusing on the considerable costs of initial recruitment – acquisition, orientation and learning costs.”

The researchers also conducted a separate survey of 11 accounting firms in the Waikato, Wellington and Tauranga areas, looking at ways to quantify the costs of recruiting new graduates.

Initial findings reveal that over the course of the first year of employment, the investment in new graduates amounts to between two and three-and-a-half times their entry-level salary.

“These figures are comparable with other professional occupations,” says Dr Samujh. “New graduates have much lower productivity to start with – it’s around 42% in the first year, and then there’s the opportunity cost of mentoring by senior staff plus direct training costs”.

According to Dr Twiname, firms are finding innovative ways to retain new graduates. “One firm we talked to had stayed in touch with an employee who had gone on her OE and when they heard she was thinking of coming back to New Zealand, they offered to pay her airfare home. So she was able to step straight back into a job, while the firm not only recouped their investment, but gained from the overseas experience she’d acquired.”

The researchers are now looking for more accounting firms to participate in the surveys. For more information, contact Dr Linda Twiname at [email protected] or 07 838 4694.

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