Maze What a difference an economic crisis makes.

For years, the staffing strategy at CPA firms consisted of one word: Recruit. During the lean, CPA-shortage years and the post-Enron era alike, firms put a premium on hiring all the talent they could find — and the CPAs could just about name their price.

Over the past few years, though, it’s been all about retention. Given the economic climate, firms concentrated on keeping the CPAs they had — and on the rare occasions when they could hire, the firms held most of the bargaining chips.

What comes around goes around — and Mark Koziel says it’s coming around again.

“For 10 years or so, the recruits had all the power, but during the last three years, that power has shifted back to the firms a bit,” said Koziel, director of specialized communities and firm practice management for the AICPA. “But firms might be getting a little too sure of themselves thinking this is going to be a permanent change. It won’t be. The minute this market starts to open up again, recruitment will be an issue as it was just a few years ago.”

A couple of other interesting HR trends are at work these days. First, with the economy edging toward recovery, employees are feeling free to job-hop again. Second, baby boomer managers are set to retire in droves, and there simply aren’t enough Gen Xers to take their places. The result could be a huge leadership gap in corporate America.

“That’s why you’re seeing firm mergers start to accelerate again,” Koziel said in this CPA Spotlight podcast. “Some of the big firms are starting to come together, and a lot of that has to do with leadership and succession issues. Smaller firms are feeling the same pinch. They’re looking around and saying, ‘Wait a minute: I don’t have the talent internally to succeed me. Now what?'”

Mergers might provide part of the answer, but Koziel says there are other solutions, too.

“It’s about how you manage your practice and the things you do from day to day,” he said. It’s not the one huge silver bullet that will define you, he said, but rather “the hundred little things you can change that will have significant impact.”

Topping the list is communication.

“Talk to your people and try to figure out what they’re all about,” Koziel said. “Once you fill that communication gap, you will find the things that work for your firm, not only from a human capital and retention standpoint but from a workflow standpoint, from a profitability standpoint. All of it starts to fall in line by increasing the communication lines.”

I spoke with Koziel at length recently about what else is happening on the human capital front. Listen to what he had to say in this CPA Spotlight podcast.

  • Subscribe to our podcast here, or search for “CPA Spotlight” in either iTunes or Zune.

Learn more at the Summit
Koziel will present a one-hour session titled “Retaining Your Top Talent: Maintain the Desired Return of Your Investment,” during the Maryland CPA Summit (formerly the MD Biz Expo) on June 29 at the BWI Hilton. Get complete details and register here.

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