Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Thursday, September 16th, 2021

Another View of Remote Workers

“Deep human connection is… the purpose and the result of a meaningful life – and it will inspire the most amazing acts of love, generosity, and humanity.” – Melinda Gates

Some people like working remotely and have adapted easily. We hear so much about them. But what about the many people who actually like being with other people?

I think it is human nature to enjoy being with other humans. Happy hermits are few and far between. Some comments I have heard from the younger generation lately made a lot of sense to me, as follows:

Young lady, graduated college in 2020. Has worked remotely for a year. – “I want a REAL job where I go to an office!”

Another young lady, early in her career. – “I am tired of being home all the time!”

Young mother with children in school. She was told by her employer that she would never go back to the office. She would remain remote. – “I get kids on the bus and get kids off the bus. Between those times I work at home. I feel trapped!”

Maybe it is time to rethink making your office attractive and welcoming to employees (and also to clients). I am sure many of you have offered a hybrid solution but don’t forget there are people who really want the in-office environment. It could be a real advantage when doing college recruiting.

  • The business of business is relationships; the business of life is human connection.
  • Robin Sharma

Wednesday, September 15th, 2021

A Jerk Free Firm

“In my opinion, we don’t devote nearly enough scientific research to finding a cure for jerks.” – Bill Watterson

Recently, a comment from Allan Koltin caused me to give some thought to what a jerk-free firm might be. Koltin noted that if you had a jerk-free firm, the firm would be more likely to have appeal as a merger candidate.

I have observed that most CPA firms have at least one jerk at the leadership level. It could be a partner, a manager, a male, or a female but their jerkdom is well-known and dreaded. Sometimes they are even ridiculed among the team members. Usually, interns can identify the jerk within a week or so and can often do a great job of doing a comic imitation of that person.

Here is a link to where you can read about jerks in the workplace. But how do you define a jerk personality in an accounting firm?

Someone who:

  • Talks excessively but never listens.
  • Takes credit for other people’s ideas.
  • Is always last minute causing chaos close to due dates.
  • Doesn’t respect other people’s time.
  • Leaves a mess in the lunch room for admin to clean up.
  • Ignores the FIFO method for processing work and puts their jobs first.
  • Seems to have no understanding that you have a personal life.
  • Rarely express appreciation of gives recognition for a job well done.
  • Openly makes fun of other people (staff/clients) and gets involved in the grapevine.
  • Dodges client calls when they know there is a problem and delegates it to someone else.

I could go on but you can add to this list if you want.

I suggest you strive to develop a jerk-free culture by establishing some guidelines and goals. Be sure you have identified the firm’s core values and expect all partners to live by them and set a good example

Here is an example of some values that help make a jerk-free workplace;

  • Client focused – Always sriving to provide awesome client service
  • Focused on excellence pertainig to hiring, establishing processes and working environment.
  • Keeping our word – I always think of something Sam Allred said at a retreat many years ago as it applies to partners: “I will do what I say I will do, on time, without reminders.”
  • Team oriented – Everyone at all levels are expected to give and receive feedback to help themselves and the entire team to continually improve.
  • Self-sufficient – I will be a problem solver; not one who creates problems for others to solve.

Be able to say without hesitation, “We are a jerk-free firm!”

  • Of the billionaires I have known, money just brings out the basic traits in them. If they were jerks before they had money, they are simply jerks with a billion dollars.
  • Warren Buffett

Tuesday, September 14th, 2021

New Survey About Remote Work

“Being a great place to work is the difference between being a good company and a great company.” – Brian Kristofek

Here are some interesting findings from a recent survey by flexjobs. The last segment about the importance of company culture should be something CPA firms should consider.

44% Know at Least One Person Who Has Quit or Plans to Quit Because of Employers Revoking Remote Work

New FlexJobs survey highlights the high-value employees place on remote work, mental health support, and company culture

Boulder, CO, September 13, 2021 – According to FlexJobs’ survey of over 4,600 respondents, 44 percent know at least one person that has quit or is planning to quit because their employers are requiring them to return to the office. 29 percent are actively looking for a new job because they want to work remotely, while 17 percent have quit a job because it did not offer remote work options.

“It’s a job seeker’s market right now, and workers are more empowered than ever to leave job situations that aren’t ideal, or leave companies that aren’t allowing them to work the way they want to,” said Sara Sutton, Founder and CEO of FlexJobs. “As our latest survey highlights, workers are placing an extremely high value on the option to work remotely, and they’re committed to finding companies that are embracing remote work as a long-term workplace model and have a healthy company culture to support it,” Sutton concluded.

Remote Work Matters:

  • 44% know at least one person that has quit or is planning to quit because their employers are requiring them to return to the office
  • 29% are currently looking for a new job because they want to work remotely
  • 17% have quit a job because it did not have remote work options
  • 21% would give up some vacation time, and nearly a quarter (24%) would take a 10-20% cut in pay in order to work remotely as much as they want
  • Post-pandemic, 58% prefer a fully remote job, and 39% want a hybrid arrangement that combines both office and remote work; only 3% report wanting to return to the office full-time
  • However, 42% report that post-pandemic, their employers will require them to be in the physical office; 27% will have hybrid work arrangements; 17% will be fully remote; the remaining 14% were unsure of their company’s plans

Other key insights from the survey:

Mental Health Matters:

  • 70% say a permanent remote job would have a huge improvement or positive impact on their mental health 
  • 81% of respondents said having better work-life balance is the #1 factor for wanting a job with a flexible work option
    • Other reasons for wanting a flexible job include commute stress (50%), family (47%), and exposure to illnesses (43%)
  • Lack of healthy work-life boundaries would cause 57% to not apply, not accept, or to quit a job
  • Nearly one in five (18%) said not offering mental health support was a big mistake their company made during the pandemic

Company Culture Matters:

  • Toxic culture would cause 73% of respondents to not apply, not accept, or to quit a job. Other reasons include:
    • Micromanaging boss (58%), lack of healthy work-life boundaries (57%), and not allowing remote work (55%) or flexible options (50%); the top reason was a low salary (79%)
  • Poor communication from leadership was the biggest mistake made by employers during the pandemic (30%). Other top-reported mistakes included: 
    • Not fully understanding the stress of work-life conflicts during the quarantine (25%)
    • Unrealistic expectations about productivity during quarantine (22%)
    • Poor management of workers overall (22%)
    • Being too rigid with schedules (17%) 

Read more here.

  • We have a culture where we are incredibly self critical, we don't get comfortable with our success
  • Mark Parker, CEO, Nike

Thursday, September 9th, 2021

Does The Pay Justify The Toil?

“Leave something for someone but don’t leave someone for something.” – Enid Blyton

Are you always doing exit interviews with staff? Do you know for sure why people are leaving your firm?

There are times when someone gives notice, you and their peers are all thinking, “Thank goodness!” That should never be the case! Deal with poor performers directly and don’t just hope and pray that they will quit.

During these times of a severe talent shortage, you might find out why in an article via Accounting Today titled, 5 Reasons Staff Are Leaving Your Firm, The author, Chase Birky notes:

The leading voices in our profession consistently cite a pipeline issue — the number of accounting graduates and CPA candidates coming through the system is not high enough to meet demand — exacerbated by the strain brought about by COVID-19. However, this explanation is superficial; it only accounts for the symptoms and not the underlying illness.”

Overwork has been a problem for years but we always downplay it saying to staff that it is only a few months each year when the workload is heavy. In days gone by, that might have been the case. I rarely talk to a firm that is not very busy all year long now.

So, the staff is feeling overworked and stressed. Per Birky, “People are fed up with being treated like a machine in an assembly line. The pay no longer justifies the toil.”

The Five Reasons are – 1) Toxic leadership, 2) Unrealistic workload, 3) Compensation plan is lacking, 4) Confusion about advancement, and 5) No self-determination.

Read more about each of the Five Reasons here.

  • People fear leaving their safe harbor of the known and venturing off into the unknown. Human beings crave certainty - even when it limits them.
  • Robin S. Sharma

Thursday, September 2nd, 2021

Dementors

“You control your own life. Your own will is extremely powerful.” – J. K. Rowling

I am assuming you are familiar with Harry Potter. I read all the books and watched all the movies. J. K. Rowling created a fascinating world. Let’s take a somewhat light-hearted look at how Dementors might apply inside your firm.

When you read the following meaning of Dementors, I wonder what it brings to mind.

Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. … If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself – soulless and evil.

I know I am weird, but it brings to my mind, some managers in CPA firms who seem to “suck the life out of people.” Thankfully, it doesn’t apply to all managers.

Some Managers are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the accounting firms that are stuck in the past and glory in the status quo. They drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. If they can, the Manager will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like themselves – uncaring and demanding.

J. K. Rowling has revealed that the inspiration for Dementors came from her bout with severe depression before her phenomenal success. She described the feeling as an “absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope.”

I have said all of that to remind you that, as firm owners, you must invest in the non-technical training and education of your managers. Managers need to be people developers. In some firms, they are simply highly-trained technicians charged with getting the most work out of subordinates. They don’t know how to build strong relationships and engage with the people they supervise.

I’ve been working in public accounting for decades. I have heard many stories about inadequate managers. And yes, they have been described as “sucking the life out of people.” I have also heard the same about some partners.

  • We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.
  • J. K. Rowling

Monday, August 30th, 2021

How Does A Prospective New Client View Your Firm?

“Details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right.” – Steve Jobs

Those of you who know me, know that I am, and always have been, an Apple fan. I had the first Mac when it looked like a little robot box and of all things, it had something called a Mouse! Our son had an Apple IIe when he was in middle school. I wish I had bought stock back then!

I came across a great article via Inc. A story about a Windows devotee who had an Apple Store experience. Take a few minutes and read it. See if there is something you can learn about client service from the story.

I love this one sentence in the article, “I’m deathly allergic to inauthenticity.”

Here’s the story, “I Spent $2,000 at the Apple Store and Got an Invaluable Lesson in Consumer Psychology.”

  • You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you're not passionate enough from the start, you'll never stick it out.
  • Steve Jobs

Wednesday, August 25th, 2021

Punctuality

“Lots of professional jobs require punctuality.” – Suzanne Lucas (@RealEvilHRLady)

Punctuality still matters. Even if you are working a flexible schedule or a hybrid culture, professionals are judged on their punctuality. You ARE a professional.

I’ve blogged about it SO many times:

January 8, 2020 – – – January 18, 2019 – – – March 11, 2021. Do a search on the right side of this webpage to find more of my blogs about punctuality.

Adopt the marching band member commitment, “If you are on time, you are late. If you are early, you are on time.”

Read Suzanne Lucas’ article: Why punctuality Absolutely Still Matters–Even For Remote Jobs.

  • Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.
  • Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, August 24th, 2021

Your Value Proposition

“When you bring your best to the table, no matter where you are or what you are doing, you bring out the best in others. And soon, you start to realize, that, in turn, helps them bring out the best in you.” – Bruce Tulgan

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I admire Bruce Tulgan. Tulgan is an American writer specializing in management training and generational diversity in the workforce. He is a dynamic and informative speaker. When I first read his book It’s Okay To Be The Boss, I was hooked and have read and followed his books and articles for years.

I was fortunate to hear him speak live and got to meet him and have him sign my copy of It’s Okay.

In a recent article Tulgan addresses the topic of an employer value proposition. If you want to have an advantage as an employer, begin with defining a clear value proposition for potential new hires.

Keep in mind that not one value proposition fits every role. Tulgan lists many questions an employer must ask themselves before they can define a purposeful staffing strategy.

Be sure to read the article to learn more and to learn about the eight Dream Job Factors.

  • Leverage your uniqueness.
  • Bruce Tulgan

Monday, August 23rd, 2021

Firms Are Adapting

“We look forward to this next chapter on our journey to be the Firm of the Future.” – Matt Snow, CEO DHG

There has been a lot of talk about how firms will adjust their workforce model going into the future.

Back in July, I shared some news about one large firm’s new office and how it is designed to serve future needs.

Recently, CPA Practice Advisor shared some news about DHG’s new hybrid workforce model. DHG, in September, will be unveiling something they call “DHG Anywhere”. The workforce model will create flexibility within reasonable boundaries and is being called “Freedom Within a Framework.”

Their plan makes a lot of sense to me and I expect many other firms to make similar adjustments in the coming months and years.

Be sure to read the article to get the full details.

  • The future depends on what you do today.
  • Mahatma Gandhi

Wednesday, August 18th, 2021

Focus On Your Remote Culture

“In teamwork, silence isn’t golden, it’s deadly.” – Mark Sanborn

It is pretty much a given now that many accounting firms will continue to have remote workers. Some will be completely remote and some will be hybrid. Hybrid is what seems to be favored by most firms. Be sure to define what hybrid means for each individual.

The old firm culture seems to have disappeared. So, how do you reignite your culture and keep it healthy and vibrant with many remote workers?

The most important activity is communication. In almost every firm I encounter, feedback from staff indicates that communication is one of the firm’s biggest issues. It will be an even bigger challenge when you have permanent remote workers.

Your managers are key in building and maintaining a vibrant culture whether you have remote workers or not. Managers must be truly managing other people, something that wasn’t happening prior to COVID. Firm owners must help their managers by providing more training and ongoing encouragement from owners.

Some tips for managers:

  • Clearly set expectations when assigning work.
  • Be flexible about when the remote person does the work as long as the engagements get completed on time and accurately.
  • Communicate frequently and keep staff informed of deadlines. Use email, texts, phone calls, video chats and determine which form of communication is more comforable for the individual.
  • Managers must be good listeners. Inquire but don’t micromanage.
  • Provide opportunities for staff to engage with each other in an informal way so that they get to know each other on a personal level and realize they are part of a team.
  • Celebrate small successes and develop ways to continually show staff that they are trusted and appreciated.
  • People are more productive working at home than people would have expected. Some people thought that everything was just going to fall apart, and it hasn’t. And a lot of people are actually saying that they’re more productive now.
  • Mark Zuckerberg