It might seem like I am constantly nagging you about employee engagement. Of course, it is very important for all employers but certainly critical for the CPA profession.
Image from Gallup
Per Gallup, an alarming 70% of American employees aren’t working to their full potential, and they’re slowing economic growth.
Let’s say that inside your public accounting firm you do have a lot of young, engaged employees. My first point is that in CPA firms, we often recruit bright, energetic, positive focused individuals from the college campus and we soon, so to speak…. suck the life out of them!
Young accounting graduates, like most people, want challenging work – continually challenging work so they can gain valuable experience. In your firm, do not let long-time managers cling to the more difficult work! Assign it to the seniors and staff and, if you have to, FORCE your managers and partners to do manager and partner-level work.
Okay, so you have many Engaged employees. Larry Myler, a contributor on the Forbes site, tells us that there is a level of employee beyond one that is engaged.
An Intrapreneur is aware of the bigger picture, including strategic goals, customer desires, competitive threats and the need for continuous improvement. They act like leaders by creating value through cost-reducing and revenue-increasing innovation.
CPA leaders – Take a few minutes to follow the links provided and learn more about this type of employee. Then cultivate them. Don’t let the weeds choke them out.
We’ve been talking about it most of the summer. As I have traveled across the country this year working with clients and speaking at multiple gatherings of CPAs and firm administrators, it seems every firm is HIRING. I have also heard some fairly gruesome stories, first-hand, about turnover.
Here are just a few of the reasons:
CPAs of all ages have no difficulty obtaining another job.
In many firms staff members have been patient awaiting salary increases and other perks that were cut-back during the economic downturn.
Some are tired of the long hours with few rewards and recognition.
Your clients are also looking for good people and they know you have them.
Many accounting firms are not embracing the new workforce, the partners exclude them rather than include them.
The pay is better elsewhere.
Now, The Rosenberg Survey is confirming that higher turnover rates have returned. They are up nearly 50% over the prior year. As Rosenberg warns, don’t forget that 18% turnover, before the downturn, was normal.
Also keep in mind that the survey reflects results for the year ended 2012. Makes you wonder what the turnover rate will be for 2013. Be prepared in case you have departures after October 15th.
90% of our staff departures went into industry - salary offers were very high.
Maybe you have heard this phrase to describe someone in a leadership position: “They think with their mouth.”
In a CPA firm this person, might be in a partner or manager, and they just blurt out whatever comes to mind. Some of these types often say dumb things, keep talking about the topic and eventually talk their way to a logical outcome. Others who often say dumb things don’t even seem to notice.
I once read about a contest where employees were asked to submit stupid comments made by management. Here’s an example:
“We know that communication is a problem, but the company is not going to discuss it with the employees.”
Here’s a real life quote reported to me recently: Boss says “I don’t like to have meetings for the sake of having a meeting” right before he tells us he really has nothing to discuss.
If you are a CPA or a person working at a CPA firm, people on the outside (clients) and people on the inside (employees) expect you to be professional, knowledgeable and articulate.
If you are just beginning your CPA career, keep in mind that how you talked with your friends on campus probably doesn’t translate to the way you should converse in the office.
As a professional, think before you speak.
Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.
I hear it all the time, CPA firm partners and managers talking out of both sides of their mouth.
On Delegating Work:
Left side of mouth: “These young people, they don’t realize that you have to work hard to serve clients. I give them a job to do. They get it partially done and then they send it back my way (and they go home).”
Right side of mouth: “Our young staff is just too green. They seem unsure and take too long to get something done. It’s so much quicker just to do it myself. My billing rate might be twice as much as theirs but I can do it twice as fast.”
On Performing Administrative Duties:
Left side of mouth: “I don’t try too hard to bring in new clients. I don’t go to many business-networking events. I just don’t have time. If I got a new client, I don’t have time to serve them properly. It would just mean that I would have to work more hours.”
Right side of mouth: “I am the one who takes care of all of our facilities management. I make sure our building HVAC works properly and that our conference room décor makes the proper first impression. I’m the one who has always done it, I can’t give that up.” – - or – - “I’m on the technology committee and have always been responsible for decisions relating to our website and the kind of laptops we purchase.”
I am sure, if you contemplate all of the activities of your firm’s partners and managers, you could add several more examples to this list.
On Delegating Work – It is every partner’s responsibility to train, mentor, coach, nurture, and encourage their replacement(s). Managers need to manage. This is not done very well inside CPA firms. Managers (and some partners) are high-priced technicians. They cling to the client work because they enjoy it, it’s safe and it is in their comfort zone.
On Performing Administrative Duties – The big issue with this is that you are paying someone (a partner or several partners at about $300,000 each), to do the job that a professional, experienced, qualified firm administrator (HR Director, IT Manager, Marketing Director) could do at a significantly lower salary. Again, for some partners, performing administrative responsibilities is an excuse not to market, sell and bring new work and new clients into the firm. They cling to the administrative work because they enjoy it, it’s safe, and it is in their comfort zone.
It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.
Many new accounting graduates will be entering CPA firms this fall to begin their career in public accounting. This message is for them and for all the accounting graduates who have ever joined a CPA firm.
Why were you hired? It is very basic. You were hired to do the work of an accountant working in a public accounting firm. It is very simple: You get money; you do work.
You are not expected to be an expert right away. Accounting firms are a hotbed of learning. They give you the opportunity to begin with the basics, practice them, become proficient and then move on to more difficult assignments. You are expected to continually improve over time. That part never ends.
Your employer has provided you with a competitive wage, training, advice and career counseling to improve your skills plus a nice benefit package.
Your firm and its leaders want you to succeed.
You were not hired to fill a category called, “high maintenance.”
I am a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.
Sadly, I must report, that inside many CPA firms many people do not “get it.” Get-it applies to a wide variety of things, such as how long it takes to get a job done.
Sometimes you just have to laugh. Do you have the 1.5 hour partner? This is one of the several partner-types I hear described over and over again as I work with firms. This partner, when asked how long it should take to do a particular client project (you know, the time budget for this job)…. always replies, “It should take about an hour and a half.”
I could go on and on about what the mature partners inside CPA firms “don’t get.” However, today I want you to consider the things that the 20-somethings inside your accounting firm might not “get.” Share this information with them.
Jason Nazar, a contributor on the Forbes site, highlights 20 Things 20-Year Olds Don’t Get. This is a good read for all ages of professionals working in an accounting firm. Here are the 20 Things – read the article to get advice on each topic.
Time is Not a Limitless Commodity
You’re Talented, But Talent is Overrated
We’re More Productive in the Morning
Social Media is Not a Career
Pick Up the Phone
Be the First In & Last to Leave
Don’t Wait to Be Told What to Do
Take Responsibility for Your Mistakes
You Should Be Getting Your Butt Kicked
A New Job a Year Isn’t a Good Thing
People Matter More Than Perks
Map Effort to Your Professional Gain
Speak Up, Not Out
You HAVE to Build Your Technical Chops
Both the Size and Quality of Your Network Matter
You Need At Least 3 Professional Mentors
Pick an Idol & Act “As If”
Read More Books, Fewer Tweets/Texts
Spend 25% Less Than You Make
Your Reputation is Priceless, Don’t Damage It
The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.
Traditionally, public accounting firms focused all their recruiting activities around the “fall season.” Students were fresh.. back on campus… and their professors had prepared them for the beauty contest of the very active fall season.
I talk to many firms that still operate this way. I also talk to many firms who are just finishing-up the “spring season.” It involves just as much work and intensity from firm HR professionals, firm administrators and partners as the fall campaign.
If you are not hiring summer interns – wake-up. If you are not identifying and getting to know the students you will be talking to in the fall – wake-up. If you think that being visible on campus just in the fall is enough – wake-up.
Accounting majors at prominent universities don’t know much (if anything) about local and regional accounting firms. Read more about why and how four students were surprised to learn that they could have the resources and support they thought was only available at the national firms at a local/regional firm.
Just a few years ago (including at my former firm) we did not hire summer interns because we didn’t have anything for them to do. Now, you must find something for them to do to keep them in your hiring pipeline. Some of the best students need a summer job!
Find projects where they can help. Let them shadow the summer auditors – there is always some repetitive work they can help with on an audit. They can also shadow in the tax area – have your tax team become your tax teaching team in the summer by establishing mini seminars on tax research, state & local tax, etc.
Craft your sales pitch. Even if you think your firm’s value proposition is obvious, dig deeper. Think hard about what a twenty-something is going to get out of 8 to 10 weeks of working side by side with your experienced, knowledgeable people.
What will your intern walk away with? What skills and insights will he/she learn on the job that will shape their career path, strengthen their network or help them decide once and for all that accounting is the way to go long term (and that your firm is flexible, fun, cool and prestigious).
I have been talking and writing about the need to keep women in public accounting for years (and years).
It is once again in the spotlight mostly because of Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In. Because of her high profile, success in the business world and I guess you could say her clout – people pay attention. They read her book. They like it or they hate it. They criticize or applaud via social media. Once the hoopla dies down, life will go on, especially inside CPA firms.
What matters to me most about women’s initiatives in public accounting is the fact that while there is a need, there is also a need for retaining young men in public accounting.
If you are not familiar with The Shriver Report, take a few minutes and read the executive summary. The report describes how a woman’s nation changes everything about how we live and work today. For the first time in our nation’s history, women are half of all U.S. workers and mothers are the primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of American families. This is a dramatic shift from just a generation ago. The Shriver Report is not just a woman’s story.
In today’s families, both parents work. Both need flexibility because they are raising their families and taking care of households as a team.
I think it can be described best by what a female CPA said to me during one of my presentations, “When we have a sick child, we flip a coin to see who stays home.”
In the “old days” men did the yard work, took care of the car, coached the little league team and did handyman duties around the home. Women shopped, cooked, cleaned, did laundry and, if they worked outside the home, they stayed home when a child was sick.
Dads are so much more involved on the home front these days. So, don’t forget that male CPAs also need flexibility while they are building their careers in public accounting. I would like you to establish a flexibility initiative, a family initiative or simply a “life” initiative to support your team members, both married and single, who have other priorities outside of the office.
I love this Tide commercial. While you might think this is a stay-at-home Dad, I like to think that he does the laundry and is also a CPA with a full-time job outside the home.
It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.
Here’s a competition that the Ohio Society is conducting. If you are in Ohio, I hope you share it with your interns or prospective college hires.
If you are not in Ohio (or even if you are), why couldn’t your CPA firm do something like this for students at your key recruiting schools?
Here’s how OSCPA is conducting their competition:
Today’s students are busier than ever, as many college students juggle part time jobs, campus activities and community service commitments in addition to full course loads. The Ohio Society of CPAs (OSCPA) is offering accounting students a chance to express their interests beyond preparing to become a CPA. Beginning April 1, students can enter OSCPA’s “Me in a Moment” video contest.
“OSCPA loves learning about and supporting our future CPAs,” said Karen West, CAE, vice president, academic & career awareness. “We hope “Me in a Moment” will show just how well-rounded accounting students are.”
To enter, students should create a video beginning with the phrase “I can’t wait to be a CPA! But when I’m not studying you can find me…” The videos that most creatively demonstrate students’ passion outside of the classroom will be posted on the Ohio YCPA Facebook page.
Videos must be under 30 seconds and submitted by May 1 to Rebecca Hixen firstname.lastname@example.org. From May 1- 15th videos will be judged based on the amount of Facebook “likes,” creativity and originality. Three winners will be announced in May and will receive a free Becker CPA Review course and a $50 Visa gift card valued at $3,315.
Attracting the most talented accounting graduates is critical to your firm’s success. How do the accounting students at your local universities view your firm? Do they even know about your firm? On many campuses all the accounting students know aboutis the big four!
Only a few find the way, some don't recognize it when they do - some... don't ever want to.
The inaugural National Meet The Firms Week in October 2012 connected 200 accounting firms and 2,500 students across the country and offered insightful webinars to accounting students on such topics as the CPA exam and unique accounting career paths.
This spring it is expected that hundreds of additional accounting firms and companies nationwide will participate. The goal is to reach 10,000 students participating this spring.
I am thrilled to once again be part of Meet The Firms Week. You can see the full week’s agenda here. I’ll be facilitating the Accounting Career Paths Roundtable on March 25th at 2pm eastern.
I hope you’ll encourage your interns to utilize the sessions during that week and also pass it along to your local accounting professors to share.
When I'm hiring a cook for one of my restaurants and I want to see what they can do, I usually ask them to make me an omelette.