For today's firm leaders, one of the most pressing challenges isn't just attracting talent, but also holding on to them and preparing them for partnership. The traditional trajectory to partner status took well over a decade. However, many firms are accelerating that pathway in today's fast-paced and highly competitive accounting labor market and with changing generational expectations.
Leading firms are looking at faster promotion tracks to stay competitive and hold onto their rising stars. But how can you help prepare young professionals and ensure they're ready for such big responsibilities sooner than ever?
There are no easy answers, but there are several strategies that, when combined, can help fast-track talent to partnership.
Start with the right foundation
Hiring decisions shouldn't just be about technical expertise. We've all known people who are technically skilled but don't have the core success skills to foster deep relationships with staff members and clients.
When recruiting talent at any level, look for skills like emotional intelligence, communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, and active listening. When these traits are present, people have a lot of what it takes to succeed in a leadership role and can develop technical skills faster.
Tailor learning and development
A generic approach to learning and development (or an L&D plan focusing solely on CPE hours) won't suffice.
Develop personalized learning plans that consider each individual's strengths, areas for growth, and professional goals. When you focus on what each individual needs most, you can expedite their professional development.
Provide continuous feedback
Annual or semi-annual performance reviews are no longer standard or even practical. Often, when people get to their yearly performance reviews, much of the feedback they receive is based on events that happened months ago.
Look for opportunities to provide regular, constructive feedback, which allows for real-time course correction. This ensures young professionals don't stray too far from the right track and minimizes prolonged periods of stagnation or misdirection.
Mentorship is key
Pair less experienced professionals with established partners or senior managers to give them insight into the realities of leadership and client relationships.
Make sure mentors know how to mentor. Taking a less experienced team member to lunch or having a one-on-one once a month is nice, but it doesn't necessarily teach them the skills they need to become a partner.
Take them to meet with clients and prospects, show them how you handle crucial conversations with other team members, let them lead meetings and give them stretch projects to help them learn new skills. This broader perspective will equip them to make more informed decisions when they reach the top.
Set clear criteria for promotion
One of the frustrations many talented young professionals voice is ambiguity around promotions—specifically, what it takes to make partner.
Be clear about what it takes and provide a roadmap. Knowing what's expected and having a clear vision of the path ahead can be a powerful motivator.
The journey to partnership is one of professional growth, personal development and immense dedication. By tailoring your approach to each individual, you accelerate their journey and strengthen the firm's future leadership bench. This investment in your team benefits both parties.
As we face a future of rapid change in the accounting profession, there's never been a more critical time to invest in the next generation.
Could your firm's HR and talent leaders benefit from a peer network?
The Boomer Talent Circle is a community of talent leaders from forward-thinking firms who are committed to aligning human resources and firm strategy at the highest levels. Apply now to start shaping your firm for the future.
Sandra Wiley, Shareholder, President of Boomer Consulting, Inc., is a leader in the accounting profession with a passion for helping firms grow, adapt and thrive. She is regularly recognized by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her expertise in leadership, management, collaboration, culture building, talent and training.
Sandra’s role at Boomer Consulting, Inc. includes serving as co-director of the Boomer Leadership Academy as well as the Boomer Managing Partner Circle, the Boomer Talent Circle and the Boomer Learning & Development Circle. Her years of experience and influence as a management and strategic planning consultant make her a sought-after resource among the best and brightest firms in the country.