While finding and keeping great people has always been a challenge, it is actually becoming harder. I believe the underlying issue is that the ‘traditional accounting firm model’ offers limited career options. The problem is that the industry has historically focused on being generalists meaning that the only true career path has been to become partner. For a number of reasons, this leaves the profession open to losing the best people for more money or seeking alternate career opportunities.
Why the best people are leaving the industry
The real problem with the traditional model is that it is unfulfilling for employees.
1.Generalists are not satisfied
Accountants too often are employed to do everything. Roles are expected to include everything from bookkeeping to high level accounting work. This can include tax research and tax advice, but also includes general business advice and counselling for disgruntled business owners. The wide range of skills needed means they are generalists, rather than specialists.
When one size fits all in terms of job options it limits individual development. eg. If an employee wants to pursue Management Consulting they need develop skills that help the business run better. The demands of a generalist role means they lack both the time and headspace to develop as they are too busy keeping up with their day-to-day generalists job demands.
While we may understand the importance of freeing up Partners for high level work, we should also aim to provide the same opportunities for our better people. Giving them them the opportunity to work on their strengths, allows them to develop.
2.Limited Training Opportunities
Often our training opportunities are focused solely on the core service offering with no, or very little emphasis, on value add service training.
This fails to paint a picture of different paths an employee might follow. I still see many employees leaving to take up jobs that offer alternate skill sets. This happens when they can’t see a path that allows them an opportunity within the current firm.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that all accountants must being doing tax. It can be mutually beneficial to provide options for individuals to solely pursue interests such as management consulting, CFO, automation and systemisation.
3.Wrong Organisational Structure
Sometimes the problem lies within the very structure of the organisation.
Firms often view their structure as management tiers. Such as partners, managers, accountants and support. Or even more simply, Clients & Billings.
These structures make it unclear to employees how they may specialise or contribute their strengths and skillsets to the firm. Let alone how they may develop expertise in a preferred specialisation.
The solution is to restructure the firm around multiple revenue streams. Even viewing the firm as Marketing, Sales, Delivery and Service creates greater opportunities for individuals.
4.Too much focus on additional fee generation
I believe it can be detrimental to the firm when the focus is too heavily on increasing average fee per client or higher billings.
When the focus shifts towards revenue streams it tends to lead the business forward toward more clearly definable areas of specialisation and expertise. This engages and inspires both clients and employees. Your clients because they demand more valuable outcomes and your employees because they are encouraged to stay and develop their individual strengths.
Getting this right creates opportunities for individuals & greater profitability for the firm
High performing firms who are getting this right are providing a wide range of options to their key people, allowing them to engage according to their strengths and to develop as more valuable assets to the firm. This process recognises and develops opportunities that lead to future profitable and sustainable revenue streams.
An outline for attracting & retaining the best people
- Start looking at your business as distinct revenue streams
- Implement packages & products (each with repeatable process and clarity of offer)
- Reorganise your business structure to create areas of specialisation and expertise (ie. match your org chart to your revenue streams)
Attracting and retaining the best people is just a part of my Chairman’s Program that will launch next week. Right now we are conducting final testing of the program, so I’m not booking sessions just now.
Look out for your invite next week…
Andrew Robertson | TwentySix Group