Six talent trends to act on

Aug 13, 2013

By Sandra Wiley

The 2013 tax season is behind us, but that certainly does not mean we can take a break. It is time to refocus on other important things in our firm, and one of those is talent; specifically, the human resources trends that every business should be spending time on. The trends below represent the HR issues that should be on your radar as you move forward in 2013. 

  1. Health care costs
    It comes as no surprise that health care costs are not going down in the years ahead. If you are choosing the passive road and simply waiting and seeing what your health care vendor tells you the new rates will be, don't be surprised when you have a panic attack after seeing your new premiums. Start now and proactively talk to your health care provider about the steps your firm can take to hold costs down or change your plan to reduce prices. Some firms are finding that developing "health programs" in their firm and then turning in the ongoing results to their health care providers is a positive step. The results of this proactive approach is lower usage and lower increases in premiums.

  2. Shortage of skilled professionals
    This challenge does not come as a huge shock to anyone in our profession. We have amazing talent in our firms, but we want more of them. At the core of the problem is that there are simply less people in the current Gen X and Y age groups than there are in the retiring baby boomer generation. Pair that fact with the lower number of people who are choosing to stay in the public accounting arena and we just have less people to work with today. This challenge must be met with a stronger emphasis on moving top talent into higher level work faster and more time spent on mentoring, teaching and motivating the best of the best. 

  3. Retiring baby boomers
    Given the fact that we know we will have less people to replace those that are leaving, retiring partners might be a bit discouraged about their ability to leave the firm when they had planned to. We simply must start thinking in a new way about mandatory retirement ages, ways to attract younger team members to buy into the ownership track, the amount of time we spend in knowledge transfer and the expectations we have of our new leadership team. All of these old rules and mindsets must change as we move to the next generation of leadership and management in our firms. 

  4. Decline in employees' retirement savings
    The recession hurt our country and our profession and one area that is not recovering as fast as we had hoped it would is employee retirement savings contributions. While some firm leaders would say “that is their problem, we give them the opportunity and it is up to them to take advantage of it,” I contend that as leaders we need to insure that we are educating and encouraging our team in the management and necessity of their future retirement planning. This is a great area to collaborate with an outside vendor to work with your firm. Asking an outside financial planning professional to meet with team members can be extremely valuable to the firm and the individual.

  5. Threat of another recession
    When you are clobbered once, it is hard to trust that everything will be ok in the future. The experts agree that we are recovering slowly. The experts do not agree as to the likelihood of another recession. The challenge is to not let your firm leaders get into a position of being scared. Scared says that you are in the position of retreat or standing still. You must continue to push forward, improve and strengthen your firm. Be courageous!

  6. Greater demand for life and work balance
    The conversation around life and work balance was once thought to be a passing fad. Today, we know that this is not just a "next gen" issue. This is an "everyone" issue. Everyone is searching for more balance including a career that they are passionate about as well as a personal life that is fulfilling. Firms have to continue their quest to develop accountability at work, which includes setting professional goals that will help each individual accomplish the life they want, but will almost never look the same as the next person that walks through the door. That is where the challenge comes. We must have a system in place that allows for flexibility that will connect the needs of the firm with the goals of the individual. 
As I stated earlier, now is the time to act as leaders and be courageous. Use the trends above to develop strategies that will enable your firm to navigate the talent trends of 2013 and end the year in a positive way. 

Sandra Wiley, COO and Shareholder, is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant's Alliance. Sandra is a certified Kolbe™ trainer who advises firms on building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff.