Ticket to retention: More paid time off

Organisations are worried about succession challenges and their ability to attract and retain top talent – a scenario that, if not addressed, could limit their ability to achieve operational targets.

Succession and retention difficulties ranked as one of the top five risks facing organisations this year, according to board members and executives surveyed by global consulting firm Protiviti and North Carolina State University’s ERM Initiative.

And as the focus on employee recruitment and retention sharpens, many executives may be undervaluing the perks their employees want most, according to new research from finance staffing firm Accountemps.

When asked which workplace perk they think their employees are most interested in receiving this year, 41% of CFOs said better benefits, and 19% said more vacation days.

In a separate survey of workers, however, more paid time off (30%) edged out better benefits (26%) as most desired in 2015.

The surveys include responses from more than 2,100 CFOs from companies in major US cities and more than 320 employees who work in an office environment.

“You can’t underestimate the importance of time away from work,” Bill Driscoll, a district president with Accountemps, said in a news release.

Companies should encourage staff to take the paid time off they’ve earned and disconnect while out of the office to relax, recharge, and return with renewed energy, he said. “Managers can set a good example by taking time off themselves and not checking in when they’re on vacation,” Driscoll said. 

He said changing a company’s benefits package can be a challenging and expensive process, but re-evaluating the paid-time-off policy is fairly straightforward. “Offering additional vacation time shows employees you’re committed to helping them achieve greater work/life balance,” Driscoll said.

More training, challenges

In addition to salary, benefits, and paid time off, training is a key retention tool, as noted by 12% of CFOs and 15% of employees who were surveyed. 

That could include “training outside of the technical skills, training for the soft skills, providing opportunities for finance talent to show what they’re an expert in, to identify where it is that they want to take their career,” said Kathy Johnson, CPA/CFF, CGMA, a partner at CPA Forensics Plus LLP in San Bernardino, California. “Make sure we’re partnering with the HR department to try and figure out what it is that the finance professional is interested in, other than just preparing the financial statements.”

Meanwhile, one retention tool could merely be a challenging project or a new role within the company, said Donny Shimamoto, CPA/CITP, CGMA, the founder of advisory-focused CPA firm IntrapriseTechKnowlogies. The ability to grow – even if it’s a lateral move – might be enough to retain or attract good talent.

“If there were different challenges, if there were different projects to work on [that help to develop their talents and build broader competencies], I think that’s really going to attract good finance talent,” he said.

Jack Hagel ( is a CGMA Magazine editorial director.

Perks mismatch

CFOs were asked: “Other than additional compensation, which one of the following do you believe would top your employees’ wish lists when it comes to their jobs this year?” They responded: 

1. Better benefit plan, such as enhanced health-care plan (41%)
2. More vacation days (19%)
3. More scheduling flexibility, such as telecommuting or flexible work hours (15%)
4. More training or professional development opportunities (12%)
5. Other corporate perks, such as on-site meals and amenities, health and wellness, or subsidised transportation (11%)
6. Don’t know (2%)

Employees, when asked what topped their wish lists, said they wanted:

1. More vacation days (30%)
2. Better benefits, such as enhanced health care (26%)
3. More scheduling flexibility (19%)
4. More training or professional development opportunities (15%)
5. Other corporate perks (9%)

Note: Some responses do not total 100% due to rounding.

Source: Accountemps