Talent and Succession: Technology to the Rescue

In today’s world, you can’t look at any business issue without acknowledging the role technology plays. This is true for businesses across industry and it is especially true for accounting firms.

At the AICPA Engage event in June, we talked to many influencers and trendsetters about the future of technology as it relates to accounting, tax, audit and yes, practice management. If you haven’t checked out the archives from the event yet, I highly recommend it. Liz Gold (founder of Rhino Girl Media) and I took our podcast, Let’s Get Radical, on the road, broadcasting live from Engage.

You’ve probably read about my adventures and conversations right here on this blog. But I wanted to touch on two issues that continue to plague the accounting profession – finding and keeping talent and you guessed it, succession planning.

Turning recruiting on its head

Larry Sheftel talked to us about his new position as VP of HR at Aprio. Aprio is a CPA-led advisory firm based in Atlanta. He told us that his company is trying to increase employee engagement and keep their employees happy in this tight talent market, where firms of all sizes are having a difficult time recruiting and retaining talent.

And believe me when I say they are turning recruiting tactics on their head!

Is your firm using gamification and virtual reality to onboard new hires?

They are at Aprio.

I didn’t even know that was an option?!

What are some hard/simple ideas to attract talent if VR is not in your reality budget? Larry reminds us to work on culture and learn how to express it so the right candidates will naturally come to you. You can listen to the entire interview with Larry here. 

Retiring with grace

We also caught up with Jen Wilson, co-founder and partner at Convergence Coaching. Jen talked to us about the difficult conversations that the profession is having about retiring with grace.

It’s really about the psychology of letting go and how retirement can be a death of something meaningful. If you are struggling with this in your firm – or even if you aren’t right now – I highly recommend listening to this interview. We discuss how all members of the firm can be involved in helping to prepare for the change in leadership, as well as provide empathy for the retiring partner.

Jen recommends creating mandatory retirement dates or buy/sell back dates and having an open conversation about when retirement is going to take place.  Good openings to those conversations are when the retiree realizes its harder to keep up with technology. Or they notice they are the oldest person in the room and customers are gravitating to the younger people. And sometimes they are starting to have some health issues.

Jen is seeing the need for these difficult conversations because of the lack of succession plans being developed – despite the reality of our legacy partners aging out. If the current leadership doesn’t begin to relinquish control, the firms’ best and brightest will leave.

You can listen to the entire interview with Jen here.

Technology-based solutions to talent and succession challenges

Talent and succession seem to be the never-ending conversations happening within firms.  All arrows point to recruiting and retaining the best and figuring out how to enable the next generation to evolve into firm leadership. The reality is, if it doesn’t happen intentionally, what will happen to the firms as all the senior partners retire?

Since I approach many challenges through the eyes of technology, it seems natural that I would have some tech-based solutions to share.

When Larry talked about VR I couldn’t help but get all giddy because it has the cool factor. But current cloud tools give us freedom and flexibility that the next generation and the soon-to-be-retirees can enjoy.

I would argue that the retiree can enjoy it more. They usually have the means and time to travel and stay connected as they reduce their time in the office.  It seems like it can be a bridge for those who want to still be engaged.  I know from personal experience my partner (and Dad) loved being able to access everything from his summer home or when he was in California for the first six weeks of January.

Also, from a recruiting standpoint if you don’t offer technology as a critical part of your culture, I’m not sure who would want to sign up.   Our firm can’t complete at college recruiting fairs where the potential hires now receive internships in their sophomore years, but other small firms and ours can compete on lifestyle due to the efficiency utilizing technology gives our firms.

Winning the talent wars

The talent wars are tough but it amazes me how many firms don’t utilize technology to replace labor.  The new 100 percent cloud-based firms can do more work with less talent.  Their technology spend basically replaces their wages. Times are changing. Firms must be aware of all the choices out there as they face the talent and succession challenges ahead.

To learn more about why your firm should consider moving to the cloud, download Jody’s latest whitepaper, “The New Firm Transformation: Technology, Growth and the Future.”


Jody Padar, CPA, MST

CEO & Principal, New Vision CPA Group

All stories by: Jody Padar, CPA, MST