Archive for the ‘performance evaluations’ Category

Thursday, October 10th, 2019

The Person Fits The Job

“All good performance starts with clear goals.” – Ken Blanchard

It has always amazed me how some CPA firm leaders go to great lengths to avoid firing a person.

Francine, a bookkeeper, has been with the firm 15 years but she has never really embraced the technology that is currently needed for her role.

Fred, a 3-year staff person, has struggled to understand and prepare tax returns.

Bobbi, the administrative assistant focused on the tax area, performs the final processing of tax returns before they leave the firm. Her work has to be continually reviewed “just in case.”

The partners are aware of the shortcomings but rather than be completely honest with the employee, they agree that they should create a different role where Francine, Fred or Bobbi might fit.

Rather than looking at a specific, important role in the firm and finding the appropriate person to fill it, partners struggle to establish a role that a poor performing employee might be able to fill. This way they won’t have to outplace someone.

Are you really doing them a favor?

  • The highest levels of performance come to people who are centered, intuitive, creative, and reflective - people who know to see a problem as an opportunity.
  • Deepak Chopra

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

Immediate Feedback

“Make feedback normal. Not a performance review.” – Ed Batista

I have been recommending it for years. Many firms seem to have difficulty implementing it (doing what they say they will do). I’m talking about immediate feedback.

Our younger generation of workers wants immediate feedback at the push of a button. They do not want to wait for an annual performance feedback session or even a quarterly feedback session.

That’s why I loved a recent post by Ed Mendlowitz – Uberize Staff Evaluations:

Uber passengers are asked to evaluate their ride as soon as they get out of the car, and the drivers are also asked to evaluate the riders immediately. This seems like it would be a good idea for accounting firms.

Bruce Tulgan calls it “hands-on management.” Managers touch base with those they manage on a daily basis. Accounting firm managers need to improve and be more proactive with their people-management skills. Read Tulgan’s book, It’s Okay to Be the Boss.

As Mendlowitz and Tulgan (and I) suggest, keep it simple. I still hear stories of beginners preparing a tax return and hearing back from a manager or partner three (or more) weeks later that they did something wrong.

  • To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.
  • Elbert Hubbard

Monday, April 29th, 2019

Stale and Repetitive

“Repetition doesn’t create memories. New experiences do.” – Brian Chesky

A lot of accounting work is repetitive. People get bored with repetitive.

Inside firms, a lot of HR and career development programs become very repetitive. If you want to keep people engaged and positive, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your performance evaluation process stale?
  • How about the way you provide CPE (Continuing Professional Education)?
  • Is there anything unique about the employee benefits package you offer your team?
  • Do you keep some people on the same client engagements for years and years?

If you never refresh and redesign your employee feedback process, the people receiving the feedback and the people providing the feedback will both begin to dread the process.

Are you assessing the need for training and providing the same resources that you have for five or ten years? The types of training and the way it is delivered have changed drastically over the last several years. There is still time to make a change in this area this year.

I have visited several CPA firm websites where they list their complete benefits package on the website. Do you do this? Have a summary of your benefits as a hand-out for everyone interviewing with the firm. What do you offer that is unique? Flexibility is not unique any longer but it is something that you will definitely want to offer.

I have heard the arguments for years and years…. “our clients want to see the same people on their engagement EVERY year.” That is often true but it does not allow for career growth. Young accountants, in public accounting, learn by continually being assigned to more and more difficult work. Don’t let your managers cling to the more interesting assignments because they have become too comfortable. Ask your less experienced people step-up to more challenging assignments.

  • Better die than live mechanically a life that is a repetition of repetitions.
  • D. H. Lawrence

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

A Difficult Situation

“Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.” – George Carlin

Believe it or not, I have been asked by several CPA firm leaders over the years about what to do in this unsettling situation.

You have a poor performing employee. The employee is female and she needs to be fired. She is not performing well. You have even put her on a performance enhancement plan that she has failed. Then, before you decide to pull the trigger and fire her, you learn that she is pregnant.

Is it legal to fire her or do you have to wait until she returns to work after maternity leave? It’s a tricky situation and Suzanne Lucas (@RealEvilHRLady) gives us some great advice.

The bigger issue is that you procrastinated on letting her go in the first place. That is the exact issue I see most often with CPAs.

Use this informative article to help you going forward.

And, please deal with poor performance proactively. Document all performance feedback and be sure someone is not surprised when they are fired.

  • If you aren't fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm.
  • Vince Lombardi

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

Performance Agreement

“People don’t get promoted for doing their jobs really well, they get promoted by demonstrating their potential to do more.” – Tara Jaye Frank.

You know all about performance, right? In your firm, you often talk about performance feedback or pay for performance.

The meaning of performance is varied but for our purpose, we take it to mean the execution of an action, something accomplished, or the fulfillment of a claim, promise or request.

Your employees want to know what you expect of them. Young people entering the profession want to know what their career path looks like. Maybe you should be using performance agreements to clarify what is expected.

A performance agreement is a tool that establishes expectations and accountability for the execution of certain performance standards. Performance agreements must clearly state agreed-upon objectives and how these will be measured.

Learn about the benefits of performance agreements and what points they should contain here (via Mindtools)

  • A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.
  • Mahatma Gandhi.

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

You Will Be Receiving Performance Feedback. Are You Prepared?

“Don’t spew about your weaknesses. Affirm your aspirations.” – Dan Rockwell

It’s that time of year. Firm leaders are gathering and preparing feedback information to communicate to various team members.

You are a various team member. What are you thinking? How are YOU preparing?

I have conducted a huge number of performance feedback sessions during my decades in public accounting and I have always been surprised and impressed when the team member had actually taken time to prepare.

Be prepared to talk about the future and don’t dwell on the past. Be prepared to talk about all the good or even outstanding things you accomplished in recent months. Everyone has weaknesses. Acknowledge them and work on them but start a conversation about your career progress, what excites you about your role and your hopes, desires, and aspirations going forward.

  • By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
  • Benjamin Franklin

Monday, May 21st, 2018

Performance Feedback

“Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Francis of Assisi

For many firms, it is the time of year when you begin your performance feedback sessions. Hopefully, you have modified and updated your methods over the last few years. While some firms have theoretically eliminated the annual performance review, it is certainly not dead yet.

If you use the same format year after year after year, your employees and those who are giving them feedback come to dread the entire process.

Sometimes partners are expected to give feedback to 7, 8, 9 or more people. That takes a lot of time. The bigger issue is, after all the preliminary information gathering is done, how you structure the actual feedback face-to-face meeting.

One step in the right direction is to have more performance conversations throughout the year and not put so much focus on the big, annual evaluation.

Another modification is to work with your partners and managers in learning how to provide more meaningful feedback. Historically, managers have focused on past performance rather than talking about the future. Managers have also tended to focus on weaknesses rather than strengths.

Work to identify each individual’s strengths. Then, build momentum and career progression on those strengths. Develop a system of more frequent conversations and down-play the dreaded annual review.

 

  • If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.
  • Thomas Edison

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

It Is Time To Review Your Performance Review

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” – Pablo Picasso

You have probably read the articles. Many accounting firms are eliminating the annual performance review.

I think this statement can be very misleading. What they are eliminating are the annual ranking and written feedback comments.

Employees still need feedback and managers still need to give feedback. However, the widely-used formal feedback process is way too time-consuming for partners and managers and dreaded by both managers and employees.

It will soon be performance feedback time (after busy season). Revisit your process now and identify ways to transform your “performance evaluation” process into an entire “performance management” system.

Here are some ideas:

Keep It Simple, Sweetheart.

Would Your Employees Cheer If You Eliminated Formal Performance Evaluations?

It is More Than Performance Review.

  • There is always stuff to work on. You are never there.
  • Tiger Woods

Monday, February 26th, 2018

It Is More Than Performance Review

“Mistakes should be examined, learned from, and discarded; not dwelled upon and stored.” – Tim Fargo

You have read about them, the firms that have abolished the annual performance feedback session. I can understand why. In many firms, they have become a dreaded exercise, dreaded by the person being reviewed and also by the reviewer.

Something that you may have missed is that doing away with the actual face-to-face formal session does not mean you do not provide feedback. That meeting is only one part of a performance management system!

Performance feedback sets the stage for promotions and compensation adjustments, too. If you don’t have the traditional feedback system you must train your managers (and partners) to provide performance feedback on an on-going basis. If carried out properly, I think it is absolutely the best way to provide feedback – immediate and continual. It’s called managing people and CPA firms haven’t been very good at it in the past.

Here is an excellent article by Sharlyn Lauby, @HRBartender. Be sure to read item #3, about training managers!

  • Make feedback normal. Not a performance review.
  • Ed Batista

Friday, December 29th, 2017

Next Year

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.” – Robert Frost

How many times have you said those two words, “next year”?

Maybe to your kids, “You’ll be old enough to do that next year.”

Maybe to your spouse, “Honey, we’ll take that special vacation trip next year.”

Maybe to yourself, “I’m going to lose 25 pounds next year!”

How about inside your firm?

“We will work on it and become COMPLETELY paperless next year.”

“We can’t do it this year, but next year we will out-place those five clients that drive our staff nuts.”

“We promise to be more timely with our feedback process next year.”

“We will add a few more employee benefits next year.”

“We have to update our website next year.”

“We will look into all this new digital stuff like blockchain and artificial intelligence, next year.”

“I’ll pass the CPA exam next year.”

For all these “next years” relating to your firm: Monday is NEXT YEAR.

For NOW – have a happy and safe New Years’ weekend!

  • It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and the broken promises.
  • Chief Joseph