Once you’ve shown your staff the path to success at your firm, you need to start helping them walk that path, with resources and guidance.

Career development plans are a hot item at many of our 2015 Best Accounting Firms to Work For, along with personalized training, firm “universities” and other educational opportunities, and careful mentoring along the way.

Frequently, this means a combination of courses and planning. At Boyer & Ritter, a Best Firm to Work For with 82 employees in Camp Hill, Pa., “All of our new employees go through B&R University, where we train and educate them on the firm's operations, procedures, and goals. We also focus on the individual development of the employee as well as their career aspirations to help them succeed.” The firm has developed a career development program that gives structured training to staff in a number of specific areas: personal and business development, management, tax, audit, ethics, and specialized knowledge and technology.

Wichita, Kansas-based Allen, Gibbs & Houlik, meanwhile, has its “AGH YOUniversity” to provide young members of its 122-person staff with soft-skills training. It has peer mentoring to support technical skills, and special programs for firm management and practice development.

While some elements of these initiatives may be out of reach for smaller firms, they can still do a lot to help their employees boost their careers. Providence, R.I.-based Sansiveri, Kimball & Co. offers its 42 employees the Performance and Career Excellence, or PACE, program -- a comprehensive appraisal and career development plan that includes goal-setting, mentoring, performance appraisal and training. “We have a formal training and development program that our employees participate in,” the firm reported. “This provides them with 40-plus hours of training and development to assist them in meeting their career goals.”

And at VSH CPAs in Bellingham, Wash., firm leaders meet with its 36 employees to create personal development plans. These have twice-yearly check-ins to make sure staff are staying out track with their career advancement goals.

As a final example of how seriously the Best Firms take this, note that Bellevue, Wash.-based Berntson Porter & Co. gives its 79 employees both a coaching program and a continuous education program that incorporates their career plans -- and then ties their personal development into their annual review and bonuses.

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