We are all experiencing the highest level of complexity we have ever been faced with. Much of the complexity is driven by technology and the ongoing glut of information. The information overload creates and encourages increasing diversity of thought and opinion. Managing information in this environment is an ongoing challenge, so we tend to over-think the decisions we need to make on a routine basis. Therefore, one can really appreciate the growing need for optimal knowledge capability.
I get teased sometimes because I am not a fan of “women’s initiatives.” I always say that I AM a fan of “people initiatives” – ways to make work and life get along better. And I think the way to do this is different for different people at different times in their lives; not necessarily simply differentiated by gender. I know many people disagree with me, but I feel in small ways many well-meaning efforts to help women end up separating women into almost a different class of professional. I don’t mean you can’t highlight particular issues for women, but I think we need to be careful how we go about it. As an example, an idea I hear a lot is that we should all learn to “measure success differently.” This is usually in the context of “not everyone needs to be a partner or a CEO.” Which is fine. And completely true. Many fulfilling lives have been lived by people who were never partners or CEOs. But, when I hear this, it’s almost invariably used in relation to women. My thinking is simple – if this is good for women then it should be good for men as well. I think we all win when choices are open to those who need them and cultural norms allow for many options. (This culture bit is crucial.)
Last year, I asked a question at a conference of a professional I admire very much. This professional was describing the female CEO of a CPA firm as someone who has “lived work/life balance, raised a family, had a career and was very impressive.” That’s nice, right? Who doesn’t want to be considered very impressive? Awesome. But, the way the comment struck me was like this – “See, a woman can have it all! She did it. Isn’t it great?!” and so I asked about it. My question was – would you ever say “Joe is a great guy. He’s got three kids and a successful career. I don’t know how he does it. He’s really impressive.”? I never hear that. The response I received was thoughtful – he said statistically, the number of women in leadership roles in the CPA profession is not as high as it should be considering the number of women who enter the profession; he said citing examples is a good way to bring awareness to that issue.
I get that and appreciated his response. He made me consider my initial reaction. I couldn’t tell in the moment if I was alone on this or not. I was a little nervous about asking the question and not really paying attention to the audience reaction. But, people came up to me for next three days of the conference. They thanked me. They said I was brave. They fist-bumped me and they emailed me. Women with kids, women without kids, men with daughters, women older than me and younger me, and a couple of friends of mine who happen to be men who challenged my question. (I’m sure some women didn’t like it either, but they didn’t talk to me about it.) I was shocked. I didn’t think I was saying anything that others weren’t also thinking. It turns out that I wasn’t, but, I was the only one who said anything. I loved every conversation I had that week, especially with those who disagreed and provided other points of view. I loved the conversations because I think that’s how hard situations are figured out. Not by settling in and standing your ground no matter what, but by discussing what you think and hearing what others think. By understanding the unconscious-biases we all have and how to work through them instead of pretending they don’t exist.
Last year, during a one-week period I heard from three different young, male CPAs who were leaving three different public accounting firms because they wanted more time with their families. And just recently, the responses to a thread on vacations during busy season in the CPA Center of Excellence Open Forum makes me feel great that we are thinking and considering that there’s no single right way for everyone and that we can change how we think, or at least consider changing. Life, in every aspect is about choices. Our workplaces should make our choices about home life a little easier and the choices we make for our home lives (for women and men) should help enhance who we are in our careers.
What we say can make a difference in encouraging or discouraging someone – we should express our opinions, but we should also be open to hearing criticism. What do you think?
Change is everywhere in business today. It is rare for any business process or product to remain the same for any length of time, but this is particularly true of technology where things are always evolving at a rapid pace.
Like most companies, here at the CPA Center of Excellence we are evaluating technology, upgrading software, moving to the cloud, and trying to increase efficiency and flexibility. Not to mention hopefully saving some money along the way, too. We’re having some success, but there have also been challenges along the way.
But, as we go through these changes, whether it is something like moving to Office 365 and constantly being on the latest version of Microsoft Office products, or moving our file server to the cloud, these transitions mean things don’t work like they used to, or there is new functionality, or my screen looks totally different when I log into a program.
It’s easy to sit around and gripe about changing, but instead of grumbling, we should be looking at how these updates can make our lives easier. I want to encourage you to not get caught up in complaining about how things don’t work the old way, but look at this change as an opportunity to reevaluate processes and procedures. Maybe there are efficiencies that can be gained through the upgrade? Also, use the changes as an opportunity to help your co-workers.
As you figure out a new process, don’t hoard that information; share it with your co-workers. If everyone shares their ideas of how to use the new technologies in new ways, it will make the change a lot less painful, and in the end, it could actually help make you a stronger team.
What opportunities and challenges have you encountered with regard to changes at your company, specifically with technology? Do you have a culture that embraces change, or have you had to work at it? Have there been programs put in place for training and education?
Share some of your experiences and best practices for change, technology or otherwise, and how that change made your organization more effective and efficient. Have these changes helped you better respond to your clients or employers needs? Have they helped with staff morale and productivity?
But remember, don’t get too comfortable with the most recent changes, because more changes are sure to be on the way!
We’ve been hearing and talking about the millennials a lot, but what does it all mean? To the profession, to your business, to you?
The millennial generation, over 75 million strong, is transforming the workforce and the workplace. Already they make up more than one third of the workforce in the United States, and that number is growing every year.
A post by Justin Hayes on our other blog site, The Smoke Detector, examined what not to say to millennials. Things like “be patient,” “you’re not ready,” “that’s not how it was” and “you’re not working if you’re not here (in the office)” are all things that we have heard before or maybe even said ourselves. But they are not things that resonate with millennials.
I’m a lot older than Justin, but I thought his observations were right on target. Continue saying those things to millennials, and risk losing them. You might lose them to a competitor. We might lose them to another association. Or we all might lose them to another profession.
Millennials want change. I’ve seen it and I’m sure you have too. They want things like flexibility, recognition, inclusion and innovation. An article in Fortune magazine stated “certainly, it’s better to directly address the needs and understand the characteristics of the millennial generation than to pretend they don’t exist.” Are employers doing that?
Though there are stereotypes surrounding millennials, many if not most are either untrue or misunderstood. And in the end, the changes that result in responding to their needs can benefit all. The Forbes article concludes, “in focusing on the needs of the next generation, these companies are creating a better place to work for everyone.”
Alternative credentialing such as digital badges and verified certificates is one area where we can make an impression on millennials. You (as CPAs) by understanding them and accepting their value, and we (as a CPA-supporting organization) by offering them.
Millennials are receiving alternative credentials at colleges and universities across the nation, according to findings from a recent study by the University Professional and Continuing Education Association. Then they expect them post-graduation as well. One of the experts who conducted the survey said “what was previously thought as cutting edge is now becoming mainstream and is transforming the paths that learners take to success.”
More than 20 percent of U.S. colleges and universities are currently offering digital badges, and the state of Indiana is well represented by IU, Purdue and Notre Dame. After graduation, millennials will look to their profession and their association for their professional development needs. And their alternative credentialing preferences.
Like the changes in workplace culture and environments, other generations are likely to adapt to and appreciate alternative credentials. Let’s be a part of that change in ongoing professional development and lifelong learning.
Resolve to be a lifelong learner
Books are my great love, and my great compulsion. I browse bookstores and libraries to relax, clinging to the little shots of adrenaline I get discovering new stories and new ideas from the thoughtfully crafted end caps and table displays. Each new volume represents hope – optimism – unlimited possibility – delivered by new ideas from the words on the page.
Discovering new ideas brings depth and meaning to my life. This passion for learning has also been a great benefit to me professionally – and this is what we hope you get from our resolution blog series: 10 ideas or goals for the new year to bolster your career.
Luckily, I win. Everything we’ve written about this week can be tied to the resolution I chose to write about: Never Stop Learning.
No matter what you choose to focus on this year, the act of career improvement is lifelong learning. Changing your organization’s annual performance review policy requires you to learn. Improving your leadership, decision-making, communication and other non-technical skills is a form of learning that also requires you to think differently and be willing to put yourself in uncomfortable situations. To make this type of learning happen, you must plan for it. To improve your interactions with other generations you must learn about them. Being open to a new method of working, like collaboration, allows you to learn from others. Lastly, innovation takes everything you’ve learned and feeds it into the basis of new ideas.
If you sincerely commit (or recommit) yourself to lifelong learning, there are no losses. No matter what you do, from first year public accounting to acting CFO of an international company, learning goes with you, it grows with you, and it will always give you an advantage — especially in today’s increasingly complex and global environment.
In a knowledge economy, your competitive edge comes from what you know or your ability and willingness to learn.
Now, I realize that some of you may be thinking, yea no kidding. It’s not a revelation that you must learn and adapt to be successful. Yet, this doesn’t mean we do our best — willingly or less so — to make time for deep learning. Day-to-day tasks, urgencies, emails, meetings and everything else involved with actually doing the work required for your career often pushes active learning aside. Truly becoming a lifelong learner requires incorporating the act of learning into your routines, your daily schedule, your calendar and your priorities. But often we don’t take the action to plan learning, as most of us operate under some modicum of curiosity and assume absorbing the knowledge we need is something that will just happen.
To truly be competitive in this knowledge economy, we must take an active, not passive, role in our own learning and develop a practice of learning.
That is my challenge to you this year – if you do nothing else, take an active role in your own learning, no matter what it is you need to know. And please forgive me for ending on an overused quote, because there is no better way to say it: knowledge is power.
If you need me, I’ll be over here, with the pile of books made from real paper.
Jess Halverson Bowyer is the strategist at the CPA Center of Excellence® and has worked for the Indiana CPA Society for six years. With a background in communications, design and visual thinking as well as a passion for learning, she has a hand in all things CPA Center of Excellence®, from strategic planning to learning design to hosting presentations and webinars.
Relish change and embrace the opportunity
I am sure that many, or most of you reading this, have heard the famous Jack Welch quote “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” Well, that isn’t the exact quote. Actually, the concept was published in the GE’s Annual Report 2000 in the section on “Relishing Change.”
“We’ve long believed that when the rate of change inside an institution becomes slower than the rate of change outside, the end is in sight. The only question is when.”
Change is difficult. Change is frequently a source of significant discomfort. Change is complex. And today, the rate of change — the velocity of change — is accelerating. Much of the increasing velocity of change is attributed to technology. But there are other factors. Increased entrepreneurship is driving change. Ever evolving demographics drives change. And geopolitical influences on our global economy certainly drives change.
All of these influences on change (and more) are driving a mandate. We must learn to embrace change. Or, as the GE annual report said in 2000, we must relish change. We need to encourage our colleagues to view change as opportunity. There’s really no alternative. Change must be embedded in our cultures. Change needs to be positioned as the energy to create the new.
When you, your organization and /or everyone within your organization gets over the feelings that fuel the discomfort of change, you can move on to framing change as a primary source of innovation.
Innovation is probably the primary driver of growth in our businesses today. The engine driving positive economic improvement. Innovation = future success.
But, innovation is scary too! What? You expect me to innovate? I don’t know HOW!
Innovation should NOT be unsettling to you or your colleagues. Wikipedia defines innovation as a “new idea, device, or method.” Sure, there is a little more to the definition. Solutions that meet new requirements, more effective processes or something that breaks into a new market. In 2016 the Indiana CPA Society (INCPAS) Board of Directors established an innovation task force and they elected to use a definition of innovation crafted by Dan McClure: “Any practice that leverages creative invention to respond to an important challenge.” There are others. Pick one that fits you best and embrace it!
Innovation is process improvement. It might be a series of little things (marginal gains) that eventually make a big difference. Everyone in your organization can and should be challenged to find one or two little things that could be improved. Everyone should embrace the opportunity!
You will hear more in the near and long-term future from the CPA Center of Excellence®, powered by INCPAS, about innovation. We hope to hear from you as well. As we embrace change and implement thoughtful and purposeful innovation, we can all help to ensure a valuable and relevant future for the CPA profession. Let us know how you are innovating in your career.
Gary Bolinger, CAE, is president & CEO of the Indiana CPA Society, a position he has held since 1991. He has spent the last 32 years of his career at INCPAS, beginning in 1984 with the role of field activities director. Bolinger has served in numerous volunteer and presenter capacities in both the CPA and association professions nationally and in Indiana. He was named as one the most influential people in accounting by Accounting Today for each of the last two years. Bolinger is a regular blogger for the Society.
Consider the context and create great teams
I recently heard that Millennials do not like being referred to as Millennials, and who can blame them. Often, something unflattering follows the term. Even the mere word evokes knowing head nods from a room full of Baby Boomers.
As a college professor, I interact with Millennials on a daily basis. Millennials are the largest generation in U.S. history. They’re the fastest growing generation in the workforce. And by 2017, they are predicted to outspend Baby Boomers.
We can’t neatly put each generation into a stereotype box, but we can use these broad strokes of information as clues to how we can best communicate with one another. Understanding why the members of the “other” generation are the way they are and how to bridge our generational gap is extremely important. Understanding how to effectively communicate among generations is important for everyone, as we interact with each other on a daily, continual basis.
I was interested to read a blog post in the Huffington Post about Millennials. The author attended a conference on Millennials where the CEO of The Center for Generational Kinetics, Jason Dorsey, was one of the speakers. The top five interesting perspectives and opinions the author noted in a humorous way are:
- Eye contact is an increasingly unnatural behavior for Millennials.
- Emails are OK. Just don’t expect them to read more than the subject line.
- Phone calls are often seen as an invasion of privacy, so don’t call them unless your name is Mom. (And even if it is, they will still forward you to voicemail — which they never check.)
- They will not read blocks of text. Save the effort.
- They are visual thinkers and learners. Do not try to educate them or sell them something using a long, linear approach.
I have learned from my own experience that most of these examples ring true. According to Curt Steinhorst, the preferred methods of communication for millennials Millennials are text, email, and social media. Think about the technology this generation is immersed in every day and how it shapes their context. Thinking about the popularity of YouTube makes you realize how the internet has shaped this generation into visual thinkers and learners.
Inc. recently listed nine tips for communicating with Millennials which not surprisingly, corresponds with the perspectives listed above.
- Keep it brief, but meaningful
- At the same time, provide detail
- Choose the best medium for communication
- Understand the 24/7 communication cycle
- Communicate the path to career growth
- Don’t condescend or make jokes about age
- Demonstrate fairness in the workplace
- Commit to a social bottom line
- Nurture their passion
Twitter has helped Millennials convey their thoughts in 140 characters or less. They appreciate brevity. At the same time, they are outcome driven and want to know what the end result should be and what they need to do to achieve it. Just be concise!
One of the largest generation gaps is in the workplace concerns how we work. Baby Boomers measure work ethic by hours in the office, where they are seen. Millennials exist in a world where communication is available 24/7 and productivity can occur outside the office walls. That same technology has broken down hierarchy for this generation. They can communicate via social media with celebrities, politicians, and even the president. They see no issue in approaching the CEO with their ideas and opinions. Millennials want to be taken seriously, and sometimes believe they should be promoted within two years. It’s important to let Millennials know how they are doing and what their career path looks like. Finally, Millennials are passionate. Communicating how they can meaningfully contribute to a greater good is very important to them.
Great teams can be formulated from the experience of the Baby Boomers and the enthusiasm of Millennials. Understanding where each generation comes from will help us better communicate and foster wonderful multigenerational relationships.
If you are a Gen X’er or Baby Boomer, what key strategies do you have for effectively communicating with Millennials?
If you are a Millennial, help us be better communicators. What do want us to know about communicating with you?
Make this the year you start to bridge those generation gaps. You may be surprised by the results.
Lisa Brown, CPA, CGMA, is an assistant professor, accounting & finance, at Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne. Among the topics she teaches are accounting principles, corporate taxation and corporate finance. Brown previously worked in public accounting for Balestra, Harr, Scherer, CPAs in Ohio and in industry for an Ohio school district and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. She is a campus presenter for the Indiana CPA Society and a member of the Fusion Network, a group of Indiana CPA Society member CPAs who blog on trends, new ideas and innovation in the CPA profession.
End the dreaded annual performance appraisal
Every year managers are required to provide an overview of staff performance. Each staff member’s performance is rigorously analyzed and, in many cases, an individual’s yearlong efforts are reduced to a series of numbers representing output. It is estimated that the cost for each appraisal, on average, equates to four to 10 hours of time per employee, depending on the type of analysis used. You are spending approximately $120-$400 per employee in salary-based cost.
Have you ever stopped to consider why you make your staff go through this annual performance appraisals process – one that originates from World War I “merit rating” systems developed by the U.S. Army? Created to identify and dismiss poor performers, about 60% of U.S. companies adopted this system after World War II, with 90% of companies adhering by the 1960s, according to Harvard Business Review.
Now, consider some of the challenges with the annual performance appraisal process.
- Annual appraisals do not fit with the nature of today’s business environment. The environment is constantly changing, requiring adjustments across the year. So, why do people set rigid 12-month performance targets?
- Performance appraisals tend to drive competition at the cost of collaboration.
- Performance is a result of behaviors, processes and structures within the organization. People don’t intentionally set out to deliver a poor performance, therefore, when an employee is falling short, in terms of performance expectation, why do appraisals only focus on the individual performance? What about the processes and structures (the management) that contribute to the performance?
- The recall of performance is impacted by primacy (performance that happened early in the year) and recent (performance that happened close to the appraisal process), while much of what happened in the middle of the year is forgotten.
- Managers and reports can suffer from a number of unconscious biases, such as: availability cascade, the bandwagon effect, bias blind spot, choice-supportive bias, conservatism, fundamental attribution error, courtesy bias, the Dunning-Kruger effect, focusing effect, illusionary correlation, negativity bias, optimism bias, and that is just the start. So, why do organizations tend to place so much stock in the opinion of one person, the line manager?
- The process is often opaque and alienates employees, increasing the risk of talent loss.
- Annual appraisals can cause tension between a line manager and his or her direct report.
- If you are interested in the acquiring and retaining the best talent, shouldn’t you be more interested in developing people, as opposed to ranking them?
All this considered, why do you persist with annual performance appraisals? Why persist with a highly subjective, judgment-driven process that costs, on average $1,200-$4,000 per group of 10 employees; to say nothing of productivity loss due to tensions created between line manager and direct reports?
Instead, decide to forgo annual performance appraisals for ongoing performance conversations. Engage and involve your employees in the design of this new performance feedback processes. Just imagine what you might create.
This is my challenge to you this year: Stop Conforming. Challenge your traditional beliefs and become a talent leader. You are competing in a talent-led knowledge economy, where talent is the currency of longevity. To acquire and retain the best people, you need leading-edge talent management processes.
David Griffiths, Ph.D. is the award winning managing director of K3-Cubed Limited, a consulting, advising and training company that specializes in organizational development, knowledge management, and strategic and change management. Griffiths has been an advisor to the Indiana CPA Society since 2012 and was the driving force behind the creation of the CPA Center of Excellence®. Griffiths is an internationally recognized author, blogger, learning design advisor and thought leader.
Do you want to know how you’re doing? Find out with this online self-assessment tool designed specifically for CPAs and related professionals.
A few highlights:
- Revamping the online interactive courses
- Developing partnerships with other states
- Launching the Insight Toolkit for HR & Career Development
- Starting the change process to get competency-based CPE on the books with an Ethics rule requirement to allow for competency-based learning
- Getting the pilot waiver for our online interactive courses extended through the end of 2017
- Meeting and working alongside so many dedicated CPAs who are passionate about changing the profession
- Representing the CPA Center of Excellence® at 20+ events this year
- Our book made Accounting Today’s summer reading list (and here’s all the love from Accounting Today)
- Getting more accounting students involved
- Watching our members in their own journeys towards developing experiential learning