A study by the NBA professional association shows that many young accountants struggle with the high workload. There is a shortage of accountants.
But how do you keep employees happy in this industry? Alfa Accountants and Adviseurs has an answer to that. The company with its head office in Wageningen scores high every year in the MT500 reputation survey. This year, too, it tops the list within the sector, partly because of sustainability and good employment practices. What’s so special?
The spearhead of this success is the MEBO scheme, in which employees become co-owners of Alfa by means of certificates. Every employee receives ten certificates when he or she is employed. In doing so, they participate financially in the success of the company through an annual dividend. There is also the possibility to buy more certificates, and therefore to become a bit more owner.
Despite the fact that the certificates do not entitle employees to participate in decisions about business operations, CFO Arnoud Bosch sees that employees are becoming more involved. “These certificates express confidence. You work hard together towards a goal, so you benefit from the financial successes together.” As a result, employees feel as if they are entrepreneurs themselves. “And that makes them show more ownership.”
Culture less hierarchical
He also sees a change in culture. “Because everyone participates, you put your shoulders to the wheel together.” 95 percent of the employees participate, the other 5 percent also participate as soon as they get a permanent contract. “You start working together in a different way, it becomes less hierarchical.” He himself has been working at Alfa for thirteen years, but saw a number of partners with previous employers who mainly benefited from the profits of the company. “Here you do that together.”
The scheme has been in existence since 1999 and fits in seamlessly with the company’s history. “We were set up in the Second World War as an accounting firm in the countryside, but we were actually a cover for farmers to come together. The cooperative idea behind this is now also reflected in the participation scheme. We really want to do well together.”
CFO Arnoud Bosch of Alfa Accountants
Because there is little the company can do to change the fact that the work-life balance is a bit out of balance in some seasons. “We are seasonal workers, where it is very busy in the spring. But we do ensure that overtime can be made up at a later time, for example in the autumn.” But with the scheme, Alfa wants to make clear how it values the work of employees.“We believe we can play a major role in sustainability by advising our customers on this.” The company has its origins in the agricultural sector, where there is still much that can be made more sustainable through advice. “Whether it concerns the reliability of measuring the impact or to prevent greenwashing: accountants can assess these kinds of figures on their reliability, just like the financial figures.”
To start the conversation about sustainability, Bosch often explains that it starts with a company’s values. “What do you stand for, what are your ambitions? If you ask those questions, you often see that the subject of sustainability quickly comes up.”
The financial employee participation and the focus on sustainability already ensured in 2014 that Alfa was the only accountancy firm in the Netherlands to receive B-Corp certification. Their slogan ‘Getting big in what really counts’ fits in perfectly with that, according to Bosch. “We don’t have to be the best in the world, but we do want to be the best for the world. We go for profit optimization, not maximization. Ultimately, for us it is about adding value, profit is above all a precondition for doing the rest well.”
Would you like to know more about working at Alfa Accountants? Look here.
This article was produced in collaboration with Alfa Accountants.