The pipeline issue is also felt at the successful homegrown Providence firm of Sansiveri, Kimball & Co., but the firm has employed several strategies in recent years to keep pace. Office Manager Michael Souto spoke to us about the changed landscape for public firms in attracting young talent and retaining them and acknowledged there are several factors confronting firms today.“It’s tougher than in the past,” Michael acknowledges. “I would say over the past three to five years we have seen some degree of change in the way we have to approach things when we are looking at our fall recruiting.”
Many observers of the industry say jobs in private accounting in more high-profile fields such as the tech sector or in other areas of finance, like investment banking, have played a role in steering college finance majors elsewhere, and the result is a shrinking pool of those pursuing public accounting in recent years. “Private firms and the bigger firms, in Boston as well as in RI make tough competitors for us,” Michael says.
But a key strategy Sansiveri uses to keep pace with recruiting is through their highly regarded internship program. Unlike the many firms offering a traditional summer internship, the firm runs a tax season winter internship program. “In our fall recruiting process, we also extend the opportunity for the winter tax season internship we offer,” Michael explains. The program has been a success, he believes, because it helps the firm identify potential recruits, while helping the interns better understand the demands of the profession. “It helps on both ends because we get to learn about their skills, and for the interns, the experience can sway them one way or another if this is the right fit for them.”
Trends in the curriculum at colleges and universities of recent years, which emphasize team style learning and team projects, has helped newly hired staff adjust to the culture at Sansiveri. “We’re big on team players,” says Michael. Contemporary accounting practices call for working across a team he says, and the ability to successfully adjust to that is crucial for a young professional to be successful. “In this environment, you can’t slide,” he adds.
But once someone is hired, properly trained, and has gone through a year, or two, or five, what’s the strategy to retaining them? Data shows millennials and the next generation of professionals who are now in college are far less likely than earlier generations to view any firm as a permanent job home. Michael would agree. “Among this younger generation, staying somewhere for three decades, that’s much less likely. That mentality just doesn’t exist anymore!”
That may be true, but it seems the culture, the people and opportunities at firms like Sansiveri continue to provide good reason to make an exception to that trend.