For as long as I can remember, staffing has topped MAP surveys as the most pressing problem facing firms. Those survey results were confirmed over and over again to me in conversations that I had with the partners in firms.

Over the last year, however I have begun to notice a marked change in firms' approach to staffing, and would not be surprised if staffing actually moves down a couple of places in future MAP surveys. I believe this change has occurred because of a number of reasons, including:

  • Sarbanes-Oxley and a focus on the role of CPAs showcases accounting's attractiveness as a career.
  • The AICPA has concentrated on increasing the pipeline of accounting majors, and firms are utilizing college accounting major interns more effectively and grooming them as future employees.
  • There has been greater attention by firms in dealing with, and satisfying, different generations, thereby improving staff retention.
  • Firms of all sizes are concentrating on finding solutions to their staffing problems, such as flex-time, part-timers, employing a remote workforce, greater use of technology, joint ventures, alliances, and accountability for business development.

Overall, there seems to be an understanding that it isn't business as usual, and complaining, no matter how justified, accomplishes very little, and in some ways make a problem worse. Firms who might have made a knee-jerk reaction in the past, in the form of hiring any CPA and/or making an unqualified senior individual a partner so they wouldn't leave, have learned the error of their ways.Those other factors I mentioned above are important, but the key, I believe, is an belief that quick fixes and complaining didn't work, and an understanding that it is just as important to market the uniqueness of a firm to existing and potential new staff, as it is to do so to existing and potential new clients.

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