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Rita Keller

Blame It on the Retiring Baby Boomers

Gearing up for the looming talent shortage … one million and counting.

February 17, 2011
by Rita Keller

At a recent AICPA Council meeting, futurist David Pearce Snyder warned about the significant drop that we can expect in the entry-level labor pool during the next 15 years, from 15 percent to 12 percent of the working population, a total of one million people. At the same time, due to the skyrocketing costs of college education, the percentage of highly skilled entry-level people is also expected to decline. Of course, this will all occur as the large baby boomer generation moves into retirement, leaving many organizations scrambling not only for succession solutions but also simply for people to fill empty positions. That’s going to add up to intense competition for educated new professionals.

Staffing Crunch Déjà Vu

Remember the years in the middle of the last decade when firms clamored to find and keep talented young people? That trend is coming back. During the recent economic slowdown, firms have turned away from staffing issues as they tightened their belts and as the labor market became less competitive.

The good news is that the economy seems to be slowly recovering. The bad news is that many of the CPA firms with which I consult have told me that some of their all-stars are starting to leave them. These firms have not only cut down on recruiting, but they have also dropped numerous retention efforts, including many of the perks they once used to keep their best people. And these highly qualified professionals, who are well aware that the recession is nearing an end, are beginning to consider other options. In fact, according to preliminary data from the 2011 PCPS Top Talent Survey, two out of three (61%) of young professionals in CPA firms are open to other options beyond their current position.

Cost-Effective Solutions

As firms struggle with emerging staffing problems during still-uncertain economic times, they will find that one of the most cost-effective steps they can take is to teach their team members how to be better managers of people. “Manager” is really just a title in most CPA firms and the people who hold it often receive little training in how to lead and manage their troops. But shouldn’t your team members know how to get the best work out of your people?

Keep in mind, as well, that although women make up a majority of new accounting graduates, many firms still lose female professionals because they choose to have a family and are seen as lacking in commitment to the firm. Some firms have cut their flexible scheduling and similar programs in the recession. Since these programs are virtually free, except possibly for the minimal time involved in administering them, this seems like a short-sighted choice. At the very least, firms should be shoring up their people management muscle and reconsidering inexpensive perks to ensure that they’re ready for the coming battle for talent.

The PCPS Human Capital Forum Can Help

Whether your firm has a dedicated human resources professional or these duties are handled by someone with separate additional responsibilities, it’s important to arm your “HR person” with the knowledge and tools they need to instill great people management practices in your firm. That’s where the PCPS Human Capital Forum can help. This two-day gathering designed specifically for CPA firm human capital professionals, which will take place March 3 and 4 in Orlando, includes both presentations aimed at informing and inspiring, as well as opportunities for participants to share problems and solutions. Key topics of discussion will include:

  • Practical ideas on the how to turn your team into great managers of people.
  • Proven techniques for improving your marketing and mentoring efforts.

If you’re concerned about the coming labor shortage, the Forum is a great place for your HR professional to begin to develop ideas on how to address the problem.

Keep Moving Forward

Firms that don’t craft a strategy to better attract, manage and retain their people will undoubtedly find themselves sliding backwards. Smart CPA firm leaders will take advantage of opportunities like the PCPS Human Capital Forum to expand their people management expertise.

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Rita Keller is an award-winning and widely respected voice to CPA firm management. She is president of Keller Advisors, LLC and consults with firms across the country to embrace change, banish complacency and become more profitable.