Consulting Services • Published 8/06/2021 Your Key Accounting Employee Left—Now What?
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Unplanned employee turnover is inevitable. As a business leader, you are hopeful that it will be infrequent and occur during a time of smooth sailing in your organization. However, this is rarely the case.

The tendering of your financial professional’s two-week notice can be particularly daunting. An organization’s accounting function is key to maintaining proper cash flow, processing vendor payments, continuing payroll, and facilitating the flow of data for ongoing operations. Is two weeks enough time to interview candidates and select the right fit? How will you transfer and maintain these critical accounting functions in the meantime?

Surviving this critical transition is one thing. Setting yourself up to thrive in the future is a bigger task.

In today’s job market, the odds of completing that process in enough time for the departing accounting employee to pass on key knowledge of the role are slim to none. More likely, it will take several weeks to work through the hiring process before training and onboarding can even begin. Disruption is inevitable. Not to mention, in the ever-changing and evolving world of accounting and finance, the hiring manager must be adept at knowing what qualifications and skillset will bring value to your organization in the long-term.

Surviving this critical transition is one thing. Setting yourself up to thrive in the future is a bigger task, and your success depends upon the way you approach this challenging situation.

Related Article: Addressing Today’s Business Challenges with New Strategies

Step 1: Prepare for the disruption

Upon receiving your accounting employee’s notice, have them start identifying and documenting all critical accounting functions and current processes. An established accounting professional often maintains detailed mental checklists without physically documenting this information. Your organization’s official process documents were likely accurate at one time, but the procedures have evolved and critical details could be missing. Don’t let this knowledge leave with the departing employee.

Don’t let this knowledge leave with the departing employee.

Update process and procedure documentation

Have your departing employee gather all relevant accounting processes and procedures documentation. They should update instructions, document all processes, and include any helpful context or key information. This may include screenshots, tips and tricks, the overall objective of workpapers, and the logical thought process they follow for troubleshooting and researching questions.

Have the employee create checklists that encompass their daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual tasks. The lists should include both internal and external reporting items, deadlines, recommended dates to begin the work to meet the deadline(s), key contacts, and any needed website links. It is often helpful to ask any other employees who participate in accounting functions (i.e., those who submit expense reports, approve timesheets, receive weekly status updates, etc.) to make their own list(s) to cross-reference.

If you find that your organization does not have any written accounting processes and procedures, make documenting this activity a key priority.

Transfer system access

Consider any necessary updates to system access and security protocols. Identify all software and third-party logins used and establish an alternative user. Make sure you test all of the logins prior to the departing employee’s last day. Cross-reference these items with the checklists and procedure documents to verify that all access points are addressed. System access will likely include, at a minimum, accounting and operational software, banking and investment accounts, and third-party service providers such as payroll companies and credit card vendors. Consult with your IT department or service provider to ensure all security protocols are considered and addressed.

Transfer point of contact

Consider your organization’s key relationships, such as impacted clients, vendors, and bankers. It is important to inform them that their point of contact will be changing so that they are not left with outdated contact information or pending items without a timely response. Who can they reach out to in the short term if needed?

Step 2: Assess your accounting function for potential areas of weakness and opportunity

Next, reflect on your accounting function to identify areas for improvement. Your accounting personnel may be leaving for a job that they perceive to be “easier” or “less stressful.” While there are many root causes for this perception, in the world of day-to-day accounting, accountants often attribute stress and feelings of constantly chasing deadlines to inefficient processes, outdated technology, and having a short-handed accounting team. It’s important to uncover and proactively address such challenges. Approaching this assessment and the results with an open mind can help position your organization for future growth and adaptability.

The following questions are a starting point for identifying common opportunities to improve your accounting function:
  • When was the last time your accounting processes and procedures were evaluated?
  • Are financial reports and current data challenging to produce timely and efficiently?
  • Are you leveraging cloud-based accounting systems and tools?
  • What did the departing employee consider to be the most challenging tasks, and why?

Step 3: Determine what you truly need from your accounting function

With a better understanding of your current accounting function, it’s time to assess the role and skills your organization truly needs—not necessarily what will maintain the status quo. In addition to accomplishing the day-to-day critical tasks proficiently, your accounting team should be capable of providing timely reporting and business insights so that organization leaders can make well-informed, strategic decisions.

Turnover provides a business with the opportunity to revisit the qualifications and experience that are needed to maximize the value of your accounting function. Do you need a bookkeeper, an accountant, or a CPA? Maybe you need components of all three to support and drive your business’ success.

How would you answer these questions?
  • What proficiencies would bring value to my business? This may be industry-specific knowledge, compliance experience, or depth of capabilities in core accounting functions.
  • What financial information does leadership need that is not currently possible or is difficult to get timely? This may be core financial reports, financial analytics, or performance benchmarks.

Step 4: Evaluate the value proposition of alternative strategies

Finally, consider if this disruption can serve as a catalyst to take an alternative approach to a traditional in-house hire. Outsourcing partners are experienced in quickly assuming accounting roles and developing a roadmap for navigating the transition. Sometimes, the forced change caused by turnover is an optimal time to evolve your accounting foundation in new ways that set your organization up for long-term success.

Consider hidden costs

Performing your accounting internally comes with hidden costs that many organizations never notice. One of the largest is the cost and disruption of employee turnover, which you are unfortunately facing throughout the process above.

Another concern is the opportunity cost of falling behind on available technologies, industry practices, and regulations that could directly affect the success of your organization. Staying up-to-date in an ever-changing world of accounting and finance takes consistent attention, and your current team may not have the availability to keep up.

How outsourcing can help

Outsourced professionals can provide access to a variety of skills and knowledge that are rarely embodied in a single candidate, plus the stability and scalability that comes with having a team of resources invested in your success. Outsourcing also delivers access to best-in-class accounting systems and technologies, which can provide your organization with new efficiencies and allow more time for value-added activities within your organization.

Transition and change in your accounting function can be challenging. Whether you received your accountant’s two-week notice, or you want to be proactive in addressing opportunities for improvement in your accounting function, we can help. P&N is experienced in performing that assessment, developing a strategic plan, and identifying new opportunities. Contact us to get started.

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