Archive for the ‘People/HR’ Category

Thursday, June 24th, 2021

Retention – A Dual Responsibility

“Just imagine how great a workplace could be if employers and employees worked together to improve retention.” – Sharlyn Lauby

We have discussed and discussed the talent wars in public accounting for years. I couldn’t imagine how it could get much worse. But it has.

Sharlyn Lauby (@hrbartender), in a recent article, acknowledges that retention is on the shoulders of the employer. However, employees should also share in the retention efforts.

“Organizations are unable to put retention strategies in place if they don’t understand what employees want (i.e. what makes them stay with the company). Some of you might be saying that this means the obligation is on the employer. True – but the employee has to give them the information. That’s where the employee plays a part in retention.”

Firm leaders cannot provide what employees want unless employees provide honest feedback. As a person working in a CPA firm do you provide honest feedback when asked? The main reason employees don’t give honest feedback is the fear of retaliation .

Read Lauby’s article to learn about the three basic employee needs:

Power needs are the ability to influence.

Affiliation needs are related to being a part of the team.

Achievement needs are focused on the ability to get things done.

If you wonder why your team members do not provide feedback, ask yourself – Do our employees feel safe giving feedback? Have we always acted upon feedback received in the past.

  • Organizations need to figure out if culture is keeping employees from providing the feedback you’re looking for.
  • Sharlyn Lauby

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2021

Knowing The Whole Story

“Fortunate is he who understands the cause of things.” – Virgil

When I read the above quotation in a book I am reading (The Pioneers by David McCullough), I was reminded how CPA firm leaders often misunderstand or are in the dark about “the cause of things.”

If you are working in a CPA firm, you know that the grapevine is usually very active. For example:

  • Three partners meet in one of their offices with the door closed. The grapevine activates.
  • A senior accountant is unusually dressed-up for the day and leaves early. The grapevine activates.
  • An intern claims he is sick two Mondays in a row. The grapevine activates.

Leaders are often faced with challenges that seem straight-forward and uncomplicated. Do you really know the backstory – what led up to the event?

A person gives their notice and seems untroubled and apparently moving on to a better opportunity. Do you know what led up to the departure, the cause?

Sally, the receptionist, is always late. You must address it. Do you know the cause, the backstory?

Are you doing surveys to determine how your people feel about remote work or hybrid work? Some firms are experiencing several resignations (people moving on the what they think are better jobs). Remember, “Fortunate is he who knows the cause of things.”

  • They can because they think they can.
  • Virgil

Monday, June 21st, 2021

The Great Resignation

“Your employer brand is your external experience, and your talent brand is the internal experience.” – Cassie Whitlock

Has your accounting firm started to experience the resignation crisis? It is happening to employers now and the prediction is that it will continue.

Last week, I wrote about how the talent pool for CPAs will be shrinking. Now, it seems, you will be facing the fact that your people can work for a firm, no matter where that firm is located. Firms in large cities are willing to pay large city salaries to remote staff that live in more affordable localities.

Per a recent article via Fast Company, Texan A&M University Associate Management Professor Anthony Klotz coined the phrase (the great resignation) during an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek.

The article also notes:

Employees are also seeking more rewarding work, adds Cassie Whitlock, head of human resources for the talent management software platform BambooHR. “Many have lost a sense of connection to the workplace,” she says. “Even if they’re getting time with their manager, we discovered they’re having fewer interactions, and the quality of those interactions is diminished. They’re not having a feeling of genuine connection. They feel less seen, recognized, and appreciated.”

Remember something I have written about often – people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Your managers have that first-hand contact with your staff both in person and remotely. It’s time again to help your managers to become very skilled at managing and engaging people.

Whitlock stresses something that CPA owners need to embrace:

“They (managers) spend the most time with employees, and they make or break an organization’s goals, objectives, and outcomes,” says Whitlock. “They carry the water. Invest in growing managers to make sure you have the quality and caliber you want.”

  • You need to be great at telling stories in your organization. How are you making a difference? And are you sharing those successes with team members to help them feel good about the goals and outcomes you’re driving?
  • Cassie Whitlock

Wednesday, June 16th, 2021

The Talent Pool Is Shrinking

“The climb might be tough and challenging, but the view is worth it. There is a purpose for that pain; you just can’t always see it right away.” – Victoria Arlen

I received the following press release from the Illinois CPA Society. They are unveiling the findings from research they have done relating to the decline in CPA candidates. If you think finding and hiring future leaders is difficult now, just wait.

How will your firm prepare for the future? It seems that accounting students don’t see the value in devoting the time and energy to become a CPA.

My advice? Share your partners’ salaries with your future CPAs and with college students you talk to or interview. Is it worth it to become a CPA, in public accounting, when average partner compensation in $5 to $20M firms is half a million? In many larger firms, partner compensation is over $1,000,000. Plus, flexible work arrangements make public accounting very attractive.

Illinois CPA Society Releases New CPA Pipeline Report

CHICAGO, June 14, 2021– Unveiling the findings of its previously announced research into the decreasing supply of new certified public accountants (CPAs), the Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS)—one of the largest state CPA societies in the nation—is pleased to release its 2021 Insight Special Feature, “A CPA Pipeline Report: Decoding the Decline.”

The result of an in-depth survey of more than 3,100 accounting students, graduates, and professionals predominantly under age 35, “Decoding the Decline” reveals respondents’ top challenges, perceptions, and influencers impacting their decisions to pursue the CPA credential or not and what, if any, value it may bring to their personal and professional lives. The eye-opening responses—particularly among non-CPAs and those who are still unsure about becoming CPAs—provide invaluable insights the CPA profession and its stakeholders cannot ignore while trying to counter the declining number of first-time CPA exam test takers—which hit a 10-year low in 2018, and further declines are expected when new data becomes available.

“Five years ago, I delivered the warning that a stagnating CPA pipeline is a threat. It’s an issue that will only get worse and grow more troubling without action. Today the issue has, in fact, grown worse and more troubling,” says Todd Shapiro, ICPAS president and CEO. “It used to be that if you earned an accounting degree, earning the CPA credential was the given next step regardless of career paths or time commitments—that’s no longer the case.”

“From this initial survey, we learned that individuals—who we believe should be future CPAs—are not pursuing the CPA credential because they feel they can succeed in their anticipated or chosen careers without it,” explains Kari Natale, CAE, ICPAS senior director of planning and governance, who led the survey’s development alongside Association Management Center, ICPAS’ research partner on the project. “They believe any value the CPA credential holds is outweighed by its lack of relevance to their personal and professional endeavors and the time commitment necessary to obtain it. They do not see the return on investment; they do not see their employers or prospective employers supporting or requiring it; and they see other credentials or specialties as being more valuable to their careers.”

Additional notable findings in “Decoding the Decline” include:

  • The costs associated either with obtaining the additional credit hours to meet the educational/licensing requirements or preparing for and taking the CPA exam were not the top barriers cited by any respondent category.
  • The likelihood of becoming a CPA drops dramatically after age 22.
  • Many respondents do not have an interest in pursuing a credential at all.
  • Accounting, auditing, and tax preparation are the words most associated with the CPA credential, further narrowing the credential’s scope and attractiveness.

“As the survey findings shared in ‘Decoding the Decline’ show, reversing the CPA credential’s downtrend will not be without its challenges,” Shapiro cautions. “The CPA credential and the CPA profession are in a race for relevance, and the time to act is now.”

Decoding the Decline” is available now in PDF and digital formats at www.icpas.org/cpapipeline, and print editions are available upon request. Both Natale and Shapiro welcome reader feedback and are available for further commentary on the factors impacting the CPA pipeline.

  • There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.
  • Beverly Sils

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

Are You A Firm Administrator? Are You Wondering What A Firm Administrator Does?

“Focus on being productive instead of busy.” – Tim Ferriss

Today, I want to remind you about a one-hour session I am doing tomorrow for the newly formed Missouri Chapter of CPAFMA and the Missouri Society of CPAs.

Are you new to the role of firm administrator? Are you an experienced administrative professional but have never worked in the CPA profession? Are you thinking about hiring a firm administrator? Do you wonder what value a firm administrator can bring to your firm?

Join me and your peers tomorrow. More information here.

  • Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.
  • Leo Babauta

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

Topgrading

“If we weren’t still hiring great people and pushing ahead at full speed, it would be easy to fall behind and become some mediocre company.” – Bill Gates

Have you heard of topgrading interviewing? It is something I was not aware of until I read a recent article by Suzanne Lucas (@RealEvilHRLady).

Per Lucas:

The term topgrading comes from a 1997 article by Bradford D. Smart and his son, Geoffrey, called Topgrading the organization. Their definition is:

“Topgrading simply means proactively seeking out and employing the most talented people available, while redeploying (internally or externally) those of lesser ability or performance. More specifically, we view topgrading as employing only A players.”

Topgrading, to me, seems like something you would want to use when making lateral hires and so many firms are looking for experienced CPAs.

Read more about topgrading here in the article by Lucas. She gives us a 12-step process for hiring.

  • Hiring people is an art, not a science, and resumes can’t tell you whether someone will fit into a company’s culture.
  • Howard Schulz, Chairman & CEO of Starbucks

Friday, April 30th, 2021

Keeping Poor Performers

“Be thankful for problems. If they were less difficult, someone with less ability might have your job.” –Jim Lovell

In the not to distant future, busy season will be over and you will be contemplating the performance of your employees.

For Flashback Friday, read this brief post on why poor performers stay at CPA firms even though they are unhappy.

  • Everyone rises to their level of incompetence.
  • Dr. Lawrence Peter

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

Goals

“The only criterion for what makes a good goal is that the person working towards it must set it for themselves, voluntarily.” – Marcus Buckingham

CPA firms, usually on an annual basis, have each team member establish goals for the coming year. This happens after the annual performance feedback exercise. Many firms have now moved beyond the annual tradition and are providing feedback much more frequently: Semi-annually, quarterly or monthly. Of course, the best firms provide feedback continually and have even discontinued the annual or periodic formal feedback session.

The current workforce wants to know how they are doing much more often than periodically. It makes me think of taking small children on a drive to a family outing or to a visit with grandparents. They ask, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” about every five minutes. That is how your employees feel; they want to know.

A friend of mine has an online job. They have never met their supervisor face-to-face. There are guidelines and parameters and lots of communication with their supervisor. At the end of each day they get a report on how they did that day. Are you anywhere close to that?

Some firms continue to assign goals to individuals based on their performance. Progressive firms involve individuals in setting goals. The person drafts their own goals and the supervisor advises and approves. Be sure you encourage people to have fewer goals and shorter timeframes. Something like two goals per quarter. I have observed that if a person has six or eight annual goals most of them never get accomplished.

CPA managers and partners need to give more frequent feedback and guidance and listen to where the individual wants to go with their career. They want to know, “Am I there yet? Am I there yet?”

  • Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
  • George Bernard Shaw

Friday, March 26th, 2021

Hiring Remote Workers – Flashback Friday

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins

So many CPA firms are looking for experienced team members. This group has always been elusive and continues to be so.

My advice has always been you must grow your own. Hire them out of college (from a pool of interns you have used) and invest significantly in their training and development. As they become experienced, ask them to stretch and take on more difficult work. Don’t let your current managers cling to work.

Here’s a flashback post – Be Open-Minded About Hiring Remote Workers. It references an HBR article that you should read.

  • Every business is having to transform today, no matter the size, it’s up to us to transform to meet those expectations.
  • Barry Melancon

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

Strengths

“It’s good to strengthen weakness but better to strengthen your strengths. You hired them for their strengths. Why focus on their weaknesses?” – Dan Rockwell @LeadershipFreak

You hire them because they have an accounting degree, they received good grades and they interviewed well.

You teach and train them to perform the basic duties of an accountant working in public accounting. You provide lots of feedback on what they did wrong along the way.

Of course, they still have some areas where they need to improve. Now, it is time to downplay their weaknesses (no one is perfect) and devote time, energy, and dollars to building on their strengths.

Communication – Maybe they are a poor communicator but they can investigate and solve the most challenging tax issues. Maybe they are a great communicator but they dread having their nose to the grindstone for eight hours.

Problem-solving – Maybe they love the challenge to think outside the box and discover answers to specific challenges. Maybe, when they encounter a problem, they prefer to immediately seek the advice of their manager or other experienced person.

Some no-brainers in an accounting firm – Someone just has a knack for preparing corporate tax returns and another can quickly and accurately work their way throw a long list of individual tax returns. Someone seems simply loves working in the tax area and dreads being drafted to be on an audit team.

Discover each individual’s strengths by enlisting their help and then put people with different strengths on the same engagement team. Most engagement teams need a planner and a doer, etc.

Here’s a good article via Forbes that will help you begin focusing on each of your team members’ strengths.

  • Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.
  • Napoleon Hill