Archive for the ‘Generations’ Category

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

Pros And Cons – Longevity

“I love the gray area between right and wrong.” – Dan Brown, author

The baby boomers are usually amazed and dismayed when they hear that millennials have five or six different jobs (or even career changes) before they reach the age of 30 or so. To them, that is a huge disadvantage.

My challenge for them: Consider the benefits that come along with the fact that you have exposure to several different methods of working, different styles of bosses and a wide variety of peer experiences that will guide your career in the future.

The millennials tell me they are amazed and dismayed when they learn that some of the partners in their firm have NEVER worked anywhere except at the firm. To them, that is a huge disadvantage.

My challenge for them: Consider the amount of experience and consistency they have accumulated in growing an accounting firm that is founded on dedication, continuous improvement, loyalty, and long-term financial growth.

Who’s to say what is right or wrong?


  • The pendulum of the mind alternates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong.
  • Carl Jung

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

Don’t Procrastinate When Providing Performance Feedback

No wonder so many firms are beginning to explore the option of doing away with formal, annual performance sessions with all of their individual team members.

I have observed that many firms can’t seem to get them done within the publicized timeline. Leaders procrastinate. Something else is always more important. So, they think that if they do away with the once-a-year system it will be easier with fewer hassles. Wrong.

Nothing is more important!

We can’t find people…. We have had more turnover this year than we have ever had…. One of our brightest up-and-comers just left the firm….

I hear these phrases and many variations of the same, day after day, from firm after firm.

Here it is September and you are scrambling to get the formal performance feedback task completed. Your guidelines say that the feedback should be communicated to your team members in June, yet here it is September. And, in all reality, you probably won’t complete the process with everyone until November.

I can offer you all kinds of suggestions on different methods to provide feedback to your team. It can be a formal rating system once per year with a periodic follow-up to check on the achievement of goals. It can be quarterly feedback meetings involving more casual feedback. It can be a simplified Keep Stop Start process. And, it can be a system of continuous feedback that requires better trained and equipped managers.

Whatever your system be sure you fulfill your obligation to do it timely and correctly. It’s not just your millennials that crave feedback, nurturing and support, it’s all of your team members.


  • Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.
  • Pablo Picasso

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Saying Good Things

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.” – Albert Einstein

Ever wonder what your valuable team members are saying about your firm? I wonder what they say to their friends. I wonder what they say to their parents. I wonder what they say to strangers. And, I wonder what they say to each other!

You should be wondering, too.

In the most progressive firms they are saying things like this:

I can see opportunity here.

They give me ownership of my projects.

I am encouraged to develop myself technically.

I am encouraged to be involved in the community.

This firm is a place for high performers.

They listen to us, we have influence here.

Early in my career, I was given opportunities to have face time with clients.

When something significant happens in your personal life, you get great support from the firm.

I have the feeling I am involved in something special and not just getting a paycheck.

They empower us and give us control over our own schedules.

I love being involved in our Staff Advisory Board.

When I moved to the area, I found the firm online and submitted an application.

These comments come from two, large, progressive, locally owned firms. They didn’t develop millennial-friendly cultures overnight. More and more firms are finding it extremely difficult to compete for top talent. You have to build the culture, the brand, the vision and purpose and… they will come.

  • Success does not consist in never making mistakes but in never making the same one a second time.
  • George Bernard Shaw

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

An Important Step In Staff Development

“Mentoring is easy and natural; it does not have to be just another dreaded task on your to-do list.” – Rita Keller

Thanks so much to Accounting Today and Sean McCabe for featuring many of my comments in the article, Molding the Future of the Profession – Mentoring young staff should be a crucial part of the recruiting and retention toolkit of more accounting firms.” 

Follow the link to read the entire article. And, thanks to Edi Osborne for all of her great comments in the article.

Here are some bullet point highlights:

  • Mentoring is just as important as salary and technology.
  • Mentoring requires an investment of time and money.
  • It is about attracting and strengthening future leaders for the profession.
  • Young people will buy into the vision of what it means to be a CPA and stay in the profession longer if they make a solid connection with someone who has already been down that road.
  • CPAs are great at teaching young people the technical skills but fail to impart knowledge about relationship-building and career-building skills.
  • Showing and not telling is vital to the mentor-mentee relationship.
  • Effective mentoring has become a strategic focus for the most progressive and successful firms.
  • You have to water the flowers you want to grow.
  • Stephen Covey

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

Digital Tools Are Part Of Onboarding

“The future depends on what you do today.” – Gandhi

It’s a new world and if you are not keeping pace, your new hires will notice immediately.

It is also a digital world and online activities and resources are such an important part of your firm. Keep this in mind as you overhaul your orientation process. Orientation has evolved into onboarding and onboarding is a process that can last up to a year or more.

I believe that first impressions STILL make a difference in how you are perceived. I always stress this with students aiming to make accounting their career.

While a prospective employee strives to make a good first impression, the firm is also being viewed with a magnifying glass. Be aware of the first impression your firm is making with prospects. I still hear horror stories of new hires arriving on their first day and it seems like almost a surprise. Their cubicle is not ready, they have no computer, etc.

To move from orientation to onboarding, begin with automating all of the initial paperwork. Most of it can be completed online before the new hire even arrives at the office.

Next, review what a new hire experiences in their first year. How can you make it more enriching? How can you convince the new hire that their career development is a top priority? You are probably doing many of the necessary things to help them succeed but you have not formalized it and communicated it very well.

Young professionals want to know immediately what their career path will look like and what it takes to succeed at the firm.

  • Share the steps involved for initial training.
  • Explain the formal CPE they will receive during the first year.
  • Communicate how the Guide, Coach, Mentor, and Sponsor Program works and what it means to them during the first year.
  • Provide an explanation of all of the firm’s services.
  • Explain how they will rotate through working in many types of service areas.
  • Explain how they will rotate working with a variety of people – partners and managers.
  • Provide them job descriptions for all levels of staff at the firm.

This is just a beginning list. Determine all of the activities, assignments, and learning experiences that a new hire will experience at your firm. Now is the time to rebrand from orientation to onboarding.

  • Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right.
  • Henry Ford

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Millennials And Job-Hopping

Accounting firm leaders and HR directors are talking about it and they have almost come to expect it. They don’t shy away from a new hire just because they have had two other jobs in the last five years. I’m talking about the job-hopping trend that has become the new normal for millennials.

According to studies, the biggest job hoppers work in media, entertainment, government and non-profits. They tend to stay longer in industries where they make things like autos, manufacturing, and oil.

As for the accounting profession, think back to a comment we have heard over and over again in the CPA profession. The new recruits repeatedly tell us that their professors urged them to accept an offer from the big four, stick it out for two years and then leave so that they have big four experience on your resume.

It seems like they are programmed to job hop from the time they are majoring in accounting at a university.

This is a big topic but one aspect is compensation. My advice to you, don’t lose an all-star performer because the firm down the street is offering them a $5,000 or even $10,000 salary increase to jump ship. This happens all the time! Consider your own firm. I bet you have paid similar “increases” to lure a top performer from a competing firm. You will pay an outside top performer a premium wage but shy away from paying the same to a top performer already working for your firm.

CPA firm leaders often worry that if they pay a certain person more money it will upset their compensation apple cart.

Keep in mind: Top performers should get top pay. Average performers should get average pay. If your average performers complain to you simply explain to them exactly what they have to do to become a top performer.

  • If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings and put compensation as a carrier behind it you almost don't have to manage them.
  • Jack Welch

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Hear It From Them

“Live your life and ignore your age.” – Norman Vincent Peale

I’ve done many presentations about and written extensively about generations in the workplace. I am convinced that ALL generations better understanding each other, and not putting each other in “boxes” because of their age, can solve most if not all of the misunderstandings inside the firm.

That being said, I do probably focus more on the Millennials. This week, I read an article on the Forbes site by Paul Armstrong. It was directed to marketers and listed three things they need to know so they can better understand the Millennial customer.

10363724_10154114657826535_4176653492470208085_nYou can read the short article and take what you need because the Millennials working in your accounting firm ARE your customers.

The second of the three things was the most important to me because it stressed the fact that we need to hear directly from Millennials so we can better understand what they want and how they feel.

I’ve been guilty. I stand before an audience and tell them what Millennials are like, how they behave (in general) and what they want. I do get much of this directly from Millennials and a lot of it from research, articles, etc. What you really need is to hear it directly from them.

Here’s a quote by an IBM executive from the article:  “I still don’t get how middle aged men on stage can tell us what Millennials want.  Surely we should hear this from real Millennials?”

Rather than listening to us older, non-Millennial male and female consultants tell you what Millennials want, why not ask them yourselves?

Host some roundtable discussions at your firm. Put an older partner at each table with several Millennials and begin gathering information. Ask specific questions and just listen.

You can always survey your Millennials first and then use the results for some lively roundtable discussions.

One of the first things that caused me to focus on Millennials was a statement from a Millennial panel at a conference several years ago. The young man said: “I have an 18-month old daughter at home. Bath time is important to me. At my current firm, I can go home for dinner and bath time and then work for several hours after she goes to bed. That’s why I joined this firm.”

Photo: Lumsden McCormick Facebook

  • Young people are in a condition like permanent intoxication, because youth is sweet and they are growing.
  • Aristotle

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

To Engage Employees, Focus On Your Managers

“People don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad managers.” – Marcus Buckingham

Back in 2013, Gallup released it’s eye-opening report that showed 70% of American workers were not engaged at work.

In 2015, Gallup updated their findings and it showed that 32% of employees are engaged. Not much of an improvement.

Many firms have used employee satisfaction surveys to find out what their employees really think about the firm. I wonder how many firms have actually acted upon the information they received.

I strongly urge you to do employee engagement surveys, but not if you are not prepared to act upon the information you receive. Employees are looking for an exciting vision and a clear picture of how and when their career will move forward.

If you want to improve employee engagement in your firm, look at your managers first. One of the most important decisions the partner group needs to make is who they promote to manager. In most firms, people are named manager because of longevity with the firm, not because they are skilled at inspiring people and nurturing the career growth of others.

Keep in mind…. 70% of people leave a company because of their manager.

If you want your firm’s employee engagement to improve, focus on your managers. Offer them resources to improve their management skills, provide workshops and training on how to manage people (especially millennials). Partners and managers should be fully involved in creating a culture where young accountants want to stay and build their careers.


  • The true genius of a great manager is his or her ability to individualize. A great manager is one who understands how to trip each person's trigger.
  • Marcus Buckingham

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016

Salary Transparency For CPA Firms

Star slideOn the topic of salary transparency. We need more of it.

Thanks to Jennifer Wilson for pointing out the article on salary transparency via Going Concern. I think it is right on target. Younger CPA team members are reading Going Concern. Older team members should also be reading.

From Going Concern:

Salary transparency
We’ve touched on this topic a couple of times, but this HBR post has an example that could come in handy for anyone toying with the idea of salary transparency:

Whole Food’s John Mackey says that salary disagreements have a purpose at Whole Foods and spur a deeper conversation about pay. When people challenge him about a particular person’s salary, comparing it to their own, he often responds, “That person is more valuable. If you accomplish what this person has accomplished, I’ll pay you that too.”

I’m not sure most accounting firms have the will to tell the majority of their people that they are underachieving. But, HEY, this could be the kind of detailed feedback Millennials are looking for. Although, most of us need to work on the whole communication thing

I have strongly urged my client firms and others who attend my presentations that when a staff member complains that a “superstar” is getting more perks, more opportunities or more salary to address it directly. Let the “middle star” know exactly what they have to do to earn superstar status. You also owe it to the “falling stars.” Coach them to become middle stars, then superstars. If it doesn’t work, coach them to become a “former” star.

  • Truth is always exciting. Speak it, life is dull without it.
  • Pearl S. Buck

Friday, March 4th, 2016

Are You Pigeonholed Because Of Your Age?

file0001809675766It is quite disturbing and I am observing more and more of it happening. Just because someone is of a certain age, those around them assume they will act this way or react that way.

We read an enormous amount of data that tells us millennials, in their twenties, move from job to job looking for just the right fit, something that makes them feel challenged, appreciated and happy. If they seek out challenging work, they are viewed as entitled. If they don’t, they are assumed to be lazy.

So, inside your firm, you might not rely on them for long-term projects or put them on your largest, most important client because they might be “gone” next year.

What I am also beginning to observe is that in many firms, if you are over 50 or 55…. you might be perceived as out-of-touch, stuck in your comfort zone and hopeless for the future.

Some view Boomers as becoming obsolete, worthless and a road-block to younger professionals. For some, that may be true but I know a lot of Boomers who are skilled with technology, anxious to learn new things, willing to change (for the better) and a great knowledge resource for millennials.

Millennials when they are 24 or 25 are known as job-hoppers. However, studies tell us that Gen Xers changed jobs just as frequently at that age and if you dig into the stats, once they graduate from college they don’t change jobs more frequently than Boomers did!

Firm leaders, whether you are 60, 40 or 25, please don’t fall into the trap of pigeonholing someone simply based on age.

  • Live your life and ignore your age.
  • Norman Vincent Peale