Build your ideal accounting team by developing your juniors

There's an accounting skills shortage.


  • Developing young, low-mid tier staff members could be your firm's answer to the talent shortage.

  • In the US, it costs around $4,000 USD to hire a new employee at 50 days to fill the position—in Australia, the cost is nearly 5 times that.

  • Junior staff are loyal, eager to learn, and are less likely to bring bad habits developed at previous workplaces to your firm.

Baby boomers are retiring, and there just aren't enough graduates to step in and fill over 90,000 accounting jobs in the US alone.

So, what can be done to address these challenges?

You might look to boost employee benefits to appeal to the talent you want to attract, such as increased salaries and incentives. You could turn to outsourcing. Or appeal to millennials by embracing a firm of the future-style practice—a digital-first and innovative workplace.

If you have the resources your firm may even plan for the future with high school level or college educational programs that encourage students to pursue a career in accounting.

But there is a more immediate issue: The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) estimates that 75% of all current CPAs are already eligible to retire, and expect most will retire in the next 15 years.

So, with most senior staff retiring in the short-term, your accounting firm risks exposing itself to a skills shortage within your teams: retiring senior staff met with diminishing low-mid tier staff.

This is where you must invest in your low-mid tier staff, rather than hiring above them to fill increasingly vacant positions.

The immediate benefits here are obvious. The average cost to hire a new employee in the US is over $4,000 USD, with the process taking over 50 days to fill a position. In Australia, that figure is over $23,000 AUD. What if you spent that same amount of time and money training your junior employees in-house instead?

Here are some of the reasons you're better off developing your existing staff rather than looking elsewhere.

Create loyal team members

Training in-house staff provides benefits for both the accounting firm and the accountant. Junior employees learn new accounting skills, soft skills, and gain invaluable experience, and firm owners create loyal team members that are less likely to jump ship.

Research shows effective training and development strategies boost employee loyalty and reduce turnover. That's because training is an investment. It proves that you value your employees, and for someone in an entry-level position, that's a big deal. 

"Employees today seek a sense of purpose that is no longer satisfied by a paycheck alone," says Forbes. "Instead, they want to work for a company committed to their growth and development."

Junior team members are eager to learn

Generally, junior staff are eager to learn new skills because they are starting their career and are looking for new opportunities.

Plus, junior team members are typically the perfect age for skills development. Research shows that young people have high-definition memories and recall information with clearer detail. 

Don’t fix bad habits—avoid them altogether

When hiring new senior staff, you’re not only bringing skills and experience to your team—you’re also inviting their bad habits.

By training your junior staff from the ground up, you prevent what you deem bad habits altogether.

Think of a junior as a blank canvas. You can instill your firm’s values, work ethic and expectations without them bringing preconceived ideas or bad habits.

Invest now for the future

In time, your junior staff will develop into mid-senior level staff, and as a result, can pass on their skills to future generations. They effectively become trainers themselves.

"When one employee learns a new skill set, it becomes easier for them to assist others with on-the-job training," says Penn Foster College. "Investing in one current employee can have a multiplier effect that indirectly helps you train multiple staff without added cost."

Lighten the HR load

By training junior members in-house, you'll lighten your firm’s HR load.

Instead of sifting through applicant paperwork, conducting interviews and performing background checks, you can spend that time developing your existing junior staff, growing your firm, and providing value to your clients.

Developing your junior staff members is a marathon

It’s important to understand that developing your junior staff is not a quick solution to your firm’s team structure. It’s a considered and deliberate process, with the future of your firm and your employees in mind.

It will involve your effort, time and attention in the short term as you dedicate yourself to the development of your junior team members. But, ultimately, you will reap the rewards with well-trained and  loyal future leaders of your firm.