It is refreshing to see incoming AICPA chair Leslie Murphy's focus on staffing and, in particular, her emphasis on diversity and work/life balance. With the demand for accountants greater than the supply, it is important that the leadership of the profession call attention to initiatives that aid firms in finding staff.
The firms that I have seen that are most successful are those that create an environment in which all types of individuals can thrive. For one, these firms have an understanding that different generations have to be motivated differently. They also understand that by being rigid in their employment policies, they risk losing valued professionals.
Even when these firms lose staff, they are smart enough to do so in an amicable way and, in some cases, firms have even set up alumni networks, figuring it is is in the firm's interest to continue the professional relationship in some manner. I am sure a number of firms that have created these networks have seen a payoff, whether in a referral of a client, a new hire, or even in the return of the staff member that left.
As Murphy says, "One size doesn't fit all," and the smart firms are seeing this, and are becoming more flexible in their staffing policies. This flexibility is extremely important, because besides representing a lack of rigidity, it evidences a mindset that accepts and welcomes change. It also shows that firms are taking risks, and if are accountants are going to take the lead role in business consulting, they must be able to develop a keener understanding of risk assessment and management.
It is funny to think that the solution to staffing problems requires accounting firms to scrutinize the efficiency of the business model that has been utilized for so long. But that is an imperative, and this self-examination with surely be significantly moved ahead by the new chair's attention to staffing, diversity, and work/life balance during her term of office. I look forward to this next year.
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