CPA Now
Jul 05, 2022

Do Not Overlook Your Midcareer Employees

Lee Frederiksen, PhDBy Lee W. Frederiksen, PhD


The accounting industry is at a crossroads.

The growing shortage of CPAs has been brewing for over a decade as baby boomers were closing in on retirement age and fewer young people were becoming CPAs. It’s about to get worse.

A recent report from Hinge Research Institute, Navigating the Mid-Career Talent Crisis, found that 30% of midcareer professionals (between 30 and 45 years old) had quit their jobs over the past year. A third of those left without another job lined up. These departures leave CPA firms short-staffed and rob them of a pipeline of experienced, near-term leaders.

Midcareer CPA speaking with a partner while walking through the officeEmployee turnover is costly and disruptive. Why, then, do so many firms focus on recruiting new employees instead of keeping the top talent they have?

Perhaps it is time to take a long hard look in the mirror and try to understand why midcareer employees quit. Identifying the problems they are trying to solve gives you valuable information for retaining and attracting the talent you need to be successful.

Signs You Might Be Missing

After the past two years of unpredictability and stress, midcareer employees find themselves more sensitive to the competing challenges of work and their life priorities.

This employee segment is accountable for implementing senior management’s strategies and goals. They also carry the burden of creating a supportive, visionary, and fun work environment for their teams. Many senior executives fail to recognize the stress they put on these employees. That’s why nearly 80% of respondents in the Hinge survey cited frustration with their boss as the top reason for quitting.

Here are other factors driving midcareer employees to quit their jobs:

  • 72% desire a better company culture
  • 51% want a better work-life balance
  • 48% felt their work was unfulfilling

Employees working in toxic cultures feel undervalued, disrespected, and mistreated regarding race and gender. They do not believe they can be authentic at work, and almost all (94%) are uncomfortable sharing their thoughts with leadership.

Now is the time to assess your organization's culture and communications and bring senior leadership to the table to find real solutions.

Build the Ideal Workplace Culture

The biggest thing you can do to turn the tide is to focus on management style and workplace culture.

Hinge asked midcareer employees what programs and initiatives were valuable to them, and in-person social events and mental health days topped the list. Two years into the pandemic, these individuals are itching for in-person events to catch up with peers and friends. Don’t underestimate the power of this type of socialization to enhance communication and loyalty.

It’s also essential to facilitate open communication between employees and leadership. This can be an easy fix. Build out new channels for safe, open conversations, and be sure to communicate regularly with your staff so they feel a part of the organization.

Midcareer employees are the chief advocates for mental health days; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs; and employee recognitions. This is in stark contrast with senior executives: only 8.8% of those in the study believed in the value of mental health days.

Mental health significantly impacts an employee’s focus, memory, and ability to connect with teammates. Long-term employee stress leads to a lack of productivity, which affects a company’s bottom line.

Paid mental health days are a great way to show employees you care, but there’s more you can do. Regularly coaching employees (and leadership) on how to handle stress will lead to greater physical health, productivity, and happiness at work.  

While we’re on the subject of training, when was the last time your senior leadership received management training? Most executives move into positions based on their experience and accomplishments, not their leadership and communication skills.

Consider if an investment in leadership assessment or training would benefit your senior leadership and midcareer employees. A substantial return on your investment is a real possibility.

Do It Now  

The Hinge study showed that only 48% of midcareer respondents are satisfied with their current jobs. Many are passively or actively looking for new opportunities—especially those that promise less pressure.

In today’s competitive marketplace, having nearly half of the midcareer workforce eyeing different jobs could be disastrous for CPA firms.

Leadership must keep this maxim in mind: People don’t just quit companies, they leave cultures.

There is no better time to design strategies to build a more robust company culture and resilient workforce. Reimagining your culture, adding perks, and improving communication channels will help attract and keep the top talent you need to grow your firm and increase revenue.


Lee W. Frederiksen, PhD, is managing partner at Hinge, a research-based branding and marketing firm in Reston, Va. He can be reached at lfrederiksen@hingemarketing.com.


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2 comments

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  • Lee Frederiksen | Jul 07, 2022
    Great point Paul. I think the issue is that we see the potential you outlined but many mid-career folks might not. Another case of differing perspectives. Thanks for your comment.
  • Paul Myslinski | Jul 06, 2022
    Surprised that opportunities for growth and development were not mentioned more in here.  If a director leaves the firm, that could be an opportunity to develop existing managers that worked directly under the previous director to take on some of those responsibilities.  However, many firms are more inclined to simply external hire a new director from outside instead of upskilling current staff.  

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