What’s your firm’s path to partner?
Here are 12 questions you need to answer for your rising stars.
November 12, 2012
I shared a meal recently with a group of the best and brightest from a great firm. During our time together, we talked about a number of topics, but one subject stood out. These young up-and-comers are passionate about their careers and their firms, and they wanted to know: What can I expect on the path to partner?
This is a common theme with the managers, senior managers, and principals I meet, and it should be no surprise to anyone. Star performers are valuable because they rise above others in initiative, intention, and investment. They are driven to seek the next level in their careers. And while firm leaders value their up-and-comers’ ambition, most do not feed it with a clearly defined path to partner. Why is that?
According to the AICPA 2011 PCPS Top Talent Survey, top performers place the most value when it comes to retention on compensation (95%) and career growth opportunities (93%). Yet, the economic downturn resulted in flat revenue growth for firms, stalling new partner admissions and flattening raises and bonuses. Now, as the economy starts to rise, firms run the risk of having their most valuable people (MVPs) leave to seek meaningful career growth and financial opportunities elsewhere.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Differentiate your firm by providing clear answers to the dozen most pressing questions asked by top talent. Failure to do so raises the risk of you losing your best and brightest young stars.
To make these path-to-partner discussions happen, start by sitting down with your partner group, or in a larger firm, your management committee, and documenting your current answers to these questions to ensure consistency and buy-in among your firm’s leadership. Recognize that your answers are based on your firm’s current state. You should date any documents and revise them at least once a year, because the answers will change as market and firm conditions shift.
Then, identify the firm’s rising stars with partner potential and assign a partner-level “shepherd” to begin a dialogue with each. Read my “Engage Your Best and Brightest” article for more information on how to approach this step.
Shepherds should first explore each of their assigned rising stars’ thoughts on becoming a partner. If the rising stars express interest, take them through a discussion of the firm’s path-to-partner process, explaining that this is the firm’s best definition today—but that it is fluid. Encourage the rising stars to give input.
Then, stay in close communication as the rising stars progress so you remain up to date on their continued interest, progress, and plans and also keep them apprised as the firm evolves its admission process.
Please don’t wait until your firm’s path is perfectly paved with the “right” programs and processes. Engage your best and brightest in a dialogue centered on these 12 questions and secure your firm’s future today!
Jennifer Wilson is a partner and co-founder of ConvergenceCoaching LLC, a leadership and marketing consulting and coaching firm that helps leaders achieve success. Learn more about the company and its services at www.convergencecoaching.com.