How Are We Doing in Engaging the Next Generation of Leaders 

by Dan Griffiths  

We are living through a time of rapid change and great uncertainly.  Call it the “new normal” if you like.  Once-venerable and iconic institutions are finding themselves under pressure to reinvent themselves.  The CPA profession is right in the middle of these upheavals.  Where once upon a time, young CPAs dutifully got in line at the firm and waited their turn for a partnership opportunity, today, a host of forces are straining this tried and true apprenticeship model.  Where once, CPAs signed up each fall for the annual CPE ritual with their state CPA society, today, they login at all hours of the day and night to hit their 40 hours.

As someone who helps clients with strategic planning every day, I get very excited when I run across companies who have reached a strategic inflection point in their life cycle.  These inflection points are places where an organization has the opportunity to do something truly remarkable.  They just have to overcome the fear and uncertainty that come with breaking new ground and doing something that may have never been done before.  I believe that the CPA profession finds itself at one of these inflection points.

A major key to securing the future of our profession in these uncertain times is engaging students and younger members in creating that future.  In order to do that, we must do a better job of speaking to the things that matter most to them.

Innovation – A recent Deloitte survey found that creativity and innovation are highly regarded by young professionals.  See Mark Zuckerberg’s celebrity status as evidence.  In some ways, this runs against the grain of a very rules-based profession with a venerable 125-year history.  We like order and the prospect of disruption scares us! To overcome that fear, we need to stay focused on the possibilities.  This is one of the most trusted professions in the world.  Imagine the opportunity to build upon that reputation by leveraging the creativity and innovation of the younger generation to keep CPAs at the forefront of the rapid changes in our world. 

Engagement – Engaging new members of our profession means more than just giving them their own committee and a few activities.  We need to help them feel part of the profession by welcoming them at other events and inviting them to participate in professional initiatives.  While young CPAs may begin their involvement with some kind of student or YCPA committee, it should not end there.  We need to find ways to leverage their positive experiences in volunteering with students and YCPA events by inviting them to participate in other ways.

Collaboration – This is the “open source” generation.  Young CPAs are very willing to work together.  We understand how collaboration and sharing create far more value than erecting barriers to the sharing of ideas.  In some cases, this means we need to consider changing older hierarchical models designed to control and restrict the flow of information.  Young CPAs need to play a leading role in designing new models that will facilitate collaboration.

In that spirit of collaboration, a group of young CPAs has come together to create a white paper and ignite a conversation about how to engage students and younger members of the profession in creating a future we all want to be a part of.  We find ourselves at an inflection point and have the opportunity to create something truly remarkable.  Join us at the AICPA EDGE Conference in August in Austin, Texas where we will present some of our findings.  Come share your experiences with us.  We need your perspective; your ideas; your passion.  Join with us in shaping the future of the CPA profession.  Future generations of CPAs are counting on each of us!

Click here to learn more about the AICPA EDGE Conference

Dan Griffiths, CPA, CGMA is the Director of Strategic Planning at Tanner, LLC, a Salt Lake City-based professional services firm with about 80 team members.  Prior to merging his practice with Tanner, he co-founded Proficio Services Group to provide strategic & business planning, leadership development, and business coaching services.  Dan is a graduate of the 2010 AICPA Leadership Academy and in 2011-2012 served as the chair of the Young CPA Network Committee for the AICPA.  Dan has also been very active with the UACPA and in 2011 was recognized as the Outstanding CPA in Business and Management.  He was recently selected to serve as Utah’s elected member of the AICPA Governing Council.  Dan is an avid fly fisher, backpacker, and gardener.  He and his wife Bibiana just welcomed their fourth child to the family.


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