Allocating Firm Resources: Don’t Forget Your Younger Professionals
By Steven E. Sacks, CPA, CGMA, ABC
CPA firms always have their eyes on the bottom line with as much, if not more, intensity than on the top line. Salaries and benefits take up a considerable chunk of resources, and programs designed for professional and personal development are given short shrift, except when it comes to meeting AICPA or state society requirements.
The younger professionals, your future leaders, should be viewed as investments, and part of that investment is allocating funds for their participation in associations or networking groups, in addition to conferences and workshops that expand their knowledge. These younger professionals have less career experience and as such have had limited exposure to firm membership associations or young professional networking groups because of time constraints, workloads and client demands. Their only regular channel of communications is through online networking groups — and often during work hours, which may or may not be frowned upon. Unable to have face-to-face interaction with their counterparts, these professionals will be thwarted in their ability to assess whether their firm is providing the best career path.
There is much more mobility than ever before. Younger professionals are changing firms at a faster pace, looking for a work culture that recognizes and rewards efforts while creating a mutually beneficial work-life balance. For firms to maintain a strong recruitment and retention level, they need to invest resources that are aimed at understanding younger professionals’ values and desires.
Don’t be shocked if your best people leave you because you did not allocate sufficient resources for (the right) training. Recruitment and retention have been identified as the top concerns by firms. If you cannot sell the idea of personal and professional development through various mechanisms, not only do you lose staff but word will get around the accounting community.
Organizational performance and improvement is always stressed at partner retreats, but this does not happen by magic. Some firms use outside consultants to ascertain the training and education needs required of the various staff levels. Some of the larger firms hire those who specialize in organizational development. This individualize customizes the needs for each person.
Continuing professional development —when you allow the individual to make the choice (of course with justification) will create a more interesting and worthwhile work experience. This will create increased job satisfaction, even when more is being demanded by firms that do not immediately replace lost staff.
Training in leadership, work efficiency, negotiation and other “business-minded” topics will build a more confident staff, a reflection of which will be apparent to clients.
It is clear that continually developing and offering managerial and leadership skills will be manifested by the attainment of client goals, the benefits of which inure to firm leaders. Yes, professional development is a line item in the budget that cannot be ignored, but young professionals consider it as important as a compensation. As a firm leader or one who has direct reports, you play a key role in developing every professional to enhance their knowledge and skills so that they can play an integral role in the organization’s success.
For a reasonable amount of money and limited risks, firm leaders should look at third-party providers or membership associations that offer a value proposition — without having a laser-like focus on the cost. Moreover, consider it an investment in staff’s professional and personal growth. You may think it is expensive to keep your staff competent. But the corollary will be more costly in the long run.
Steven Sacks is the CEO of Solutions to Results, LLC, a consultancy that specializes in helping individuals, firms and organizations meet the challenges of communicating with clarity and purpose. Visit his website at www.solutions2results.com.