Archive for the ‘Generations’ Category

Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

Show Appreciation by Utilizing Stay Interviews

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving forward.” – Albert Einstein

Some accounting firms have been utilizing stay interviews for a while. However, I have observed that there are still many firms that haven’t embraced this excellent tool.

Anytime you devote individualized attention to one of your team members, asking them for advice and feedback, it’s a positive exercise for both sides – management and staff.

Elizabeth (Bitsy) Watson, PHR, the HR Manager for Mahoney, Ulbrich, Christiansen & Russ shared the process they use for stay interviews. It would be a good best practice for you to emulate. Her comments follow:

BitsyWe started out with results from our recent engagement survey and identified about five areas where we wanted more insight, such as, if we felt our scores for recognition could be stronger or we wanted more insights into what aspects of compensation were most important to staff.

We then came up with some questions related to these areas and others (about 10 total). A few examples were:

  • What types of recognition are most meaningful to you?
  • What opportunities for development would you like that you may not be getting?
  • What type of work do you find most motivating or interesting?
  • Of the compensation and benefits we offer, what aspects are most important to you and what could be improved in this area?

We used a representative sample of our employees to participate in the stay interviews. I kept the names confidential. After the meetings were completed, our next steps were to summarize the overall themes and share the summary with the partners, not sharing names. I also included three recommendations for changes or new programs to implement. We’ll then share these new initiatives with the interview group. We want them to know that we really valued their opinions.

I tried to be as transparent as possible with everyone involved on what we were trying to accomplish and how valuable their feedback is. We received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from the interviewees. They mentioned feeling like it was helpful to have a channel to be asked questions they might never have been asked. I think the most interesting thing that came from this was bringing to light some wrong assumptions we, as management, had been making.

Our plan is to do this annually utilizing a different group of employees each year.

  • Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
  • Thomas Edison

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

I Can Do It A Lot Faster

“Deciding what not to do is an important as deciding what to do.” – Jessica Jackley

CPAs who have reached the manager level in a public accounting firm are not always great managers.

They have reached the manager level (usually the level just below partner) because they have worked very hard and been with the firm for several years. They are good at managing the client work. They have been trained and trained for that job. The firm has invested significant dollars in their technical knowledge advancement. They are great technicians.

Firm leaders then expect them to naturally be great managers of people – great trainers, mentors and delegators. Yet, the firm has not spent any money on teaching them how to be motivators and leaders.

Perhaps you have heard this story inside your own firm – Sally is a great manager. She brings the job in on time and under budget. She works an almost unreal amount of hours to get it done. She has an engagement team to help her. Young Bill on her team struggles with a particular part of the work. Sally takes the work back and does it herself. Her excuse is, “I know my billing rate is much higher than Bill’s but I can do it in half the time.” Thus, Bill never learns and Sally is tired and stressed.

Ask you younger people to stretch – they might just surprise you in how much they can accomplish if they are taught, managed and encouraged.

  • No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.
  • Andrew Carnegie

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Parental Leave

“Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.” – Benjamin Spock, M.D.

A few months ago I surveyed a small number of CPA firms across the country. I was curious about the kind of parental leave they offered as an employee benefit.

To my dismay, paid maternity leave is almost non-existent. CPA firms seem to approach it with a combination of actions. The employee (the mother) is encouraged to save and/or carry over PTO to be used and they combine it with short term disability options.

As far as any type of paid leave for new Dads, it seems truly non-existent.

Here is a good article from FAST Company – How Paid Parental Leave Changed in 2016. 

Some progress has been made, in general, but 2016 was not an impressive year for paid parental leave. A quarter of new mothers go back to work just 10 days after giving birth.

Just so you know, in 2016, EY announced a new policy to expand its parental benefits to over 35,000 U.S. employees. Both new mothers and fathers are eligible for up to 16 weeks of fully paid parental leave for birth, adoption, surrogacy, foster care, or legal guardianship.

If you want to attract and retain young, top talent. An impressive paid parental leave policy might just be the answer.

 

Monday, January 9th, 2017

The Modern Workplace

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs

It is definitely not the same old workplace where many of us “grew up” in the business world.

At my first job, in the accounting department of a major manufacturing company, we were not allowed to leave our desks except at our specified “break” time. They ran the office much like they did the manufacturing floor.

60Minutes and Vanity Fair conducted a poll in 2016 to explore the modern workplace. It has changed dramatically and is still evolving as we deal with more tech-savvy young workers who have joined our knowledge-based economy. They are demanding more.

Here are the polling questions:

What’s the most important thing to look for in a new job?

What’s the best way to keep an employee motivated?

Which business practice would you most like to bring back?

How much more than their workers should CEOs earn?

Which job perk would be the hardest to explain to your grandfather?

Which industry is the most unethical?

What is the worst thing about your job?

Check out the results here. Maybe you should ask some of these questions to your own accounting firm team. As a firm leader, you need to know all you can about your young workforce.

  • Diamonds are nothing more than chunks of coal that stuck to their job.
  • Malcolm Forbes

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

More About Flex Job Growth

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” – Albert Einstein

Recently, I posted about The Growing Area of Flexible Work Arrangements. Today, there is more news that supports the fact that YOU (CPAs in public practice) need to be prepared to compete in this area of significant growth.

FlexJobs announced 5 career categories for remote job seekers to watch for in 2017. Guess what is on the list – Accounting & Finance. It is among the five categories where remote job listings have grown more than 20 percent since January 2016.

When it comes to how people prefer to work, 65 percent of workers say they would be more productive telecommuting than working in a traditional workplace. As many as 80 to 90 percent of the workforce say they would like to telecommute at least part-time. Telecommuters are almost twice as likely to love their jobs than employees who work in traditional offices and report higher levels of productivity.

Managing partners and firm administrators, are you preparing your firm to take advantage of this growing workforce? It could be the answer to the big challenge of finding top talent to serve your clients.

CPAs are (and think) traditional. It’s time to think non-traditional relating to so many areas of firm management.

2017 is going to be an exciting year!

  • Change is not merely necessary to life - it is life.
  • Alvin Toffler

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

The Growing Area of Flexible Work Arrangements

Many firms have incorporated flexible work arrangements into their menu of offerings to employees. Some have been much slower to adapt.

Here’s an update from a non-profit organization called 1 Million For Work Flexibility. To keep your CPA firm competitive you need to learn all you can about the flexibility options available to talented professionals.

Here are some of the top moments of the year for flexibility listed below.

  1. New Hampshire became the second state to make it legal for workers to request work flexibility. New Hampshire has an aging workforce and demographic. State Senate Bill 416 encourages younger workers to stay in (or move to) New Hampshire and work there so they can enjoy a flexible work arrangement that allows them to care for their growing families as well as their aging parents without worrying about bosses who might fire them for asking for flex. The bill’s sponsor believes that this isn’t just good for working parents and families, but for the overall state economy. New Hampshire follows Vermont with this type of “right to request” legislation, as well as the city of San Francisco.

  1. New York City passed the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, which is said to be the first of its kind protection for freelancers. It requires written agreements for the timeline and payment of freelance work, with penalties for employer violations.

  1. More companies, industries, and occupations are now offering flexibility to their employees. These 250 companies are shining examples of work flexibility in action. This list of the top companies with the most flexible job listings since 2013 (the “FlexJobs 250”) is based on an analysis of more than 40,000 companies and their flexible job posting histories in the FlexJobs database between October 1, 2013, and October 1, 2016.

  1. The United State of Women, a summit hosted by the White House, showcased the importance of workplace policies that work for women. The inaugural event, attended by 1 Million for Work Flexibility, highlighted work flexibility and brought together thousands of people who are working to change tomorrow for women.

  1. Work flexibility conversation focused on fathers. It’s long been clear that flexibility is crucial for working mothers, but the issue is much more broad. As part of its mission to demonstrate the far-reaching value of flex, 1 Million for Work Flexibility teamed up with supporters to co-host a special Father’s Day-themed event featuring scholar, international lawyer, foreign policy analyst, and thought-leader Anne-Marie Slaughter. The event focused on how we can shift the work and family narrative to include men and women in both corners, by valuing both care and competition, home and career in a way that benefits us all.

Launched in 2013, the 1 Million for Work Flexibility movement now has more than 100 coalition members including advocacy groups, think tanks, academic institutions, and businesses, as well as thousands of individuals demonstrating the many types of flexible work that are not only leading to happier and healthier workers, but also improving our economy.

  • Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.
  • Tony Robbins

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

Honest Feedback On What Matters Most To Employees

“Many people hear your words, but they feel your attitude.” – John Maxwell

I recently read some feedback from employees regarding what matters most to them in relation to their own manager (or leader).

Here are some comments from employees regarding what matters most to them in relation to their manager. Food for thought if you are a leader in your accounting firm.

“Practicing humility, that is, serving your people rather than insisting that they serve you.”

“A willingness to get into the trenches. In college, I worked for a deli. When we were very busy, my boss would get behind the counter and ask, “OK, what do you need me to do?”

“The best leaders have the ability to express kindness. My last two managers (one in a huge company and one in a small company) took the time to get to know me as a person and find out what motivated me.”

“Leaders need to be consistent in your principles. When you are unpredictable and make declarations based on whims, you paralyze the people beneath you.”

“A leader should separate friendships from professional relationships. I loved one manager because she asked for input from every person on staff instead of playing favorites. She didn’t always give the easiest jobs to her “friends.”

“I like a person who has the ability to help people with opposing viewpoints find common ground.” 

Think about some of these as you go through your week. Be sure to set a good example for your team. Consider doing an upward feedback survey in 2017 to see what your own team members think about your leadership ability.

  • People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.
  • Dale Carnegie

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Change And The Millennials Go Hand-In-Hand

IMG_1071“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” – Benjamin Franklin

We have been talking about the millennials for years now. Just as we talked about Gen-X when they became the youngest workers in our CPA firm offices. New generations bring change. The Baby Boomers sure brought change as they progressed through their lives, partly because of their massive numbers.

Pew Research tells us that more than 30% of American workers today are millennials. They recently passed Gen-X in becoming the largest share of the American workforce. Boomers are retiring and Millennials are filling in the gap. They range in age from 19 to 35 and those 35 year-olds are now in leadership roles in CPA firms.

With them comes some fairly drastic changes for public accounting. From a recent Inc. article by Elizabeth Dukes, the following are just some of the changes that long-time CPAs sometimes find challenging:

  • Email will no longer be the primary communication tool.
  • Traditional office space designs will become extinct.
  • Strict office hours will  no longer exist.

Read more about each one of these points here. Begin taking action on how you will deal with each one these points at your firm.

  • Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
  • George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

A New Way to Look at Leadership Development

2494727126_c8e57ee712_m“It is not the mountains we conquer but ourselves.” – Sir Edmund Hillary

Many firms, in the CPA profession, are very generous with training dollars and do invest in sending future leaders to leadership development training outside the firm.

What if you are doing it all wrong? Training away from the firm just might be the wrong road to travel. How real is the “world away from the office” as compared to everyday life inside the firm?

Consider creating a culture where leadership training happens by example and by real-life, daily experiences at your firm.

In her article on the HBR site, Deborah Rowland explains, Why Leadership Development Isn’t Developing Leaders.

Consider making your leadership training more experimental and influence future leaders’ “being,” not just their “doing.”

We just might need the educational equivalent of Sherpas, people able to carry part of the load in order to guide future leaders toward their personal and organizational summits.

Do you have some Sherpas already inside your firm? Take the time to read the article and apply it to your firm.

(Photo: ilker ender via Flickr Creative Commons)

  • It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.
  • J. K. Rowling

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

Approach Performance Feedback With A Growth Mindset

In case you haven’t heard GE (General Electric) is changing their performance feedback system. Many large companies are doing the same thing. The are looking at a fresh approach to feedback that is more continuous and helpful.

GE has been known for it’s “rank and yank” system made famous by long-time CEO Jack Welch. You rate and rank your employees from top to bottom and then get rid of the bottom players – year after year.

Gone are those days thanks to the Millennials. Now, employers are focusing on growth (career growth and helping people get there).

Companies are doing something I have been urging CPAs to do for several years now…. set-up shorter goal periods and have fewer goals, then change the dialogue to growth conversations that are not tied to compensation.

Millennials, because of technology, are accustomed to having continual feedback – it’s a fact of life for them and employers are getting wise to that fact.

For your firm, it might mean a culture change and a plan on how to implement that change. You have to help partners and managers make the transition from a competitive process to one that is identified by its emphasis on growth.

GE’s slogan…. “inspire connection and develop people.”

Not a bad thing to consider for your firm and your people.

Read more about the GE transition here.

  • The people who get on in the world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them.
  • George Bernard Shaw