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Where once the accounting profession expected its next generation of leaders to rise to the top more or less on their own, the Best Firms to Work For are taking a much more intentional approach to grooming up-and-coming talent for management roles.

The vast majority of the firms on the list offer some kind of mentoring, job-shadowing and cross-training, and the opportunity to attend leadership workshops or other formal leadership education. The end result is better-trained employees who also feel more invested in their firm and their profession.

For example, professional staff at the manager level or below at Knoxville, Tenn.-based Best Firm Coulter & Justus, are eligible for “Next Generation Training” from firm association CPAmerica, “which is designed for the firm's younger generation that want to understand more about how the business works.”

Nebraska-based Best Firm Lutz, meanwhile, offers three leadership programs, a management skills training series, and a new business development class. “The leadership programs involve a select group and range from public speaking coaching to path-to-leadership stories from our partners, to a group initiative to better the firm,” the firm reported. “The management series was developed to help people hone skills such as delegation, feedback, time management and client service. The business development class was created this year for a group of future rainmakers to educate on practice development, encourage strong relationships in the community, and to provide them with necessary tools to promote the firm.”

And Wilson Toellner, a Best Firm in Sedalia, Mo., may have amassed the most comprehensive set of programs designed to train the future leaders of the firm and the profession, largely by working with outside training and development companies:

  • It offers practice development training using the Rainmaker Academy, “which focuses on sales and marketing approaches centered on better communication with clients and prospects.”
  • It enrolls one or two of its approximately 30-odd staff each year in Boomer Consulting’s three-year leadership program, “to build leadership skills and place promising team members in positions to build relationships with their peers from other firms.”
  • It also uses Boomer’s NextGen Leader Circles to put “future firm leaders in a collaborative environment with peers from other firms, to develop a vision for the future of the industry, and collaborate around that vision with the firm's managing partner.”
  • It partners with training group Great Minds LLC for soft skills, computer skills, marketing and leadership training on-site one week per month between May and December each year.
  • Finally, the firm maintains a leadership library, where team members can check out books that teach leadership skills and encourage a positive mindset.

And even if you can’t offer training and programs, simply letting staff know that the ability to rise exists can be a boost to retention – and letting high-potential employees know that you’re thinking about them and their future with the firm is better than nothing.

For more ways to create a top workplace, see 20 Days: Building a Better Firm.

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