At a firm retreat not so long ago, the partner group was asked how long it took to make partner at their firm. None of them knew.

This all-too-common lack of clarity extends beyond just how long it takes to make partner: It includes uncertainty around how promotion and partnership decisions are made, the requirements and responsibilities of each position at the firm, and much more. That leaves employees without a clear career path – and that’s a clear incentive to seek employment elsewhere.

A number of Accounting Today’s Best Firms to Work For have addressed this issue by offering explicit guidance to their staff about what’s expected from them in different positions, and what they need to do to advance to the top.

Savannah, Ga.-based Hancock, Askew & Co., for instance, has a roadmap for its 75 employees: “Our firm has a comprehensive ‘Career Roadmap’ designed to help staff plan professional development and ensure they meet their maximum potential,” the firm reported. “The roadmap is for all levels of staff and tells them exactly what is required to move up.”

“We leverage our ‘Path to Partner,’ which outlines expectations, criteria and processes by which candidates are evaluated and accepted into the partnership,” reported San Antonio-based ATKG – though it also stressed that it was for all of its 26 employees, not just those aiming for partner. “It's also a tool kit for growth and development of all employees regardless of partnership considerations.”

Omaha, Neb.-based Best Firm to Work For Bland & Associates gives an idea of how specific this kind of information can be: “We have established a set of core competencies for associate, senior, Supervisor, and managers that are divided into five categories: Technical Skill, Performance, Communication, Client Relationship & Development, and Professional & Personal Development.”

The more details you can offer about what their future at your firm might look like, the more comfortable staff will be that they actually have a future there – but any information is better than leaving them completely in the dark.

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