Leveling the playing field

In an article on WebCPA.com, there is an assertion that the workers in Generation Y (born 1978-1990) are gaining traction in the workforce due to increased demand for workers to replace those retiring baby boomers. The things that these Generation Y employees are looking for are career development and increased work/life balance (generally less work and more of a life). However, when you run a CPA firm that is dominated by the billable hour, how do you empower the employees and give them what they want while keeping up the hours/employee to remain profitable?

The simple truth, you either have to rethink your business model or somebody is going to not be happy with the outcome: more hours worked or less top-line revenue per employee. When there is a conflict of interest between partner desires (increased revenue) and employee desires (more life outside of work), who wins? In the past, partners would win this hands down because new accountants were plentiful, so if someone quit because of this issue, they were easily replaced. Now it appears the balance of power may be shifting to the employee as article after article in the accounting realm comes out touting ways to improve employee retention and attract top talent in an increasingly tight job market.

I don’t think we are near mutiny, as there is always a certain respect due to the one who signs your paycheck, but we are at a point where there is an opportunity for younger staff to have some input on the way firms are run going forward into the future. The partners and administrative staff in charge of recruiting are looking more to the recently hired staff to determine what it was that attracted them and what it takes to keep them happy and get them to stay.

I think it is in the best interest of public firms in this tight job market to keep pay very close to private sector pay and manage the workload as much as possible to avoid constant retraining due to increased lack of retention. Public accounting is great experience, but public practices need to work harder now more than ever to see the benefits of that experience within the firm, rather than letting private clients reap the benefits of the public accounting training.


  1. says

    I think you must rethink your business model or you both the partners and the staff will be unhappy, if you are to survive in the accounting industry of today and the future. Staff retention is one of the top problems firms are having. The problem won’t just go away or fix itself on its own.

    We have rethought our business model, and have rid of the billable hour and time sheets, and retention is the last thing we have had to worry about. We’ve grown so much since we’ve done that that we’ve outgrown our office space 2 years sooner than we thought! Our staff actually loves their careers and enjoys coming to work. But even more than that, they have a life. The office is nearly empty by 5:00 and the staff is on their way home to their families, or whatever they enjoy doing. The families are happier, the staff is happier, and the clients are happier.

    I really hope other firms open their eyes to these types of solutions. They only staff we have lost this past year, left because they have had to move out of state. We felt bad, because it’s difficult to recommend and help them find other firms that could offer them the same. They are far and few between.