By 2010, there will be 10 million more jobs than there are people in the U.S., and the process of attracting, retaining, and keeping key employees motivated begins with a strategic plan that includes a formal hiring process, a commitment to building a learning culture, and competitive compensation and work/life balance policies, according to a panel at the American Institute of CPAs' Tech+ Information Technology Conference, here."You make your worst hiring decisions when you need someone now," Sage Software director of channel development Ed Kless told attendees. "You need to put a hiring process in place, and even if you work with a search firm, make them go through your hiring process as well.""Remember, if you hire the right people, you don't have to motivate them," Kless said. Angie Martin, of Dallas-based CPA firm Lane Gorman Trubitt, said that firms must develop an environment that "encourages knowledge sharing" and provides learning opportunities both internally and externally."Not all learning is CPE," she said. "Learning happens in all directions and at all levels in an organization. Ideally, 12 percent of an employee's salary should be spent on training and learning." Sandra Wiley of Boomer Consulting said that key employees aren't always forthcoming at exit interviews as to why they're leaving. "They'll say, 'It was a great opportunity' or 'I'm getting more money,' but the real reason many of them are leaving is they're not being challenged."She outlined a 10-point checklist that included such areas as mapping out career development, offering highly competitive salaries and benefits packages, and allowing employees to tailor their individual work/life balance plans. "Remember, it's not the number of hours they work, it's what they get done," she said.Taylor Macdonald, chief strategy officer at Sage, told conference-goers that there has to be some flexibility with regard to compensation. Firms have to consider things like arbitrary bonuses, employee stock ownership plans and employee recognition programs."You can't always treat everyone the same, because everyone isn't the same," he said.

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