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Emily Pomeroy
Advancing Talented Individuals in Accounting Firms

Catalyst’s recent report on Canadian subsidiaries of U.S. accounting firms profiles two areas requiring firms’ attention to remain competitive: talent management and unwritten rules.

September 16, 2010
by Emily Pomeroy

Accounting firms are searching for the best and the brightest talent to lead the firms of tomorrow. They also recognize that successful career advancement does not fall to individuals alone.

Talent Management

Retaining and advancing top talent in today’s competitive market requires that firms communicate talent management practices to their employees. In addition, firms must continually identify gaps in their talent management systems; work to develop, strengthen and refine these systems; and remove barriers to advancement.

Respondents reported higher career satisfaction and commitment to their firms when they understood how their firm identifies talent and advances the most qualified individuals.

  • Average career satisfaction scores for partners, principals and associates were 10 percent to 19 percent higher for those who agreed that they were aware of how talent is identified.
  • Commitment to their firm was seven percent to 12 percent higher for individuals who agreed that they were aware of how talent is identified.

Stretch assignments designed to challenge individuals to develop or refine their skills serve as developmental opportunities. They help accountants gain visibility in the firm, expose them to important clients or work, help them demonstrate leadership skills and increase connections with influential others.

  • Average career satisfaction scores for partners, principals and associates were 14 percent to 21 percent higher for those who agreed that their managers provided assignments to develop new strengths and skills.
  • Firm commitment was nine percent to 10 percent higher for individuals who agreed that their manager provided them with stretch assignments.
  • Women associates, in particular, reported the greatest increase in career satisfaction when they received stretch assignments that helped them develop new strengths and skills.

Unwritten Rules

Unwritten rules are the workplace norms and behaviors that are essential to organizational success but that are not formally communicated. These rules explain which employee behaviors and characteristics are valued and rewarded, describe a successful career path and reveal opportunities for greater visibility at the firm. Communicating an organization’s unwritten rules allows employees to practice the valued behaviors considered necessary for successful career advancement within the organization.

Findings revealed that accountants had higher career satisfaction and commitment to the firm when their managers helped them understand the firm’s unwritten rules.

  • Employees who agreed that their managers helped them understand the unwritten rules reported career satisfaction scores 10 percent to 16 percent higher.
  • Average commitment scores for partners, principals and associates were 6 percent to 9 percent higher for those who agreed that their managers helped them understand the unwritten rules.
  • Women associates were least likely to agree that their managers had helped them understand a firm’s unwritten rules.

But women associates who had managers who helped them understand the unwritten rules, reported commitment to the firm that exceeded that of men associates.

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Emily Pomeroy, senior associate, Catalyst Canada Inc., manages Catalyst Member Benchmarking, an annual assessment of the scope of diversity and inclusion at participating organizations. She leads data analysis for the report and assists with authorship. She also supports Canadian research projects and consulting engagements by conducting focus groups and interviews. Pomeroy can be reached at 416- 815-7600 end_of_the_skype_highlighting, ext. 634.