To recruit and retain your younger employees and promote your firm as an “employer of choice,” you need to keep them continually challenged and not burden them with an ongoing workload that includes such repetitive accounting staples as tax, audit and write-up.

“There are more college students in accounting but only a small portion of them are coming into public practice,” said Chris Frederiksen, head of the 2020 Group USA, a membership organization of smaller firms, in a break-out session during the AICPA's Practitioners Symposium in Las Vegas.  “We’re in a knowledge-based industry and we need smart people. The fees per partner have increased dramatically to nearly $1 million per partner. For that you need really smart people.”

“Young people like to be challenged and not with Type 1 work like bookkeeping and write-up,” Frederiksen (pictured) added, revealing that his firm now outsources 100 percent of its tax returns. “Much of that Type 1 work is getting moved offshore.”

He said that following the obligatory one year or two years of learning the basic skill sets, younger employees want to move to Type 2 work that is future-oriented and value-driven, such as financial planning and wealth management, benchmarking, and strategic planning.

“They want flexibility in work hours and working arrangements,” he said. “You may soon see the virtual office where everybody works remotely. These younger employees don’t refer to it as work-life balance. They now call it life-work balance.”

Also on the opening day, Chuck Landes, vice president of professional standards and services at the AICPA, gave attendees an update on Auditing Standards Board projects, including SAS 115, which modifies changes in internal control communications, aligns them with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board’s AS5 guidance and calls for the use of more professional judgment when identifying material weaknesses.

“There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about internal controls,” said Landes. “And that’s missing an opportunity to serve clients.”

Landes also gave an overview of SAS 116, which allows for an interim financial review without the full financial statements, as well as the ASB’s ongoing “Clarity Project,” which will simplify current auditing standards, many of which have been criticized as being too long, too technical and too hard to understand. By 2012, each standard will be accompanied by an introduction, objectives, definitions and application materials.

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