Recruitment and management

Keeping your top talent: understanding job satisfaction factors for CPAs and future CPAs

Happiness at work is a sizeable challenge for employers and a major factor in an effective employee retention model. It’s not just about money. All employees question their career choices at one time or another.

Employers are aware, for example, that Chartered Professional Accountants are employees who care about career development. In fact, some CPAs even consider advancement potential as a major contributing factor to their fulfillment at work. Therefore, employers need to make sure they implement retention practices and strategies that help them keep key staff members like CPAs.

Naturally, the organization’s mission and the personality profile of the individuals concerned have a bearing on the situation. After all, everyone has different reasons for wanting to change jobs or leave an organization. For example, a young professional hired by a small firm may be tempted to leave when a competitor offers him a better salary. Still, you may wonder: Is this factor alone really enough to motivate employees to the point where they would hand in their resignation? Does making more money really make us happier at work? A 2015 study of 13,000 adults by Kushner, Dunn and Lucas shows that money’s only beneficial effect is that it reduces unhappiness on a day-to-day basis, but has no impact on an employee's well-being above a certain minimum threshold.

Factors that lead to introspection… and resignation

The list below is not exhaustive, but it does include some of the main factors that cause employees to start questioning themselves about their career and their desire to stay where they are or look for another job:

  • advancement opportunities at their organization;
  • their motivation level;
  • the corporate culture and whether it matches their values;
  • their career plan (their goals);
  • their desire to work in a different environment or field (small firm versus large company, for example);
  • the working conditions offered;
  • the state of the job market when they start thinking about their situation.

Professional advancement and career plan

To illustrate this point, here are a few examples of typical situations involving an employee’s professional advancement or career plan. They describe situations that put employee retention at risk.

Candidates for the CPA designation will readily quit their job when they realize that their responsibilities will not enable them to acquire their professional designation.

Other CPA candidates will be tempted to quit their job if they feel the need to take on new challenges not offered at their current organization. In some cases, employees may have always considered their current employer as a mere stepping stone towards their real objective, rather than a long-term partner. These often include “ junior ” employees at firms who plan to make the jump to corporate positions at some point.

CPAs who love their work and flourish in their position but have hit a ceiling at their firm may see a change in organizational structure as an opportunity to fast-track their career advancement and increase their responsibilities. Leaving a large firm for an organization with a smaller structure or different clientele may also motivate this type of employee to want to change jobs.


Job motivation can be negatively affected by an employee’s dissatisfaction with their lack of independence, an unhealthy work climate, a lack of consideration, an incompetent manager or assignments that do not bring them closer to their professional goals.

Corporate culture

Nowadays, work-life balance weighs heavily in the decision to work for one employer over another. Moving, traffic on the way to work, a new child, the end of a relationship, illness or the desire for more personal time are all potential factors in an employee's decision to change jobs and join an organization with a more holistic and flexible approach to its culture.

Working conditions

Depending on their life stage, some individuals will search for better working conditions because they want a better salary, greater flexibility in their schedule, a healthier work environment, a smaller or larger organization, and even better fringe benefits.

Job market

This factor can be summed up in the law of supply and demand. For instance, an employer may lose a CPA if its payroll is not large enough to offer equivalent or higher compensation compared to the market average and the competition. In this way, job market conditions can be the driving force in the desire for professional change. When offers are scarce, employees will not be tempted to run the risk of jumping ship. That being said, we notice that the market currently favours professionals, which means that the conditions are favourable for employees who want to find a new job. CPAs are particularly in demand and are even being hired right out of university. Companies are investing large amounts of money in developing and training them, but lose the return on their investment when these employees leave their organization prematurely.

In conclusion, even with a favourable job market, CPAs who are happy at work, compensated fairly, making progress toward their career goals, guided by a career development and advancement plan, and surrounded by or working with people they like are a lot less likely to want to change employers. That is why it is important to invest in strengthening the retention factors for these employees, without forgetting all the others, of course.

Isabelle Plourde, CRHA
Senior Partner, BoCV Human Resources
Staffing and Organizational Development Consultant

Isabelle Plourde has around twenty years of experience in human resources management and recruitment for accounting, finance, administrative and all other positions that require specific expertise. The distinctive approach that she has developed over the years is what sets her apart and helps her fill positions so effectively. Clients seek her expertise when they have complex cases and require assistance for their HR function during organizational transformations. She has worked on various organizational development projects and created HR systems and departments at companies of all sizes and in unionized and non-unionized workplaces. Some of her most recent projects involve pay equity, HRIS, staffing, salary structures, job reviews, performance evaluations, job analyses, preparing job descriptions, policies and employee manuals, and much more. She created BoCV Human Resources to meet the needs of today's companies, which it accomplishes by offering a wide range of staffing and employee retention solutions.

Source: Forest, Jacques (2017, septembre-octobre)."Argent, équilibrer la nécessité de faire de l'argent avec le besoin d'être heureux"., vol.20 no.3, p.42