What firms want from CPE has changed. It’s not just about getting credits toward maintaining certification anymore. Firms need CPE to do much more.

This was a recurring theme in the corridors of the recent Association for Accounting Administration (AAA) Practice Management Conference, says CPE Link’s Christine Fraser. Firms want help from CPE in two key ways.

Talent management. They are concerned about competing for and winning top talent to their firms. “Job seekers are asking firms ‘what’s in it for me to work here?.’ It’s getting so that firms can’t recruit successfully unless they have an impressive program of professional and career development and exciting practice niches to grow into. Both require increased intelligence as well as talent management. “CPE is the catalyst to achieve both,” says Fraser.

Business growth. Firms are tying continuing education to the business strategy. Firms are recognizing that technical education alone isn’t enough because technical education doesn’t drive the growth of the firm. “It’s the so-called softer skills that help the firm and human capital grow. Things like communication, customer service, negotiation and business development, and knowing how to share knowledge through coaching.” says Fraser.

“Last decade, the talk was about getting rid of C and D clients and focusing on the most profitable A and B clients. Now firms are talking about shedding even the B clients for tighter alignment with the firm’s strategy and ultimate business model. Firms need CPE that helps them become more specialized and differentiated in growth niches. CPE is also an effective tool for effectively implementing progressive strategies.”