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Invest in Young Professionals to Boost Retention Rates

Published by Hannah Hood on May 24, 2024 6:00:00 AM

It's no secret that accountants are currently leaving the profession in droves. Those departing have cited everything from lower-than-expected salaries to burnout as their reason for choosing other career paths. In the face of this CPA shortage, it's more important than ever for industry leaders to focus on cultivating and nurturing the next generation of accountants. 

Here are some ways your firm can help ensure that the young professionals entering the accounting field will continue working in the industry for years to come.

Create and Maintain Open Channels of Communication

Through our recent merger with Anders, Summit team members have seen how investing in new talent can help us achieve retention goals. More specifically, we've seen how the Young Professionals (YP) group at Summit Virtual CFO by Anders supports retention efforts. The YP group connects young professionals at the firm. It also serves as an open forum where these professionals can talk candidly about how they think the firm is doing, including areas where they think it couldBlog Post Template (26) improve.

I recently spoke with Chrysa Cousley, who occupies the role of Secretary for the YP Staff Advisory Group at Anders, acting as an intermediary between young professionals and partner groups to identify opportunities for internal initiatives. She defines young professionals as "people who might be young in age [but also] young to the profession," which acknowledges recent accounting graduates and those who might have more work experience but have recently changed careers.

Since the bulk of Anders' staff is composed of young professionals, leadership continuously connects and collaborates with the group on initiatives that ultimately benefit the entire company. For example, at Anders, the most recent effort spearheaded by the YP group is related to rest and involves sharing expectations and suggestions on disconnecting from work after hours and through other means, such as paid time off, to avoid burnout.

However, you decide to engage with your young talent, establish and maintain open lines of communication. Doing so will ensure that you hear and address your employees' concerns, making it less likely that those employees will leave. Also, as your firm grows, communication gaps are more likely to appear, making these contact points even more essential.

Establish Support Systems

While communication is crucial between younger team members and leadership at a firm, ensuring these employees also have the support and guidance needed to excel in their roles is a must. Good coaching helps less experienced employees grow professionally and allows them to make substantial contributions to a firm's success. At Anders, we have a three-pronged system that allows our young professionals to lean on their more experienced peers for guidance. This system includes the following:

  1. Assigning each young professional a "buddy" (formally known as a "functional advisor") to whom they can ask questions related to the more practical, day-to-day activities of their job.

  2. Providing each young professional with a "coach" who helps them manage their workload and meets with them weekly and quarterly to have more strategic discussions about their roles and careers.

  3. Ensuring each young professional has a "family tree member" who is a partner at the firm. These members join semi-annual evaluations for young professionals, providing big-picture advice on how they can achieve their career goals. This advice involves sharing what the young professional is doing well and where they can improve.

Even if you don't create an extensive system, it's helpful to take stock of what support you currently offer your team members who are just starting in the field, asking them what kind of support they would benefit from, and building out a system accordingly.

Share Clear Career Pathways

Young professionals are eager to know if they're on track to reach their career goals, which involves understanding their career options and knowing what steps they can take to achieve their goals. With that in mind, it is critical to provide your employees with the tools, resources, and support needed from management to consider their options, define their career trajectory, and consistently check on their progress toward achieving their career goals. 

"YPs just really want to feel appreciated and involved and know the 'why' behind things," Chrysa says. “By forming a relationship with the young professionals at your firm where you consistently involve them in the development of internal processes or initiatives that directly impact them, you increase the likelihood that they will not only stay at your firm but thrive.” That outcome is definitely worth the investment.

To learn more ways to invest in young professionals in your firm, join our CFO Community below.