Human Capital & Careers

CPAs Cite Hiring, Retention As Most Pressing Issue

All but the smallest accounting firms are tightly focused on finding and keeping talent.
Matthew HellerJune 9, 2015

Talent-pool concerns have emerged as the most pressing issue for all but the smallest CPA firms as the accounting industry returns to a growth environment, according to a new survey.

In the 2015 edition of the CPA Firm Top Issues Survey, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) found that “finding qualified staff” or “retaining qualified staff” rose to the top concern for four out of five firm-size segments. The fifth group, sole practitioners, chose keeping up with changes in tax laws as their top issue.

The survey is conducted every two years.

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“Recruitment was a key issue in the survey in the decade before 2007, but it wasn’t a strong emphasis during the recession as firms focused more on client retention,” Mark Koziel, the AICPA’s vice president for firm services and global alliances, said in a news release. “What we’re really seeing now is a return to a growth environment, which creates new opportunities and challenges for firms.”

For every firm-size segment, the seasonal nature of work in accountancy and the resulting workload compression were a top-five issue. That was a change from the 2013 survey, when the concern made the cut only for firms with five or fewer professionals. That may reflect, in part, ongoing service issues at the Internal Revenue Service.

“We’ve gotten a clear message from our members that declining service from the IRS has had an impact on practitioners and their clients,” Koziel said.

Succession planning was a top-five concern for every firm-size segment for the first time. Bringing in new clients was a top-five concern for sole practitioners, firms with 11 to 20 professionals, and those with 21 or more professionals.