It might not have been laid out in black-and-white anywhere on the agenda for the American Institute of CPAs' fall Governing Council, but as always, the profession's staffing issues rose to the tips of speakers' tongues before the meeting adjourned.
At Tuesday's luncheon, with only a few items of business left to address, attendees gathered together to hear a speech from incoming AICPA Chairwoman Leslie Murphy. Arriving at their tables, the herd of practitioners ran into a white paper being issued by the institute's Private Companies Practice Section, entitled, "Best Practices in Recruiting and Retaining Talented Staff."
Then Murphy, a partner with regional firm Plante & Moran, delivered a luncheon address, entitled, "The Demands of Diversity: One Size Doesn't Fit All," focusing on the staffing issue from a macro level and stressing the need for diversity in the profession.
Pointing to statistics that within 15 years, three-quarters of the AICPA's members will be approaching retirement age, Murphy said firms must to stop the revolving door of people who enter and leave the profession, or who enter and leave firms.
"We need to stop the revolving door," Murphy said, before talking about various initiatives the AICPA is taking to better promote a better work/life balance for all men and women working in accounting and encourage firms to consider new uses of staff. "We need to create true professional homes," she said.
The PCPS paper is based largely on the results of a survey of 500 CPA firms that requested details of any programs those firms had in place to address issues such as leadership development, generational differences, and compensation alternatives for workers not on the partner track. In all of those cases, and a variety of others, in excess of three-quarters of surveyed firms didn't have documented programs in place.
The paper itself can be accessed from the PCPS resources section of the AICPA Web site, at http://pcps.aicpa.org/resources. The document offer concrete ways to improve firm recruiting -- suggesting a variety of tactics to improve college relations, offer internships and possibly rehire former workers. In terms of retention, suggestions in the paper are offered throughout the stages of employees' careers -- from employee orientation and continued career development and ongoing motivational programs, to nurturing future partners.
As Murphy has said, the AICPA having to face the problem of the demand for accountants exceeding the supply, is a problem the trade association should be happy to have. She hopes the issue will be framed by its positives throughout her term, and she sees the potential for members to better share their enthusiasm for their work in reaching out to all individuals who can contribute to the industry's growing demands.
Of course, the irony in all the staffing discussions is that over the course of the coming years, the AICPA is going to be dealing with a huge staffing issue of its own making, after its cost-savings proposal to relocate its offices in Jersey City, N.J., offices to Durham, N.C., met with approval from Council.
According to financials presented to Council, the move would come with a first-year loss of about $49 million, but should provide the AICPA with a net present-value savings of approximately $100 million over the next 15 years. The largest piece of those funds lie in estimates that the move will realize a 25 percent savings in labor costs. Operating some parallel operations through the move's completion in August 2007, and a high contingency allowance is built into the proposal -- but the great unknown is what effect losing hundreds of its workers will have on the institute.
The AICPA executives who presented the relocation scenario have said they heard a wide range of figures for what percentage of the some 400 employees could be expected to make the move from a variety of consultants and other employers who have moved operations to the Durham, N.C. area. The figure, ranging from a high of 50 percent to a low of 5 percent, could mean as many as 200 employees, or as few as 20 employees head south -- and how long the remainder stay working at the institute is anyone's guess.
Those AICPA workers will have until after the holidays to give an answer on whether they're staying, or whether they're going, and the proposal used an estimate that 20 percent, 80 workers, would make the transition. How the institute copes with the demands of rebuilding its own workforce -- literally on the move -- is going to be every bit as interesting as how the actual members of the institute continue to deal with transforming the very framework of its own workplace.
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