Are CPAs Finding Friendlier Workplaces?

Eight in 10 report employee-centric HR policies. Are they happier? Meanwhile: How does your busy season compare so far? Join the survey; get the benchmarks.

March 20, 2008
by Rick Telberg/On Careers

Finance and accounting employers are among the most progressive in American business with all but a few adopting leading-edge employee-centered human resources strategies.

To be sure, no single staffing strategy stands out as a remedy for today's understaffing and workplace morale woes. But that's not stopping accounting firms and finance departments from trying anything they can think of.

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The HR push for work-life balance is gaining ground, according to a new CPA Trendlines study. In the study, 41 percent of CPAs said a balanced work-life strategy is in effect at their workplaces.

Thirty-seven percent of respondents cited human capital investment strategies, which emphasize training workers for long-term careers within or outside the company. A task-focused strategy that focuses mainly on hiring staff to meet immediate needs was cited by 12 percent. And pay-focused strategies that target compensation with little long-term commitment from the company were cited by 10 percent.

The Trendlines study also found that two-thirds (64%) of CPAs feel their organizations lack the staffing levels needed to meet the company's business goals, while more than half (58%) expect their staff sizes to be increased.

Not surprisingly, nearly three out of four (71%) CPAs who feel their colleagues are disengaged, also report a staff shortage at their organization.

"My staff members work hard but they do not take ownership of projects or work the extra time it takes to finish projects timely," says Michael Gray, managing partner with a small public practice firm in Rutherfordton, N.C. "Young professionals today appear to want the fruits of their labor sooner than what I saw in the 70s when we knew going in, that a partnership was probably 10 years away and that we earned it. Today it appears the young professionals think the partnership is a given." View related story in the March issue of Corporate Finance Insider.

An investment bank senior staffer notes, "I have found that the executives tend to be highly committed, engaged and motivated."

"We've tried focusing on job stability, commitment to employees, work-life balance and compensation, and somehow there's just something missing," says the managing partner of a small public practice that is understaffed. He is tabling all efforts to grow the practice until he can build his staff to adequate size.

Michael S. Warner, head of a small public practice firm in Woodstown, N.J., believes his staff is definitely engaged on the job and gives most of the credit to the firm's work-life balance approach.

"Without addressing the balance in life issues, you cannot get the most for and from the members of your firm," he says. "Family first and the firm will be right behind them!"

HOW DOES YOUR BUSY SEASON COMPARE? Join the survey. Get the benchmarks.

COMMENTS: Questions, rants or raves? Send comments to Rick Telberg.

Copyright © 2008 CPA Trendlines/BSG LLC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.