Suggestions to Recruit and Retain the Future Leaders of Your Firm

Mike Platt

Mike Platt

Attracting and retaining talented staff is top of mind for firms across the country. In a recording of a recent webinar, Mike Platt, publisher of INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA), offers ideas on keeping under-40 CPA professionals involved, engaged and excited about their work.

Retaining this critical demographic has never been more important. IPA’s annual survey of more than 550 accounting firms shows average turnover among all non-Big 4 firms is nearly 14%. At firms of $75 million or more, it’s even higher, at 17%. While some turnover is healthy, extra emphasis needs to be focused on making sure the right people stay.

Access this recording to hear results of an extensive survey/study of more than 700 professionals aged 21-40 on their key motivators and “stay factors.” IPA partnered with ConvergenceCoaching to conduct the research survey, which uncovered what young professionals like (and don’t like) about their jobs, and how the firm can position itself to appeal to this key demographic of future leaders.

This webinar will offer analysis from the research study, “The Road to Retention: Motivators and Drivers for Young Public Accounting Professionals.” Learn:

  • The best and worst parts of working in public accounting, according to Millennials (21-33) and Gen X professionals (34-40).
  • The top reasons they would make public accounting a long-term career.
  • The types of financial information they would like leaders to share with them.
  • How often they prefer feedback about their performance.
  • Their ideas on how different generations can work together more successfully.
  • Their top firm weaknesses and strengths.

Get a better understanding of what role you can personally play within your firm to retain young professionals, encourage a culture of openness and transparency, and involve young staff in firm initiatives.

Platt’s Perspective: The Q&A That Just Might Save Your Firm $1 Million This Year

Any partner who brings in a new, million-dollar client would be considered a superhero – and rightly so – but MPs could save just as much money by paying closer attention to an investment they’ve already made.

Mike Platt

Mike Platt

Consider the phrase, “We have great people.” It’s a statement I’ve heard hundreds of times from MPs describing why their firms are successful. And it’s true. People are any firm’s most valuable asset. Research shows if firm leaders nurture that investment just as intentionally as any client relationship, the payoff can be huge.

And here’s the good news: fostering a more engaged and empowered work force through improved communication costs absolutely nothing. But preventing these valuable assets from walking out the door can save thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

RTR imageUp-and-coming staff want to know the higher purpose of the firm, how the business of accounting works and their role in the firm’s success. INSIDE Public Accounting, in conjunction with ConvergenceCoaching, surveyed more than 700 CPA firm professionals aged 21-40, and repeatedly, they asked to be more involved and informed. Learn more in our research report, “Road to Retention: Motivators and Drivers for Young CPA Professionals.”

The report revealed seven fundamental questions young professionals are asking. Providing the answers can help shift the culture at your firm, and reduce unwanted turnover caused by a lack of communication.

What does the firm expect from me? – New hires are typically thrown into the deep end of the pool and told to swim, but they would benefit from a list of priorities from the firm. How should they focus their time every day? Client work? Business development? Give them guidance, they’re starving for it.

What is the path to partnership? – Define the building blocks to partnership, put it in writing and talk about it. Not everyone wants to become a partner, but those who do are not getting a lot of information on what it takes to get there.

How did the current partners ‘make it’? – Put your partners in front of your people, perhaps in a lunch and learn session, and have them talk about how they reached the level of success they’re enjoying now. Capture success stories and tout them. Hearing directly from the partners makes a big impression and can do a lot to inspire young staff with ownership ambitions.

How do I make more money? – Very few firms clearly define what it takes to get a promotion. Don’t make it a mystery. Outline what is required in terms of client work, staff mentoring, business development, etc. Make it clear, understandable and achievable.

Where is the firm going and why is the firm choosing this path? – Do your staff members know why the firm exists? And by this I don’t mean creating a vision statement that no one can remember; it should be something you feel in your gut. Answer this question: Why do we come to work every day? Powerfully communicating that message is the biggest thing you can do to help your firm in the next five years. Share with staff who the firm clients are, what they mean to the firm, and the clients’ visions, dreams and aspirations.

Are we growing? – Staff want to know that they’re on a winning team. Firm leaders are notoriously close-mouthed about financials, but even high-level numbers, on revenue, growth and new business development, would help educate and keep your team focused on the next milestone.

Are we on track for success? – Professionals want to know if the firm is meeting its goals and whether their department is on track. Only about half of firms in IPA’s annual Survey and Analysis of Firms share financial data with everyone in the firm. I believe more transparency, with context, empowers team members to work together to help the firm achieve its goals.

Every MP knows that it costs far more to replace a staff member than to keep the rising stars who are already on board. Help staff feel part of a team that is driving toward the same goal. Young professionals have told us that they’re craving answers to these seven questions. Give it to them, and you just might see turnover drop, morale increase and profits rise.

Recruiting and Retaining Young CPA Professionals

Attracting and retaining talented staff is top of mind for firms across the country. Join Mike Platt, publisher of INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA), who will offer ideas on keeping under-40 CPA professionals involved, engaged and excited about their work.

IPA is sponsoring a webinar for the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) at 1 to 2:15 p.m. EST Nov. 29. The AAM High webinar is free for members. Register for the webinar.

Retaining this critical demographic has never been more important. IPA’s annual survey of more than 540 accounting firms shows average turnover among all non-Big 4 firms is nearly 14%. At firms of $75 million or more, it’s even higher, at 17%. While some turnover is healthy, extra emphasis needs to be focused on making sure the right people stay.

Platt will discuss results of an extensive survey/study of more than 700 professionals aged 21-40 on their key motivators and “stay factors.” IPA partnered with ConvergenceCoaching to conduct the research survey, which uncovered what young professionals like (and don’t like) about their jobs, and how the firm can position itself to appeal to this key demographic of future leaders.

This webinar will offer analysis from the research study, “The Road to Retention: Motivators and Drivers for Young Public Accounting Professionals.” Attendees will learn:

The best and worst parts of working in public accounting, according to Millennials (21-33) and Gen X professionals (34-40).

  • The top reasons they would make public accounting a long-term career.
  • The types of financial information they would like leaders to share with them.
  • How often they prefer feedback about their performance.
  • Their ideas on how different generations can work together more successfully.
  • Their top firm weaknesses and strengths.

After attending, listeners can get a better understanding of what role they can personally play within their firm to retain young professionals, encourage a culture of openness and transparency, and involve young staff in firm initiatives. New and experienced marketers alike can benefit.

Transparency, Feedback and Mentoring: Improved Communication Goes a Long Way With Young Professionals

By Christina Camara
INSIDE Public Accounting

As the economy has improved over the last few years, the search for the best accounting professionals has heated up with it. Now, it’s safe to say, the profession is immersed in a full-fledged talent shortage, which is worsened by waves of partner retirements and staff departures.

Chris Camara

Chris Camara

Year after year, accounting firm leaders say staffing is a huge concern. According to the most recent AICPA Top Issues survey, the No. 1 issue was retaining qualified staff and No. 2 was finding qualified staff for firms with 21 or more professionals.

Demographic shifts, revealed through more than 540 responses to IPA’s annual Survey and Analysis of Firms this year, show that while the percentage of young people entering the accounting workforce is growing, those with several years of experience is shrinking.

Additional research, conducted by IPA and ConvergenceCoaching, shows that firms can take advantage of easy-to-implement, no-cost (or low-cost) solutions that young people say would greatly improve their work experience. A key theme? Communication.

RTR imageGiven the critical importance of the under-40 age group to the future of the CPA profession, IPA surveyed 723 accounting professionals aged 21 to 40. The full results can be found in “The Road to Retention: Motivators and Drivers for Young Public Accounting Professionals.”

Here are some suggestions gleaned from their comments.

Share Information

When the “Road to Retention” survey respondents were asked to name the most important pieces of information they would like the partner group to share, the top five responses were:

  • More defined career expectations – This was the highest-ranking factor, mentioned by 38% of respondents. Young professionals said they wanted a clear, written explanation of the competencies expected at each level of advancement at the firm, as well as honest feedback on their performance and appreciation for their contribution.
  • An understanding of the firm’s vision and strategy – This response suggests firm leaders may not be clearly communicating their firm’s vision. Young professionals want to know if they’re part of an enterprise that matches their own values.
  • A clear understanding of the path to partnership – Similar to the top response, this answer suggests 21- to 40-year-old professionals don’t want to simply keep their heads down and work until someone notices them. They want to know, up front, what it takes to climb the ladder to firm ownership.
  • Knowledge about the firm’s finances – How does the firm measure success? Is the firm financially healthy? What metrics are used to measure this? Young professionals would greatly appreciate more transparency around firmwide performance numbers. IPA surveyed 134 firms this year on issues specific to firm administration and found that they differ widely on the types of financial information that are shared with staff. IPA’s 2016 Firm Administration Report says that 55% share top-line numbers firmwide, while 36% share utilization figures and just 14% share data on profitability with all staff.
  • Improved communication – Under-40 CPA professionals are looking for clear, consistent and more frequent communication.

Other Communications Issues cover_2016

IPA also recently surveyed 136 firms for its 2016 Human Resources Report and found additional results that back up the concerns of the young professionals surveyed in Road to Retention.

For example, nearly a third of under-40 CPA respondents listed their firm’s mentoring program as an area of weakness. Of all firms that participated in the IPA Human Resources survey, mentoring programs are offered by 80% but only one in 10 rate effectiveness as excellent. In fact, 11% rate it as “fair” or “poor.”

Furthermore, results from both surveys show that firms can be doing a better job at communicating with their staff about their performance.

According to the IPA HR survey, professional staff are reviewed semi-annually in 37% of firms, and annually in 46% of firms. Young professionals told IPA/ConvergenceCoaching that they want feedback much more frequently than what 83% of firms in the HR survey are currently offering. The 20- to 33-year olds most often reported that they want performance feedback monthly; the 34- to 40-year-olds want quarterly feedback.

Last, firm leaders should consider yet another communication issue raised by young professionals: They say firm leaders and managers are not doing a good job of involving them in decisions, with clients or internally, that affect them. It was the No. 1 overall firm weakness cited.

Improving communication will certainly be time-consuming and will take a concerted effort, but the data shows the payoff should be well worth the investment. “The Road to Retention” offers a recommendation: Form an advisory board made up of under-40 professionals. Give the group the task of studying changes they’d like to see in the firm and recommending how to implement them. The next part is critical: Listen to their ideas and put them into practice if they make sense. The future of your firm depends upon it.

Christina Camara is managing editor of the monthly INSIDE Public Accounting newsletter.

34- to 40-year-old CPA Professionals Tell Firm Leaders What They Need

By Christina Camara
INSIDE Public Accounting

As firms help their young professional staff gain expertise and knowledge about the profession, our research shows that they may be looking for the door instead of the next step up the ladder.

Chris Camara

Chris Camara

Recruiting college graduates is a challenge unto itself, but once these young people are hired, its critical to keep them happy, involved, rewarded and able to progress in a career they consider meaningful and impactful.

In a survey of 723 young CPA firm professionals, aged 21-40, INSIDE Public Accounting and ConvergenceCoaching found some troublesome signals that young professionals are becoming less enamored with the profession as they age. While the majority surveyed indicated that they feel valued and appreciated, the numbers dip with age and experience. The results can be found in the research study, “The Road to Retention: Motivators and Drivers for Young Public Accounting Professionals.”

Respondents were broken into two groups: Millennials aged 21-33 and Generation Xers aged 34-40. Consider these differences between the two age groups:

  • Millennials felt more positive about firm leaders. When 21- to 33-year-olds were asked to list the top attributes of their current firms, “I respect my firm’s management” was No. 1. The 34- to 40-year-olds ranked respect farther down the list, with “I enjoy the clients I serve” as No. 1.
  • In the Millennials’ list of top five firm attributes, respondents included “I feel valued and appreciated at my firm,” and “My skills are getting better as a result of my firm’s investment in my learning.” Interestingly, these attributes did not make the top five list for Gen-Xers.
  • According to Millennials, the No. 1 firm weakness was involving team members in internal decisions that affect them. Gen-Xers also found the lack of involvement in decision-making to be a concern, but the No. 1 weakness was the need for ”an effective mentoring program for all staff.”

RTR imageAccording to survey respondents, as staff age, they feel less valued and appreciated, lose some respect for firm leaders and don’t believe the firm is investing in their professional development.

The good news is 34- to 40-year-olds enjoy the responsibility of client work and appreciate autonomy they are afforded, survey results show. Three of the top five firm strengths were: “I play an important role in working with clients,” “I enjoy the clients I serve,” and “My firm allows me to work in a way that I believe is most productive.” Also, the majority of the Gen X respondents, 58%, expressed their desire to join the ranks of partner.

With that being said, IPA’s just-launched 2016 National Benchmarking Report, which compiled data from more than 500 participating firms, suggests that while young professionals may desire leadership roles, they’re looking elsewhere to find them.

IPA looked at the percentages of staff at various levels, comparing this year to 2015. Among firms in the IPA 100, the largest firms in the nation, the percentage of professionals with 0 to 2 years of experience grew by 8% of the total. At the same time, the 6- to 8-year staff percentage shrunk by 5.5% of the total share, and staff with 9 or more years’ experience shrunk by 2.5% of the total.

In smaller firms, the demographic shift can also be seen, as the proportion of staff with 6-8 years of experience shrunk there as well, by an average of 7% for firms of $5 million-$15 million.

This information from the 2016 IPA National Benchmarking Report matches with turnover statistics that reflect that experienced staff, of three years or more, are leaving public accounting.

How can the profession keep experienced staff in public accounting? The Road to Retention provides some ideas:

  • Explain The Impact of Their Contribution – Help staff make the connection between their day-to-day work and the overall goals of the firm and the goals of the clients the firm serves. Provide insight into how their piece of the puzzle adds value not only to the firm but to clients, co-workers and the profession, and show appreciation for their contribution.
  • Share Big-Picture Information – The Road to Retention Report shows that young staff want open and frequent communication, including transparency on firm expectations of staff, the path to partnership, partner success stories, the firm’s overall vision and strategy for growth, and key firm metrics that matter to a professional in the accounting field. They are the future leaders, share early and trust that they will engage. One tool for discussing firm metrics is INSIDE Public Accounting’s National Benchmarking Report, which allows firms to compare their performance data against similar-sized firms around the country as well as IPA Best of the Best firms.
  • Continue to Invest in Professional Development and Expand Offerings – IPA’s Best of the Best Firms, those with excellent financial and operational performance, pour more time, money and effort into high-quality training programs for staff of ALL levels. More than 80% of the 2016 Best of the Best firms have a formal mentoring program, a need identified by Gen-Xers.
  • Improve Communications About Performance – Generation Xers need leaders to be intentional about offering thoughtful input on their work performance, not just the “great job” feedback. Generation Xers would like to receive feedback quarterly, the survey indicated, while Millennials want monthly feedback.
  • Make an Effort to Keep Work/Life Balance Issues Top of Mind – Remember that it is the No. 1 factor that determines whether young professionals will stay in public accounting, according to Road to Retention. Continue thinking of new ways to increase efficiency and flexibility so they can work in the ways they feel are most productive. Trust your staff, and ask young professionals to suggest ways to possibly make smaller changes along the way.

Learn more about the Road to Retention report.

Christina Camara is managing editor of the monthly INSIDE Public Accounting newsletter.

What Gender Issue?

By Jennifer Wilson

Guest Blogger Jennifer Wilson

Guest Blogger
Jennifer Wilson

Many question whether a gender issue exists in our profession. I did not expect to encounter this issue as part of the INSIDE Public Accounting / ConvergenceCoaching research study, “The Road to Retention: Motivators and Drivers for Young Public Accounting Professionals.” What I anticipated was generationally-focused feedback highlighting the differences between mature and younger professionals.

Digging into feedback from 723 young professionals, however, brought me face-to-face with some stark gender differences and the worrisome messages they convey. Based on the data, there is a very real gender issue in our profession and it’s one that firm leaders need to pay close attention to if the sustainability and growth of your firm is important to you.

But before we get into our gender findings, let’s first explore some important background details:

  • There are at least as many female college graduates and more young female graduates than young male grads these days. According to Time magazine, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 37.5% of women ages 25-34 hold at least a bachelor’s degree compared to 29.5% of men in the same age group. The number of women with bachelor’s degrees of all ages and majors is now roughly equal to that of men.
  • Women join our profession in nearly equal numbers as men. According to the AICPA, women represent more than 50% of accounting graduates entering the profession over the last 20 years.
  • But women don’t “make it” to leadership at the same rate as their male counterparts. Only 24% of all partners in the U.S. are female, and females represent a paltry 16% of equity partners in firms with more than 100 CPAs (AICPA CPA Firm Gender Survey).

So, the professional talent pool is half female – and is likely to be at least or more than half female going forward. But less than a quarter of those women become CPA firm owners. How come?

I Strongly Agree That My Firms Leaders / Managers Recognize My Skills and Make Full Use of Them

I Strongly Agree That My Firm’s Leaders / Managers Recognize My Skills & Make Full Use of Them

The IPA Road to Retention survey provides us with some clues. For instance:

  • Women start out feeling their skills are properly utilized, but this drops off as they progress.  Men strongly agree that their firm recognizes and makes full use of their skills and this feeling increases with the years of experience, from 39% to 45%. It’s the opposite for women, where the feeling that their firm makes good use of their skills declines as they age, from 47% to 38%.
  • Females become less certain of what it takes to advance with age. Of women aged 21-33, 45% strongly agreed that they know what it takes to advance in their career, but this declined to 34% for women ages 34-40.  This murkiness on the path to partner was an issue for men, too.


    I Strongly Agree That My Firm’s Leaders / Managers Recognize My Skills & Make Full Use of Them

  • As women progressed, their respect for firm leadership declined. As men progressed in their careers, their respect for firm leadership grew.
  • Fewer women plan to become partner than men. Of female respondents, 32% indicated that they plan to become partner compared with 51% of their male counterparts.

If women felt better utilized and clearer about their path to partner, would they ascend in greater numbers than they have to date?

And what’s causing the declining respect women seem to have for firm leaders as they mature? Isn’t it likely that there’s a correlation between that declining respect and their lower desire to join those leaders at the partner table?

A few other interesting gender findings shed more light on the gap:

  • For women, the feeling that their workload is reasonable declined as they mature, moving from 39% to 28%, while men’s feelings that their workload is reasonable increased from 35% to 42%.
  • When given the opportunity to share what they find to be the least enjoyable aspect of their work, a whopping 58% of women noted they least enjoy “the hours” they work. Men surveyed felt the same way.
  • When we asked respondents to rank the top factors affecting their willingness to stay in public accounting, women ranked work/life balance and flexibility as their top two “stay” factors.

So where do we start? First, we admit there’s a problem. Then, recognize that this problem isn’t only a women’s issue because it has the potential to impact men and women alike by significantly handicapping our profession. If bright young women don’t believe our profession offers them the best opportunity to utilize their skills, win at home and at work and ascend to senior leadership, we simply won’t attract and retain our fair share of this critical talent resource. And, we won’t be able to retain the smart, capable women we’ve been fortunate enough to attract to the profession thus far.

Take steps to encourage open communication in your firm – first at senior leadership and then within your team to better understand the issues that your people feel impact the rise of women leaders.

Encourage uncomfortable, raw and honest feedback on what needs to change in your firm – from both women AND men – and then test ideas and pilot programs to address them.

Talent is the new battleground and firms that attract, develop and retain both genders in equal numbers win. When the dust settles, where will your firm end up?

Learn more about the Road to Retention report.

Jennifer Wilson is a partner and co-founder of ConvergenceCoaching LLC, a leadership and management consulting and coaching firm that helps leaders achieve success. Learn more about the company and its services at

What You Think About Your Younger Staff May Not Be True

By Christina Camara

Chris Camara

Chris Camara

INSIDE Public Accounting

The stereotypes aren’t pretty. Younger staff may view older professionals as old-school technological dinosaurs who aren’t creative or innovative. Accounting firm owners may believe they supervise a bunch of entitled, ungrateful complainers who don’t care about their work.

Millennials (21-33 years old) and Generation X-ers (34-40 years old) took exception to these broad generalizations in a survey of 723  young CPA professionals conducted last year by INSIDE Public Accounting and ConvergenceCoaching. These professionals did more than object, however. They also made numerous constructive suggestions on how the different generations can work better together.

Young professionals are a key demographic for accounting firm leaders, with projections that by 2020, Millennials will account for half of the workforce. Turnover is high, more than 20% at many larger firms, and it’s expensive. Young professionals tell INSIDE Public Accounting that firm leaders need to find ways to offer rewarding work, a plan for professional development, 21st century tools and a flexible work environment or face seeing their pool of future talent dry up.

Here’s what we learned from young professionals in analyzing the survey results, which led to The Road to Retention report.

What are the Top Misconceptions?

The mistaken impression that young professionals are “lazy” came up over and over again, more than 150 times in fact, when survey respondents were asked, “What’s the biggest misconception about young professionals?” More than a third of respondents, 36%, said firm leaders are mistaken if they think young professionals are not willing to put in the effort needed. More than 120 times, survey respondents said they’re unfairly viewed as uncaring and unwilling to work hard. They contend they’re just as committed, they just want to work differently.

Some of their (anonymous) comments:

  • “In order to make public accounting a career, a flexible schedule is key.”
  • “I do not think that flexibility is a direct reflection of whether or not someone works hard. I believe that by allowing more flexibility, a firm can help their staff achieve more and have a greater work output since they are able to work on their own time.”
  • “Professionals my age want work to fit into their lives not work to be their life.”
  • “We grew up with parents who both worked and had to miss time with their kids, or with a parent who was never home due to work, and to us it is not an ideal lifestyle.”

These professionals tell us that they do care deeply about work, but they care deeply about their families and outside activities deeply as well. Work-life balance, in fact, was the most important factor determining whether this group of emerging leaders will stay in public accounting, the survey said. When asked to comment on the needs of young professionals, Dave Finklang, a manager of tax services at Anders CPAs + Advisors of St. Louis  noted: “Just because a younger associate doesn’t want to work 2,800+ hours a year to get ahead like senior partners did, it doesn’t mean they don’t care.”

Ways For Different Generations to Work Together Better

The survey respondents also offered constructive feedback on how to overcome some of these obstacles. Firms should encourage openness, frequent communication, knowledge sharing and team work in an atmosphere that respects differences and “rewards efficiency over time put in,” as one respondent put it.

Here is a sampling of  responses to the survey question,If you could suggest ONE WAY to help the generations work together more effectively, what would it be?”mergers3

  • “If management preaches work-life balance and flexible working, don’t reprimand employees if they are not sitting at their desks from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week.”
  • “Have mature partners work from home for a week and young staff work from the office 70 hours a week to see the difference.”
  • “[They] simply need to learn new tricks. Paper is ancient. Digital is the future.”
  • “The older generation needs to provide clear advancement path with benchmarks that can be measured, not nebulous concepts.”
  • “I would suggest creating outcome-based accountability measures to focus on results rather than core hours.”

Flipping the Conversation

Consider this: Perhaps young people are changing jobs because the workplace culture resists change, not because they aren’t loyal. “We are likely to stay at a firm if the culture embraces changes in technology and flexibility,” says Kim Hardy, senior audit manager at Ridgeland, Miss.-based Matthews, Cutrer & Lindsay who was also asked to comment on young professional needs. And perhaps instead of viewing young professionals as impatient, maybe they’re driven, committed and eager to grow.

Another respondent suggests that we search for understanding. “If we can understand how one another thinks, we can alter our form of communication and work style to work together more effectively.”

The Road to Retention offers a clear message to firm leaders. Listen to and seek to understand your young professionals. They have great ideas that can foster teamwork, loyalty and a strong culture that embraces all generations.

Order the entire report today.

Christina Camara is managing editor of the monthly INSIDE Public Accounting newsletter.

Workplace Flexibility: A Critical Piece of the Retention Puzzle

By Jennifer Wilson

Guest Blogger Jennifer Wilson

Guest Blogger
Jennifer Wilson

With professional staff turnover at its highest rate in a decade and one of six IPA 100 firms losing over 20% of their team members in the last year, solving the retention puzzle has never been more important. In “The Road to Retention: Motivators and Drivers for Young Public Accounting Professionals,” our collaborative research study with INSIDE Public Accounting, we have begun to identify a number of big pieces in the retention puzzle for firms.

One of those pieces is workplace flexibility, or something we at ConvergenceCoaching call Anytime, Anywhere WorkTM. In this blog, we’ll explore the importance of workplace flex practices as reflected in The Road to Retention report and the 2016 ConvergenceCoaching Anytime, Anywhere Work Survey, which recently gathered flexible work practice information from 160 firms to help advance this important element of firm culture across the profession.

But first, why is this subject of flexibility important?

In the Road to Retention study, we asked 723 young professionals which factors were most important in influencing their decision to stay working with their current firms. The No. 1 stay factor was work/life balance. Flexible work practices ranked fourth overall and No. 2 for women surveyed. Connect this with the overwhelmingly number – 60% – of the young professionals who listed their least enjoyable employment element as the hours they work. If work/life balance and flex are very important and the hours we’re asking young professionals to work are making them unhappy, isn’t an investment in a flexible work culture a strategic imperative?

We sure think so.

When we asked our Road to Retention young professionals how they would change the typical workday schedule, their top three answers were to offer:

  • Work-from-home options
  • Improved flexibility related to hours, and
  • A four-day work week option.

Road to Retention respondents with 2 to 5 years of experience, in particular, cited work flexibility as a weakness at their firms, suggesting leaders could do a better job of allowing them to work in a way they feel is most productive, even if it’s outside the office or in a group.

What are other firms doing in these areas?

Of the firms surveyed in the 2016 ConvergenceCoaching Anytime, Anywhere Work survey:

  • 68% allow their team members to flex their hours, and 29% do some of this, but on a case-by-case basis
  • 51% offer some sort of Fridays off benefit during the summer, 22% of whom close their offices for part or all of every Friday in summer
  • 45% of firms allow their team members to choose their place of work, with another 49% allowing ‘flex of place’ occasionally or on a case-by-case basis
  • 44% believe that their leadership sees flex as a strategic advantage and that leadership buy-in is high
  • 42% employ a team member who moved to another geography and continued working for their firm
  • 40% have a written flex policy in place that is updated annually
  • 39% no longer mandate work on Saturdays (even during busy season!) and of those who still mandate them during busy season, half allow their team members to work the Saturday hours from home
  • 15% have hired an employee in another geography other than where they have an office
  • 12%, or 18 innovative firms, close their offices or keep a skeletal crew between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays
  • 5%, or eight leading-edge firms, offer an unlimited PTO benefits and another 19 firms, or 13%, are thinking about offering this benefit.

How can you make flexibility a genuine cultural element?

Those included in our Anytime, Anywhere Survey said the steps they have taken to improve overall firm buy-in, support and positivity around their flexible work programs include:

  • Leaders supporting flex arrangements (38 firms)
  • Continually improving cloud-based options, remote technologies and use of video (13 firms)
  • Leaders participating in the program like any other employee and serving as a positive role model for flex (13 firms)
  • Fostering constant, open and clear communication (9 firms)
  • Rolling out new programs or making adjustments, piloting programs and measuring success with a goal of finding a way to say YES rather than NO (9 firms)
  • Demonstrating the improved retention of good employees (7 firms)
  • Creating a written remote work policy that supports both the firm’s goals as well as the employee’s goals (5 firms)
  • Improving their positive verbal promotion about flex programs in orientations and staff meetings (5 firms)
  • Repeating stories regarding positive examples of flexible work, sharing how they use flex successfully and reviewing work performed out of office (5 firms)

Why should you invest in flex and further your firm’s programs and make workplace flexibility a cultural standard?

Because 89% of the firms surveyed felt it allowed members of their teams to experience better work/life balance or integration – remember, this is the No. 1 stay factor for the young professionals surveyed in the IPA/Convergence Road to Retention survey!

And, because 62% of the firms in the ConvergenceCoaching 2016 Anytime, Anywhere Survey indicated that a positive result their firms experienced from their flexible work programs is “retaining staff we could not retain otherwise,” and 55% indicated their flexible work programs enabled them to retain an employee who moved outside of their geography.

Wow! It is so clear that to sustain next-generation talent for the long term, firm leaders must shift from outdated concepts of “time” and “place” and fit anytime, anywhere work into their firms’ employee retention and engagement puzzle – the sooner, the better!

Learn more about the Road to Retention report.

Learn more about the 2016 Anytime, Anywhere Survey.

Jennifer Wilson is a co-founder and partner of ConvergenceCoaching, a national leadership and marketing consulting firm.


INSIDE Public Accounting and ConvergenceCoaching Study Young Public Accounting Professionals; Release The Road to Retention

Given the importance of Millennials and Generation X to the future of the CPA profession, INSIDE Public Accounting and ConvergenceCoaching have analyzed input from more than 700 young professionals at CPA firms across the country, providing a focused look at what it takes to engage and retain these key team members.FrontCOVER_

You may download the Road to Retention Report.

An extensive survey was sent to young accounting professionals aged 21-40 in October, and the results have been analyzed to help firm leaders develop strategies to attract and retain this crucial demographic given that baby boomers are retiring in record numbers.

“We are excited by the insights gained by surveying young professionals in the profession. Some of the biggest insights gained include the continued pressure on the work hours expected and the young professionals’ desire for flexibility and work/life balance and the differences in motivators and engagement by gender and age,” says Kelly Platt, principal and managing editor at INSIDE Public Accounting.

“Firm leaders must continue to study the motivators and desires of their younger professionals,” says Jennifer Wilson, co-founder and partner at ConvergenceCoaching, LLC.  “This report will provide important insights into the things professionals most appreciate about their work – and leaders – in public accounting, and also highlight areas where they are less content,” continued Wilson.  “And, the report provides ideas for change that firm leaders should consider based on the feedback.”


  • 80% of respondents were from the all-important Millennial generation, aged 21-33, with 20% coming from the 34-40 age group. Male and female respondents were about evenly split at 51% and 49%, respectively.
  • 18% of respondents were from IPA Best of the Best firms. Their aggregate responses were broken out separately.
  • Key differences are outlined for CPAs and non-CPAs; men and women; younger and older professionals; and for respondents with varying levels of experience.


  • The most important factors that respondents say will determine whether they stay in public accounting
  • The most and least enjoyable aspects of work
  • What young professionals admire about mature professionals
  • Unique challenges encountered by young professionals
  • Information young professionals would like to be more exposed to
  • Biggest misconceptions about younger professionals (from their perspective)
  • Young professionals’ ideas to help different generations work better together

Learn what young professionals like and dislike most about their work, how they would change the workplace, their feelings about becoming a partner and the “stay factors” that would keep them in public accounting.

More than just numbers and graphs, the report also contains dozens of productive comments from young professionals about performance feedback, open communication and obstacles they face.

The report provides specific ideas on what firm management can do with this information to improve their firms and retain these future leaders. Some of these suggestions are inexpensive and easy to implement.

You may download the Road to Retention Report.

About INSIDE Public Accounting

INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA), founded in 1987, is published by The Platt Group. The Platt Group publishes both the award-winning INSIDE Public Accounting newsletter and the award-winning National Benchmarking Report. The Platt Group also consults with firms to help them become more successful. The Platt Group works with managing partners, CFOs and thought leaders across the nation to provide practical ideas, benchmarking data and information to take firms to the next level of improvement. For more information, to schedule an interview, or to inquire about presentations at meetings or retreats, please contact Chelsea Page at (317) 733-1920;

About ConvergenceCoaching

ConvergenceCoaching LLC is a national consulting firm dedicated to developing leaders and transforming teams through coaching and practice consulting – including retreats, strategic planning, and training. For over 16 years, ConvergenceCoaching has worked tirelessly to help develop CPA leaders build better practices, manage higher performance teams and achieve success. ConvergenceCoaching helps firms prepare for and manage change including those related to generational impacts as baby boomers transition out of leadership positions and the workplace, and as the Millennial generation transitions in. ConvergenceCoaching is helping to shape the conversation around anytime, anywhere work programs to address the increasing demand for flexibility and autonomy in the way professionals conduct their work. ConvergenceCoaching is committed to pioneering ways to support and embrace the next generation firm.