Old school accounting firms are dead

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Talent shortages are impacting every industry across the nation. Forbes recently reported that talent shortages could create up to 85 million unfilled jobs over the next few years, resulting in trillions of lost dollars for businesses. To add to accounting firm challenges in this tough hiring market, the number one concern reported by CPA.com for accounting firms is staying relevant.

It is hard to make accounting sexy, we all already know that. But more than just making it seem fun and attractive to talent, firms must be wary of staying top of mind for future generations. Software and technology advance faster every day. Advances in technology and artificial intelligence are getting closer and closer to being able to automate tasks like bookkeeping and even the preparation of basic tax returns.

Keeping that in mind, we need to focus on the value we add to our clients as people, not just as numbers machines. That requires hiring and retaining top talent in order to ensure you have a team who can bring that value to the table.

Firms too often have stayed stuck in “this is how it’s always been done” when it comes to moving talent up the ranks.

Old school accounting firms all worked the same, and most of us have shared the experience. You come at the bottom, out of school, most likely as an intern. You worked your way up, and if you put in a gazillion hours, learned to bring in clients, and met your project time budgets, you might eventually, after about a decade or so, make partner. But the talent pool is not interested in that track, at least not if it is going to take that long.

Today, you don’t even need a high school diploma to make a billion dollars online. Still in his 30’s, Mark Zuckerberg is ruling an online Metaverse influencing social media platforms around the world. The rise of the internet entrepreneur has made creativity, freelancing, and fast-tracking to success, easier than it has ever been.

Twenty year olds don’t have the attention span to even consider themselves waiting around for 10-plus years for partnership tenure at a firm. Understanding this is critical to attracting and retaining the next generation of leaders. They need to see a faster trajectory towards promotion and growth than what accounting firms have traditionally offered.

Firms too often have stayed stuck in “this is how it’s always been done” when it comes to moving talent up the ranks. That’s short-sighted when you consider the fact that my 8 year old would probably make a more well-versed internet marketer than I would. While the younger generation still needs to retain experience to rise to leadership roles within the firm, making sure you hone, utilize and reward their strengths and talents now is critical.

Keep your finger on the pulse of what your talent pool brings to the table that will help keep the firm as a whole relevant (like maybe it is time for a TikTok channel). More than just making sure you are retaining the leaders of the future, you are going to need the next generation mindset to retain the next generation of clients too.  

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