“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.
Maybe you have noticed, recruiting and retaining efforts have become even more intense and complicated.
No longer are recruiting and retaining enough to guarantee that talented professionals will want to come to your firm and remain there to build their professional career.
Tom Hood, President & CEO of the Maryland Association of CPAs, tells us that in this fast changing world we have moved from an environment of recruit and retain to a strategy of attract and develop.
So, keep this in mind: Recruit and Retain no longer applies, it is now Attract and Develop.
For years, I have been urging you to make your firm a talent magnet. My long-standing advice has evolved from “you should” make your firm a magnet for talent to “you must” make your firm a magnet for talent. Develop your strategy now to create an “I want to work there!” kind of firm.
“Human Resources isn’t a thing we do. It’s the thing that runs our business.” – Steve Wynn
We all know the talent wars are raging in public accounting. You have identified a top student and you landed them. They have accepted your offer. Begin the onboarding process immediately. After all, you not only want to hire the best and brightest, you want to RETAIN them, long-term. Onboarding is different from orientation. Orientation is the formal, get me signed-up, type activities. Onboarding is a year-long process to facilitate a new hire’s success and build a positive working relationship with the firm and other team members.
Here are some little things you can do, as part of onboarding, that can make a big difference. Let’s say the candidate/new hire is named Robert and he’s finishing up his last year of college.
Send a gift basket to his parent’s home welcoming Robert and his family to your firm’s family.
Provide an advance on Robert’s salary ($1,500 or so) to buy new clothes, to use for a deposit on an apartment or down payment on a new car.
Connect with Robert immediately via social media. He probably already has an online presence. Use it to introduce him to all of the firm’s online communities and keep him connected to people at the firm while he awaits his actual starting date.
Have his Guidetext him periodically just to touch base.
Let technology handle many aspects of onboarding. Let Robert complete all of the hiring paperwork online. This is not only what young people are used to; it is what we have all become comfortable with.
The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.
“Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.” – Machiavelli
Most of you know, I worked for 30 years at a growing, profitable CPA firm. Most of those years, I believed that the CPA profession was a world of professional men and women who had the great responsibility of advising successful business people. I believed that I worked in a professional office and was delighted to dress in what the world then called professional dress. Our offices were beautiful, tasteful, high-class. I believed in making a great first impression. Why wouldn’t we, as individuals, want to be viewed the same?
Of course, years ago, the firm moved to business casual. We called it “dress appropriate” which meant the same thing that is being talked about now… dress for your day. But then business casual meant no jeans and always a collared shirt for days in the office and professional dress for client/prospect meetings, business networking events, etc.
Of course, business casual slowly became more casual and we had to enforce our dress code. That was certainly not a fun task!
I held out for years about females not wearing panty hose with skirts and dresses. A wonderful mentor of mine finally said to me, “Rita, get over it” and I did. That being said, I still cringe when I see an overweight, young female attorney walking down the street in a suit or short skirt with pasty-white legs. Oh, well.
Now, guess what? I’m “over it” with a lot of things. The world is more casual and the professional business world is more casual and I am certainly more casual in my dress.
It is all about what I continually urge you to do… embrace change! Institute a “dress for your day” policy that allows jeans. Close your office on Friday. Times have changed and CPAs must adapt more quickly than they have in the past.
If you want to attract and keep talented people, stay abreast of current trends and make changes quickly, as needed. Crowe did a survey of their workforce last fall, casual attire was ranked the most important workforce amenity.
One key to successful leadership is continuous personal change. Personal change is a reflection of our inner growth and empowerment.
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.
“If you cannot see where you are going, ask someone who has been there before.” – J. Loren Norris
Tomorrow I will be talking at the AICPA Practitioners’ Symposium & TECH+ Conference about the importance of mentoring and how developing a mentoring culture can help the firm hire and retain talented people.
I usually get a lot of questions about the specifics, such as:
How often to we meet?
Where do we meet?
What exactly should I talk about?
What if we are not a good match?
How does each side benefit?
Here’s the answer to what’s in it for both sides:
For the Mentor:
Mentoring allows the mentor to give something back to the firm and to the CPA profession. It helps the mentor to become a much better listener. It is a way for the mentor to share some of the good things they have learned from their years of experience and also gives them a chance to share some warnings about bad things that could possibly happen. It gives them the opportunity to “see” the firm through another person’s eyes. Most mentors say they usually gain just as much, or even more, than the mentee.
For the Mentee:
A great mentor will help increase the mentee’s level of self-confidence. The mentee will learn how to say the right thing, when to speak up and when it is best to remain silent. It gives the mentee some direction on handling the feedback they receive on their performance. It provides important networking opportunities and introductions to people who may become influential to their careers. It helps the mentee more quickly understand the organization and even the CPA profession.
Simply put, creating a mentoring culture shows your people that the firm is willing to invest time and money in the success of its people.
My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.
“When one door is closed, don’t you know, another is open.” – Bob Marley
This week I received a notice from a CPA firm that was sent out via an email blast. I have talked with many CPA partners about this topic and it still creates a lot of lively discussions. While many firms have embraced closing on Fridays or developing some other system for a shorter summer work schedule, I have observed that the majority of firms do not embrace this practice.
It is a huge plus in hiring and retaining top talent. I hope you consider it. Here’s the message:
Dear Clients and Friends:
(Name of firm) Summer Office Hours
To allow our team the opportunity to retool and recharge after the hectic pace of tax season, we will be returning to our summer office hours.
Effective May 27 through September 5 our offices will be open
Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
We will be closed on Fridays during the summer months. (However, since Uncle Sam never seems to rest, arrangements can be made to meet with you on a Friday in the event of any urgent tax matter or if it is the only day you are available to pick up returns and documents from our office. Please contact us in advance to coordinate such arrangements.)
Very truly yours,
It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
“A moment’s insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
I am working with the Ohio Society of CPAs on an upcoming program. It’s called the Business Excellence Symposium and is being held May 11th in Westlake, OH (Cleveland suburb).
I’m excited by the work OSCPA is undertaking to advance business across Ohio by helping CPAs and finance and accounting professionals be positioned to meet today’s business challenges head on to drive growth. The topic selection, and the expertise brought forth is really on-point for the greatest challenges facing our businesses, large or small.
Attend and gain strategies and insights from national leaders in the business and accounting community:
Create a culture that top talent can’t pass up – with tips from the leadership coach for The Ohio State University’s football program.
Maximize staff resources and harness the power of diversity.
Unlock growth strategies that leverage your specific skill sets as an accounting professional.
Develop practices to deliver better solutions to organizational challenges.
Learn about harnessing business growth potential via a panel discussion with me and Katie Tolin, CPA Growth Guides
All in all, it looks like it’s going to be a great event, you can see the details here. Also, if you can’t make the trip, note there is a live webcasted option.
This is a perfect symposium (and affordable) to send several of your millennial accountants.
If you decide to attend, you can use my personal invitation to get a 20% “friends of BES” discount. Simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org saying you learned about the Symposium from me and you would like to attend.
I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.
“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.
You 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.
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.”