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Ripping Down the Curtain on People Development

By Joey Havens

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As Barry Melancon, CEO of AICPA, brought up the slide at the Major Firms Group meeting in Naples this January, I knew my simple strategy of “pulling back the curtain” was over as Barry had just ripped the whole curtain down for the entire profession to see. LEARN, UNLEARN, RELEARN was center in his message and vision that our profession must retool itself and embrace a continuous learning culture. 

Our objective with this blog series is to share some strategies and insights from 20 CEOs and COOs from top 100 CPA firms. It is somewhat comforting to know that all of these firms have people development as a primary strategy for success in the future. But #FutureReady means to be Aware, Predict and Adapt. And it might not be as comforting to know how far away we are from retooling our profession for relevance. 

Diving into Barry’s presentation on what #FutureReady looks like for retooling, he first helped make us aware by identifying the trends demanding new skills from professionals. Below is my summary of these trending, high-demand skills sourced from the World Economic Forum 2018.

  • Strategic Thinking (analytical, critical thinking, problem solving)
  • Creativity and Innovative
  • Tech Savvy
  • Systems Analysis and Evaluation skills
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Leadership and Communication Skills
  • Learning and Adaptability

Whether they are considered in the above or not, I believe that project management skills and pricing skills are two big gaps in our present partners and team members. I am sensitive to them as they directly impact a firm’s ability to retool and move to a new business model. 

Even more value came as Barry shared predictions based on the current technology and business trends. By 2022, EVERYONE will need an extra 101 days of learning. Think about that for a moment. Even if the prediction is off by 50%, what does 50 extra days of learning for each team member mean for your firm? How does your present business model account for this cost, time and value? What does this mean for a client service team to meet demand and timelines? We could go on, but this is a glimpse into what we should be preparing for now!

Another prediction that we heard was that as people’s skills evolve, technical skills will only account for 20 to 25% of the value or skills a person needs. The other value will come from leadership, business and people skills. GAME CHANGER as we say at HORNE. These two predictions (based on hard trends) alone sent my head spinning but also brought me back to the insights we are sharing from the top firms. Obviously, many of these firms see these same trends and are initiating new ways to retool.  

Several firms are now providing internships within the firm itself to all team members. The objective is to help people find other areas of passion, grow overall business skills, increase knowledge of the firm, generate creativity and innovation, learn collaboration and identify future leaders. I love this strategy. 

Firms have spent time identifying new skills they needed and how they would implement a curriculum that would provide people access to the tools to grow these skills. This is why I mentioned earlier the project management and pricing skills as firms must prioritize the skills that are on a critical pathway for them to retool. At HORNE, we prioritize collaboration, anticipatory, project management and pricing skills as part of our immediate critical pathway. What would they be for your firm? 

Lastly, firms are working on more clarity on career tracks and tying those career tracks to growth pathways that identify the competencies and skills for future success. 

As I stated in the first sentence, Barry Melancon ripped the curtain down on people development as he has challenged the profession to retool—and retool now!  #FutureReady