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CPA Now
Aug 06, 2021

Three Approaches to Managing Staffing Challenges

Carl Peterson, CPA, CGMABy Carl Peterson, CPA, CGMA


Finding and keeping good people is always a top concern for CPA firms, but the last year and a half has taken a toll on many small practices. In addition to the disruptions caused by the pandemic itself, staff have wrestled with the additional challenges of Paycheck Protection Program loans and the unpredictable changes in tax season deadlines. The resulting stresses have led to staff losses. Fortunately, there are three steps firms can take going forward to tackle staffing issues in a way that will make it easier to recruit and retain talented people.

Leverage technology – Technology allows firms to free their talent from tedium, giving them more time in their days and less stress in their lives. It enhances retention by allowing staff to focus on more challenging and rewarding tasks. Find out what other PICPA small firms are doing with technology through the PICPA Connect discussion boards and explore the options that suit your practice.

Young staff standing around table, mature partner listeningRethink your business model – Consider new ways of providing services and deploying staff that can be more productive and profitable and that make life easier for staff. Options may include the following:

  • Value pricing: Base your firm’s services on the value they offer rather than the amount of time they take to perform. When staff, too, are evaluated on the quality of their work rather than the hours reported on their timesheets, they feel more control over their professional life and find more satisfaction in their responsibilities. Bundling a suite of services for clients can also make it simpler for staff to schedule and manage tasks.
  • Niche focus: Keeping up with the ever-changing requirements and regulations in a variety of service areas can be daunting for staff. Honing in on one or two industries makes it easier to not only maintain competency but also increase prestige.

Change how staff works – Make your staff’s days less stressful and enhance their opportunities. Here are a few options that will help:

  • Go hybrid: During the pandemic, staff got used to the advantages of remote work, including less commuting time and more control over their schedules. At the same time, many missed the camaraderie of working together in an office and the benefits of onsite client visits. Create a formal, permanent plan for a hybrid work environment that offers the best of both worlds.
  • Drop time sheets: One advantage to this step includes lower turnover due to reduced staff anxiety. Another bonus: The firm can develop new key performance indicators to track success that are more meaningful than hours worked.
  • Nurture advisory skills. Being a trusted business adviser is more satisfying than performing repetitive tasks. When firms invest in honing their staff’s advisory skills, they develop stronger employees who value the chance to improve their expertise.
  • Show you care: Offer staff members time off to perform volunteer activities and for family or other important activities.

CPA firm staffing has long been a challenge. In a strange way, the COVID-19 pandemic presented opportunities for considering and adopting new approaches that make the most of a firm’s vitally valuable asset, its people. The steps provided in this blog are just a few options to help firms move away from being old-style legacy firms to firms of the future that focuses on staff and client relationships. Seize the opportunity and make your firm the kind of place where top talent will want to work.


Carl Peterson, CPA, CGMA, is vice president of small firm interests with the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. He can be reached at carl.peterson@aicpa-cima.com.


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Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of PICPA officers or members. The information contained in herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For professional advice, please engage or consult a qualified professional.