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CPA Now
Jun 22, 2015

The Talent War is On: Is Your Firm Ready for Battle?

By Meg Killian, PICPA's Vice President of Member Relations
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A few years ago the PICPA hosted several focus groups with young CPAs. Our goal was to find out what they wanted from the organization and what the PICPA could do to help them in their careers. During those discussions they also shared what they wanted from the profession and their firms. We started noticing some similar themes. The traditional firm model was not necessarily appealing to this new generation of workers. Many didn’t see opportunities to grow, and those that saw opportunities didn’t really want what was being offered.

Feedback was also coming in from the other side. Firm leaders for some time have been expressing some frustrations about a perceived lack of ambition among the younger generations. They see me heading out to play golf, making lots of money. Why don’t they want this? (Actual quote from a partner in a regional firm. Okay, it’s a paraphrase of an actual quote, but you get the gist.)

We decided to dig a little deeper. We were looking to find out what the culture was like at accounting firms, and determine how that could affect the future of the firm when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees and succession planning. In 2014, we sent a survey to all our members at public accounting firms and got responses from 1,000 people, representing people of all ages in all firm sizes.

We asked them about benefits, key motivators, future career plans, leadership training, and much more. We compiled our results and then sorted them in a bunch of ways — age, position, firm size, gender — to find patterns and trends.

We also sourced research done by industry experts, such as Gary Boomer and Rita Keller, and applied that data to the survey results to compile a paper that analyzes where firms are and where they need to be in terms of workplace culture. What did we find? Well you’ll have to read the report to find out the specifics, but some key things stand out:

  • The younger generations need more leadership and partner development
  • There is a disconnect between genders and generations
  • The effects of the demographic shifts will be significant
It’s important to note that, for the most part, the challenges we see are not insurmountable. The values and opinions of the generations are actually very similar. With a little tweaking and some flexibility, most firms will be able to cultivate future growth and success.

Read PICPA’s Firm Culture and Its Impact on the Future of the Firm.

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