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Jun28

Top priorities for CPA firms: Retaining and training staff

Staffing is among the top management issues facing CPA firms, according to a recent survey by Sageworks, a financial information company. That’s not surprising, considering many firms are experiencing a staffing crisis as they lose significant percentages of top staff. In this post, Lauren Prosser, director of ProfitCents Professional Services, explains ways to improve your staffing-related issues.

By Lauren Prosser

At Sageworks’ ProfitCents Professional Services, we hear from clients that firms are facing attrition of senior/manager level staff ranging from 10 percent to 35 percent each year. Where are these staffers going? Many are leaving CPA firms to work in industry as a CFO or controller. Others are leaving to work for other firms. Why? A separate survey we conducted found that the top reason firm members leave is neither compensation nor to achieve a greater work-life balance. Instead, seniors and managers most often had left their previous firms due to a disconnect between career goals (both personal and those established by the firm) and the firm’s investment in the resources, training, coaching, etc. needed to cultivate the skill sets necessary for achieving these goals. A secondary reason was the lack or perceived lack of succession planning within the firm.

Considering the cost of hiring and training, as well as lost productivity related to employee turnover or bad hires, staffing can have a major impact on the CPA firm’s profitability.

In addition, losing firm members at the senior and manager level cuts a firm out at its knees. This is the next generation of leaders for your firm. And with 61 percent of partners in CPA firms 50 years or older, losing the next generation of leaders can significantly inhibit your ability to service clients today and will threaten all aspects of your firm’s future viability. It’s clear that the loss of key seniors and managers creates a leadership void – creating a major source of uncertainty for firms looking to remain independent. At the same time, the loss of human capital also devalues a firm, potentially limiting its options on the mergers-and-acquisitions front.

Among staffing-related issues, retention is one of the most urgent, survey respondents tell Sageworks. Other issues ranking highly in terms of urgency or importance include staff training and development, identifying the ideal candidate for the firm and the hiring process. 

Firms experiencing retention issues should begin by acknowledging that the landscape has changed in the industry. The reasons you were drawn to the profession and to your firm are likely different than the reasons Generation Y employees would identify.

From there, conduct an honest assessment of how transparent the road to success and advancement is in your firm. Generation Y employees want to know how to make an impact and grow – personally and professionally. “Career pathing” or “career mapping” coupled with coaching and mentoring is a must.

Give them a voice – include staff, seniors and managers in the discussion. Your firm’s future leaders should have a seat at the table when discussing how to align their needs and goals with your firm’s future.

For help starting this discussion in your firm, contact us.   

To review marketing and business development management issues firms consider a priority click here

Sageworks is a financial information company and the leader in the financial analysis of privately held companies. Sageworks’ data and applications are used by thousands of banks and accounting firms across North America.