I believe in hiring the most promising students as interns and then build your “grow your own” culture by making offers to the best of the best interns. Once you start this cycle, it quickly becomes a rewarding experience for the firm. Make sure it is rewarding for the interns because they go back to campus and TALK.
Visit schools with high quality accounting programs. You can find these high quality programs even in some of the smallest colleges. And, you have less competition.
Over a period of several years, at my firm, we did the above. It wasn’t long before students were seeking us out at campus events. Remember…. we made sure the interns had a great experience.
We exposed them to both audit and tax (they really don’t know which one they like – they haven’t done either). Yes, interns went out on audits. As far as tax, we found they caught on to the software very quickly and became proficient at preparing returns rather quickly (IF and that a big IF, you give them proper training and TIMELY feedback). Don’t “fix” mistakes for them – send the returns back so they can learn.
I love the following story from the Ohio Society of CPAs. If you follow this blog you know how much I love the world of marching band and appreciate what CPA firm leaders can learn from it.
Here’s a great story of a CPA firm’s flexibility and how it helped fulfill a dream a young accounting major and future employee. I have embedded a short video below….”Doting The i In Accounting.”
Ohio CPA firms getting creative with workplace flexibility to attract talent
Local accountant to dot the ‘i’ in Sunday’s OSU game—a dream his employer helped make possible
(COLUMBUS, Nov. 17, 2015) —Dotting the ‘i’ for script Ohio in The Ohio State University marching band was a longtime dream for Neil Steffens. That dream came true this past September in part because Steffen’s employer, Clark Schaefer Hackett, a regional CPA firm, was open to a flexible work arrangement as Steffens was transitioning from accounting grad to full-time tax accountant.
Arrangements like Steffens’ are becoming more common as the race for top talent has intensified in many professions. Companies are competing in a limited talent pool, and pulling out all the stops to attract and retain the most qualified candidates.
According to an EY survey, flexibility ranked second only to competitive pay and benefits when employees evaluate a potential job opportunity.
Flexibility was top of mind for Steffens, an accounting grad searching for his first job out of college. He had a special situation, as he explains in this video from The Ohio Society of CPAs. Despite having graduated from The Ohio State University, he was still a member of the OSU marching band and had the opportunity to dot the ‘i’ during theScript Ohio band performance, a special honor reserved only for fourth-year sousaphone section members. He will make a repeat performance this Saturday during OSU’s last home game of the season against Michigan State.
“I was going to dot the ‘i’ no matter what, even if it meant putting my life on hold,” Steffens said.
The band requires a huge time commitment, one that would interfere with a normal work schedule. Steffens approached his job search by only considering employers that would accommodate his practice schedule. Clark Schaefer Hackett, a large regional CPA firm in Ohio, fit the bill.
“For Neil and others who are granted opportunities like this it comes down to trust,” said Ed Walsh, CPA, shareholder-in-charge of the firm’s Columbus office. “He trusts us to allow him the flexibility to pursue his passions, and we trust that he’ll make it all work when it comes to helping us serve our clients.”
As job seekers, particularly millennials, continue to value flexibility, employers are bending to meet market demand. Walsh believes the key to making flexible arrangements work for both employer and employee is evaluating each request one at a time, to ensure the company can meet its needs. Open dialogue and clear communication about expectations are also imperative.
“Great people are hard to find,” Walsh said. “And when we hire those people we’re not just thinking about how to keep them happy for 6-12 months. More and more we really think long term, and what can we do to make this a place where people want to stay.”
“It was awesome to find Clark Schaefer Hackett and be able to earn a living while also accomplishing my dream,” Steffens said. “It’s one thing to say ‘We’re going to allow you to have a work life balance,’ but it’s another thing to truly support what you do outside of work.”
Steffens is a master at juggling responsibilities. In addition to marching in the band and working full-time in the firm’s tax practice, he is studying to pass the four-part national CPA exam. Some would say that’s a full time job by itself.
Workplace flexibility is one of several talent management topics featured in OSCPA’s video Spotlight series. The latest episode features Neil’s story and a profile of Kaiser Consulting, a Powell, Ohio-based firm founded on the concept of offering employees control over their schedules.
Here’s the video:
The Ohio Society of CPAs is a leading partner and influential voice for a thriving business environment. We empower Ohio’s 30,000 CPAs and financial professionals to drive value as trusted business advisors by advancing advocacy and education programs that strengthen Ohio’s tax and business climate and make our state a friendlier place to live and do business.
In the accounting profession, CPA firms have been trying to implement unique and creative ways to attract talent for many years. The game is getting more and more competitive. Unique tactics are coming at a time when companies are trying to differentiate themselves in the eyes of talented business students (includes accounting majors, of course). Most accounting firms really need to up their game.
–At recruiting events, General Mills offers students goggles to see a virtual reality tour of the company’s Minnesota campus. The recruits can see everything from the company gym to the executive offices.
–Goldman Sachs is using Snapchat to recruit college students.
–PwC is offering to pay back student loans for its junior employees. (Your firm could do this. The amount would be up to you.)
–General Motors recently parked cars on the campus of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and invited students to take a test drive. Of course they brought Camaros and Corvettes.
–On Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business campus PwC furnished an ice cream truck. On the Michigan campus they provided a coffee truck (free coffee anytime for all students).
–Land O’ Lakes brought their CEO to campus. It helps students see that they have access to leaders. (Take your partners to campus, not just younger alumni!)
Advice from career services directors:
This generation of students are seeking more connection with their potential employers and the missions of those companies. Today’s students want to be connected with the company’s mission and vision. Have you clearly defined the vision of your accounting firm? I find many firms have not. The partners are not united on where they are going!
The days of passing out cheap, trashy stuff – like post-it notes, water bottles, pens, backpacks, lip balm, etc. are over.
Number one, cash is king.. number two, communicate.. number three, buy or bury your competition.
Yes, I wish job descriptions were not necessary inside CPA firms. But, it’s hard for me to visualize.
I was recently reading a post by Leadership Freak (you should follow him on Twitter), that gave some great reasons not to give a new hire a job description. The example, an employer, hired a new person and didn’t give them a job description. They are writing their own. The new person has goals and responsibilities but he is writing the details himself. The boss and employee meet every week to track progress and set the path forward.
Read the post for yourself and see if you can see the two problems I see.
# 1 – Surveys tells us that young accountants want to know there is a career path for them and exactly what is expected of them. You need to paint a picture (with words) of where they are going and how they are going to get there.
# 2 – Notice the sentence: The boss and employee meet every week to track progress and set the path forward.
Number 2 is the clincher. Are your partners and managers meeting every week with the people they supervise to track progress and set the path forward? I see very little of this happening. I do see lots of questions being answered and lots of general direction being given but not the “progress and path forward” types of conversations that need to happen more frequently.
Set a goal this fall to practice your mentoring on a weekly basis – just until December 31. See if it becomes a habit!
According to surveys over the many years I have been involved with the profession of public accounting, CPA firms are the most profitable businesses.
It’s nothing new but I think sometimes CPA firm owners don’t think much about it, probably because they are used to the profit margins.
I read about it again last week via Accounting Today – “Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and payroll services are collectively the most profitable industry in the U.S., according to a new ranking.”
Most firms do a wide variety of things to keep great people at their firms. It, definitely has become more difficult during the recent talent wars. Every firm you compete with wants your people. Firms across the country want your people. And, these other firms will pay them more.
You have to do the chair massages, special coffee, ice cream socials, bowling events, mini-golf in the hallways….. the list goes on. Oh yes, your real employee benefit menu has to be up-to-date and generous…. great pay, plenty of PTO, holidays and insurance coverage and so on.
Many studies tell us they like all that but what they really want is communication and recognition. They want to know what is going on, what you expect and what their career path really looks like. They want to know someone cares about their development.
Asking one simple question can provide your firm with some very valuable information. Ask them in an individual conversation – What is the one thing we could change that would help you be more successful at your job?
You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.
During 2015, our membership has taken on a project of publishing a series of 15 blogs, written by individual members, around the central theme of Bridging the Gap-Strengthening the Connection Between Current and Emerging Leaders.
In her August 11th blog post, A Winning Culture Is An Intentional Culture, CPACA member Tamera Loerzel asks you to explore the following primary areas where Millennials are driving (and expect) change in firm culture:
Clear vision and direction
Engagement by upper-management
Leaders willing to change
Feedback and the desire to give it
Increased transparency – they want to know what, why and how
A 100% commitment towork efficiently using the latest IT and standard processes
An expectation that they’ll benefit from a learning and development investment
Flexibility and anytime, anywhere work (moving away from the time and place paradigm)
Be sure to read this entire blog post and the others in the series. The posts feature real stories from real CPA firms.
Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.
I usually share with people that I am a little weird. Good weird. I think differently than a lot of people working in public accounting and over many years I have connected with others… soul-mates who could possibly be classified as slightly weird. Those are MY people! I love them!
One way that I am weird is that I love to be very busy. When I was working inside a growing CPA firm I especially enjoyed tax season because everyone was hustling, focused, working-hard, no-nonsense and a lot of the daily pettiness disappeared for a few months. We also got to see and chat with our clients more during this busy time. I am pleased when there is no idle chit-chat, time wasted loitering over lunch in the break-room, etc.
Being very busy with lots of priorities makes me happy, however, many of our employees in public accounting find it all very stressful, especially Millennials. You need to help them adjust and cope!
Here’s something that might help, it’s an App called DeStressify. It helps all ages of people but is especially important for Millennials. It offers Millennials 5 ways to cope with work-related stress:
Focus on the present – don’t worry about the past or future, stay in the present.
Reframe the story – If something happens, don’t over-analyze or over-react. Simply restate the facts and remove the speculation.
Learn to let go – Don’t let things build-up, learn to release emotions in a healthier way.
Set attainable goals – Perfectionism can cause a tremendous amount of stress. Strive for excellence instead of perfection.
Do what makes you happy – One of the best ways to decrease stress is to do something that makes you happy. Run, hike, listen to music, wind-down with friends, etc.
I am currently using an App called Headspace. It’s a meditation App. I like it… simple and easy. Be sure to explore other options and Apps that might be helpful – for yourself and for your team.
We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private... therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.
Okay, you have read the title. Now, finish the sentence! Here’s my answers – Working in public accounting is rewarding, interesting, fun, continually educational, prestigious, admired and yes, cool.
What’s it like at your public accounting firm? I bet the good MORE than out weighs the bad. Being a CPA has immeasurable stature. CPAs are the trusted advisor to millions of successful small businesses (not to mention the large businesses).
The CPA profession needs to continue to attract great minds and every business is looking for those same talented, young employees.
Leading a diversified chemicals company with 53,000 employees, Dow CEO Andrew Liveris is constantly on the hunt for new talent. So he has decided to send his company’s employees and retirees into schools to spread on simple message: Science is sexy.
Well, some of us think that accounting is sexy!
I applaud the work that state societies do to get school children interested in accounting and help them become more financial literate. I encourage individual CPA firms to get more involved.
One firm I talked to recently offers internships to high school students. What unique things is your firm doing to reinforce the talent pipeline?
One of the biggest issues public accounting faces is the drop-out rate caused by a young person having a bad experience at one particular firm. More on that in another blog soon.
We'll make talent the centerpiece of everything we're trying to do.
Rick Snyder, Governor of Michigan (where Dow is headquartered)
Companies have also felt the pressure by millennials to evolve, especially because about one in every three employees in the U.S. will be a millennial by next year, and by 2025 they will become 75 percent of the global workforce. At some companies, such as EY, millennials already make up 60% of their workforce. Technology has ended the nine to five workday, crushed global communication barriers and create transparent offices. They have forced companies to rethink flexibility, meetings and cubicles. They also believe that business should focus on a societal purpose, not just be in business to make a profit. This is why you see so many millennial become social entrepreneurs or support their local non-profit – they always need to feel like they are touching someone and making an impact, regardless of their job title.
Accounting firms have always recruited on college campuses, sought out the young career beginners to become part of the CPA firm team. Be sure your firm is taking advantage of the millennial goldmine you already have.