Reinforce your firm’s commitment to CPA support
As firm leaders look to the future and consider topics such as artificial intelligence, block chain and data analytics let’s not forget the importance of CPAs in your firm and the role they’ll play going forward. For decades CPAs have gained respect as one of the most trusted professions. As a new generation prepares to take the lead it is the perfect time to take a closer look at what your firm can do to foster future success by encouraging and supporting aspiring CPAs. That’s why this issue of Feature Focus is all about highlighting practical steps you can take and readily available tools you can use to build and strengthen a CPA culture of support in your practice.
Help a new generation visualize their success within the CPA story
Stories are a powerful tool in helping us understand a specific situation and how we can benefit from being part of it. When you and your colleagues regularly share stories about the power of the CPA credential with potential recruits, upcoming and recent graduates and firm professionals, it provides an effective platform to help them understand the benefits of obtaining their CPA and what having those credentials can mean to them. Your stories can help encourage them to sit for the exam and visualize their role in your firm going forward.
Here are seven key talking points you can include in your stories. For maximum impact, use real examples to bring them to life for those you are speaking with.
- As a CPA, you’ll have access to jobs with higher authority and responsibility, along with greater career stability
- Being a CPA allows you to do meaningful work with highly motivated and multi-talented people
- CPAs can pick from highly-specialized job functions, ranging from auditing to information technology and data analytics
- Firm advancement can be greater for CPAs as there can be promotion limits to non-CPAs
- The path to firm ownership can be strengthened by being a CPA
- CPAs have the lifetime potential to boost their earnings by $1M over non-CPAs in the same position
- 84% of key decision makers say they would be more confident in a job done by a CPA
You and your colleagues can find all sorts of valuable information such as salary comparisons, study resources and more to start new dialogues around the value of the CPA on the ThisWaytoCPA website.
Provide support to help them succeed
You can exhibit your dedication to future CPAs by helping recruits, upcoming and recent graduates and professional staff to understand the level of commitment your firm provides to those who sit for and pass the exam. Demonstrate that commitment by outlining details about what your firm offers.
- Leadership encouragement
Support begins at the top. Partner and manager support and recognition during firm events and meetings demonstrates high-level affirmation of the importance of attaining the CPA credential in your firm.
- Exam mentoring
Yes, most professionals understand the value of mentors. So why not incorporate CPA exam mentoring into your initiatives? These focused efforts can keep staff members on track and help plan their future in the firm.
- Study groups
Study groups are an excellent way to provide structure and support to your exam candidates. During these sessions, include staff members who recently passed the exam. Newer CPAs can provide relevant and timely insight while encouraging group members.
- Time off to study and take the exam
Providing exam takers time off to study can impact their decision to pursue the CPA. Be specific about the amount of time you are willing to give your staff. Set an expectation that unassigned time may be used for studying with approval from a supervisor. Be aware of their efforts to balance work, life and studying during the exam process.
- Financial incentives and bonuses
For many, preparing for the exam is more than an investment in time it is also a financial commitment. When your firm provides this type of assistance it can be a powerful incentive. This can include paying for exam fees, study materials and offering rewards after they pass a section or the entire exam. Even small incentives such as gift cards for coffee or the movies can go a long way in acknowledging their efforts.
Establish an exam plan process to assist candidates along their journey
A well-crafted plan is an essential element in helping exam candidates achieve success. Here are five components your firm can include in its exam plan process.
1. Host a kickoff
Set the right tone in your firm with a kickoff event. Whether it is a breakfast, lunch or offsite retreat, use this time to let candidates know the firm is behind them on their journey. They will appreciate any support regardless of the event size.
2. Assign a mentor
Pairing a mentor with each person sitting for the exam provides a direct link with someone who has taken the journey and can provide insight and support. Mentors can help guide them through the process while offering guidance and encouragement along the way. For small firms, keep your community connections open. You may know a CPA at a local bank or private company who would be great support for your team.
3. Schedule study halls
Offer regular study halls between test segments to keep exam candidates on track. Provide dedicated study space on set days. Consider providing snacks or meals as added motivation.
4. Plan regular check-ins
Since this is a very long process, it is important to check in regularly with those taking the exam. Plan check-in sessions in advance. Some key times to consider are around the December holidays, after busy season to get candidates back on the exam track and one month prior to the start of the testing period.
5. Introduce Examination Blueprints
Introduce those sitting for the exam to the Examination Blueprints. These are valuable resources that show the type of content and skills to be tested. They are helpful for quick review sessions, too.
For more resources to establish a game plan in your firm, take a look at An event guide: Support candidates on the CPA Exam journey located in the CPA Culture of Support Toolkit.
Celebrate and reward success
Let’s face it the road to the CPA can seem like a long one, especially while juggling work and home life. Show your candidates you understand the challenges of their exam pursuit with events and rewards to mark their achievement along the way. Here are some ideas:
- 1st section passed: Send a congratulatory note, celebrate with a cake or reward with a gift card.
- 2nd section passed: Give the candidate a day off, tickets to a special event or a massage at a spa.
- 3rd section passed: Host an ‘almost there’ party, complete with three-quarters of everything (i.e. start time at 2:45, length of party 45 minutes, ¾ of a cake).
- 4th and final section passed: Host a dinner for all successful exam candidates, include their family and firm personnel. Consider a boost in pay, a one-time passing bonus or other meaningful gifts which show your recognition of their efforts.
Your actions can go a long way in encouraging your staff to sit for the exam. A little preparation, purposeful action and sharing of success stories can set the tone, provide the support and build a solid foundation for future CPAs.
For your convenience, here are quick links to a number of resources your firm can access in its quest to create a CPA culture and help your exam candidates achieve success.
Tools for firms
- Building Your Firm’s Culture
- Building Your CPA Liaison Program
- An event guide: Support Candidates on the CPA Exam Journey
- CPA Exam Candidate Tracker
Tools for CPA exam candidates
- Eight Strategies for CPA Exam Success
- CPA Exam Overview
- CPA Exam Study Materials and Examination Blueprints