At the Intersection of the Great Resignation, Professional Services, and Those Who Stayed

At the Intersection of the Great Resignation, Professional Services, and Those Who Stayed 
Shifting Perspective from Those Who Left to Those Who Remain 

Mindy Barker | Barker Associates

The Great Resignation of 2021 has left more than vacant seats … although it has left plenty of those too. In its wake are thousands of desperate CEOs and the often forgotten-about, frenzied, and burnt-out workers who chose to stay. In their desperation, what these CEOs aren’t realizing is that while they struggle with finding new talent in this overly saturated candidate market, they are often not paying enough attention to, or completely disregarding, those who are still right in front of them.  

These employees, whether they stayed because they had no choice (after all, not everyone can quit), felt a sense of loyalty to the company and/or their co-workers, or simply loved their jobs, are now feeling undervalued and underappreciated at the same time they are working harder than ever. And, while they pick up the slack and feel underappreciated by their supervisors, they are often also dealing with increasingly demanding clients and customers. It’s as if the country is in the grips of a new pandemic of impatience, rudeness, and intolerance, and these employees are left to deal with it all. Additionally, the resulting shift in power and bargaining positions of the Great Resignation have forced companies to offer more money than ever before … to secure new talent. That’s great for them, but what about the others?  

As it stands today, in return for all that they’ve done and sacrificed, these employees are getting depressed, having panic attacks, and getting sick, with some turning to alcohol or drugs to try to ease their physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. With our nation already struggling with massive mental health issues, something must be done to curtail this destructive path. 

The Impact to Professional Services 

While this challenge has impacted nearly every industry, professional services, including accountants, lawyers, finance, and IT professionals exemplify it even more. The mental and emotional anguish of a professional who is trying to do a good job when it is physically impossible to do so (because they have too much work to do) takes away their ability to think clearly and make quality decisions. All accounting firms – from the Big 4 to regional companies – are short staffed. And the ones who stayed are having to work extra to cover multiple jobs. Despite this dynamic, it seems companies are reluctant to increase their salaries to meet current market demands. According to one recruiter, if you want an accounting professional work in the office, the rate will be 130% of the market because they are demanding to work from home. 

Like millions of others, professionals are tired, burnt out, and frustrated. And money isn’t everything. The pandemic shook people to the core – they are looking for more meaning and know that meaning rarely comes in a paycheck. In fact, there are professionals walking out of jobs that pay $250,000 per year because they can no longer cope with the constant stress of doing everyone else’s jobs. That’s a lot of money to walk away from, demonstrating the increasing severity of this situation. 

It’s About Retention 

It’s incredibly short-sighted to keep working those employees who chose to stay to a breaking point, while keeping them at below market salaries. It’s time for employers to shift some of that focus from securing new talent to securing the talent they already have. If they don’t, they will never find the right balance, as those who chose to stay before will likely soon also leave. According to Harvard Business Review, “employers need to recognize that it takes significantly longer to recruit someone than it does for them to give their two-week notice and depart.”  

Increasing retention can come in many forms, including: 

  • Incentivizing loyalty 
  • Providing opportunities to grow 
  • Elevating the company’s purpose (and communicating it with the team) 
  • Prioritizing culture and connection 
  • Investing in taking care of employees and their families 
  • Embracing flexibility 

Further, while we are at a time when there is increasing emphasis on Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), we cannot decrease emphasis on the health and welfare of our employees. It is counterintuitive to work on ESG initiatives while the company is short-staffed and burning out the employees they have.  

A word of advice … 

  • For Professionals. Know your worth!  Do your research and ask for a raise with your current employer or seek a new position in this market to increase your salary. 
  • For CEOs. Retain the talent you already have by treating them well! Pay more attention to the professionals you already have on staff than those you are attempting to get on staff.  

The Great Resignation may have been considered empowering for those who were taking a stand, demanding more, and walking out the door. But for those chose to stay, it has been anything but empowering. And the resentment and exhaustion they feel isn’t going away anytime soon.  It’s time for decisive action now to retain those who remain. 

Barker Associates has extensive experience as an outsourced CFO. If you need assistance, or have any other questions, please click here to schedule a 30-minute consultation at a rate of $100. 

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