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Technology and Talent: Are You a Future-Ready Firm?

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It is no secret talent continues to keep the management of mid sized firms up at night. Millennials and their successors, Generation Z, are dramatically changing workplace culture, workflow and communications. Those firms who are not keeping up with the rapid pace of change will simply lose out on the best and brightest. Firms of all sizes are recognizing the significant benefits of starting to think with their “heads in the cloud.” Perhaps the biggest realization firms need to have is that your clients are already on the cloud … they are just not using it for their accounting needs.

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  • "Work is no longer a place you go. It’s what you do, who you are, and a lifestyle. Yet, many “old‑school” firms recruit like a big downtown office is a perk instead of promoting the latest remote work-enabled technology."
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Technology and Talent: Are You a Future-Ready Firm?

  1. 1. Tax & Accounting US Technology and Talent: Are You a Future-Ready Firm? by Jody Padar and Liz Gold When you have to be right
  2. 2. 2 Technology and Talent: Are You a Future-Ready Firm? How do we help talent working in an “old school” firm speak up and ask for what they want and participate in decisions regarding workflow, project management and client relationships? What’s a managing partner in today’s day and age to do? Firm owners who find themselves in this vulnerable position need to first rebuild their infrastructures. It starts at the top, and there’s a lot that can be done without spending a lot of money. In the initial stages consider: • Conducting an employee‑wide survey distributed by the managing partner or CEO that is only open to managers and below. In this survey, ask questions directly related to their day‑to‑day lives, including feedback on their supervision, schedule, workload and tax season perks. Take the survey seriously and be upfront about what you plan to do with the results to illustrate your accountability. • Create a culture committee that includes participants from all levels of the firm — this means everyone from those on the executive committee to administrative assistants. Co‑chairs should not just be partners; employees who demonstrate interest and leadership should be considered. Work is no longer a place you go. It’s what you do, who you are, and a lifestyle. Yet, many “old‑school” firms recruit like a big downtown office is a perk instead of promoting the latest remote work-enabled technology. An office is no longer a carrot that gets someone in the door — especially in today’s workplace where group collaboration rules. From the perspective of a “Radical CPA”, flexibility, technology and culture are far more important than a “beautiful downtown office.” Though the gap is widening in our favor, we’re bewildered to see firms are still using traditional strategies for recruiting and retaining talent. The world is changing and with that, every firm tactic, strategy and value should be evaluated to not only make sure it’s still relevant but to demonstrate your firm’s commitment to innovation. How do we help “old school” firm owners understand that work happens, everywhere, anytime, and all the time — not just when you are sitting in the downtown office on a Saturday during tax season? How do we help “old school” firm owners grasp that just because work can happen everywhere and you provide your employees with smartphones, that does not mean your talent is available 24/7 — or on your every whim. They’re not! It is no secret talent continues to keep the management of mid‑sized firms up at night. Millennials and their successors, Generation Z, are dramatically changing workplace culture, workflow and communications. Those firms who are not keeping up with the rapid pace of change will simply lose out on the best and brightest. It’s not a threat, it’s happening.
  3. 3. 3Technology and Talent: Are You a Future-Ready Firm? • Communicate directly. Don’t rely on your management to speak for your employees, especially if they are their supervisor. If you are concerned an employee is thinking about leaving talk to the individual. Conduct a “stay interview” during the year to ask employees what it would take for them to stay at the firm — even if they appear happy. Exit interviews are pointless and by then it’s too late. • Be flexible. Just because you “grew up” in a firm where you had to work 12‑hour days plus Saturdays during tax season doesn’t mean your younger counterparts will. While work needs to get done, give your employees the flexibility to create their own schedules. Better technology has given us the opportunity to make working remotely the norm. Firms that are not set up this way risk losing out on top talent who are non‑negotiable in their desire to work their way. • Focus on results. In this new emerging collaborative, productivity‑driven work environment, results matter more than actual hours worked. For the CPAs still bent on selling time and live by timesheets this causes quite a conundrum. People work differently, and it’s proven that if you give your employees the leeway to do work their way, they will be even more effective and productive for you in return. Better productivity equals happier clients and increased profits. Who can complain about that? And remember, it’s not just the next generation that wants flexibility. So many boomers want to be able to work from their second homes or while they are traveling. They actually have the money to truly create “lifestyle” jobs. Retirees want back into firms by way of consulting and part‑time work. They hold a lot of knowledge; will you expect them to fit into a rigid work schedule? Tackling the Talent Issue The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants 2015 CPA Firm Top Issues Survey revealed finding and retaining qualified staff rose to the top spot on four out of five segment lists of top concerns for those firms on the Top 100. Professional turnover is at its highest level in over 10 years at 17.1 percent from 15 percent last year according to the Rosenberg MAP Survey (2015‑2016). But the advice to counter this is always the same: if you stay up to date with the latest and greatest tools and efficiencies you will attract the best. In order to do that, technology needs to merge with process and culture for your firm to truly transform and be ready for the new workforce. By 2025, millennials will account for 75 percent of the global workplace, according to Forbes. As digital natives, this population is breaking up complacency, bringing new technology tools, along with an increase in expectations in having more control regarding how and when they work. What we have found is inserting new technology into an old process and communication interactions DOESN’T work. It’s a starting point, but for a true cultural transformation, technology is just one piece. New ways of accountability and results‑driven management will need to be explored regardless if you keep or get rid of your timesheets. Liz Gold Owner Rhino Girl Media RhinoGirlMedia.com Jody L. Padar, CPA, MST CEO & Principal New Vision CPA Group TheRadicalCPA.com
  4. 4. 4 Technology and Talent: Are You a Future-Ready Firm? especially to a population who is always holding a device in their hand. Face it: mobile, cloud and social technologies are not going away. They are only accelerating, and the struggle for many CPAs is just keeping up. Don’t be left behind. Embrace technology, not just so you are an up‑to‑speed resource for your clients, but because the success of your employees and firm depends on it. In the millennial world, tech innovation, rapid response and hard skills reign, according to a 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce Study commissioned by Elance-oDesk and Millennial Branding.2 Meanwhile, a Millennial Workplace Trends Survey by IdeaPaint revealed 45 percent of 600 employed Millennial respondents said the lack or misuse of technology was to blame for hindering their company’s innovation, while 38 percent felt that outdated collaboration processes just slowed everyone down. Remember this: emerging leaders think and use technology easily. According to the CCH® Leaders Now and Next Survey3 , emerging leaders are defined as having fewer than 10 years of experience. They are individuals whose aspiration is to have a leadership or senior management role within a firm or to start their own firm. They also are more likely to be female and more racially diverse, according to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits. Most CPAs already realize the significant role technology plays in serving existing clients and reaching out to prospects, but are not as aware in making the connection between how technology can attract and retain emerging leaders. However, firms should take note: these emerging leaders are making the connection. In fact, 82 percent of these individuals said technology plays an New expectations and direction will need to be examined as review notes and hours billed become lagging indicators that don’t mesh with today’s customer facing cloud software. But here’s the good news: according to JB Training Solutions, 41 percent of Generation Z said a mid‑sized company is their ideal work environment. However, instead of cubicles and individual offices, collaborative, team‑oriented workspaces rule, encouraging mobility and a more efficient exchange of ideas.1 Are you set up to support this new generation of workers? Nobody, no matter how much you pay them, no matter how many sugary snacks you put out at tax time, no matter if you do their laundry or not, wants to be handcuffed to their desk all the time. It may be tax season, you may have piles of returns to do, but the fact of the matter is, that era and way of working is over. Let’s Get Technical First things first, take a look at the technology you are using. Can you improve it? Does every employee have a laptop? Are you set up for allowing your staff to work remotely? Is your software in the cloud or are you still tied to your desktop? How are you monitoring tasks and projects? Are you using workflow software? Here’s the thing: You can either be a dinosaur or learn the new ways of the younger generations. It can be scary, yes. But it’s not impossible. And luckily, there are more tools than ever at our fingertips that can enhance not only how we run our firms from the inside, but how we’re perceived on the outside. Recruiting strategy, anyone? For instance, when you are at college recruiting events do you have brochures on your table or an iPad® with your website as its home page? Just that little detail can go a long way to demonstrating your tech savviness — 1 JB Training Solutions, http://jbtrainingsolutions.com/resource/the-next-generation-is-here/ 2 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce Study, http://www.slideshare.net/oDesk/2015-millennial-majority-workforce 3 CCH Leaders Now and Next Survey, http://CCHGroup.com/Leaders
  5. 5. The Benefits of the Cloud Firms of all sizes are recognizing the significant benefits of starting to think with their “heads in the cloud.” Perhaps the biggest realization firms need to have is that your clients are already on the cloud … they are just not using it for their accounting needs. But what will the cloud do for you? • You and your employees can work from anywhere and you can serve clients in any geographic location. • Your paperless efforts will be a lot easier. • You’ll have a farther reach for recruiting talent. • You’ll rethink workflow to your benefit. • If you’re a new firm, its subscription- based model without a large upfront cost makes it affordable. • Your communication will be different (and better!). • Your security and backup procedures will be improved. 5Technology and Talent: Are You a Future-Ready Firm? next three years non‑CPA and administrative staff to perform routine tasks, freeing up professional staff for more value‑added services. Many technologies considered emerging — like cloud and mobile solutions — are quickly becoming mainstream. A firm’s inability to keep pace further jeopardizes future growth opportunities — and that includes attracting and retaining talent. Real Tech Talk Enhancing your technology will prepare you for the future. It sounds simplistic, but it’s not. Forty‑seven percent of all existing occupations are at risk of becoming redundant by 2020. This means all your data entry will become obsolete due to robotics. This means your employees need to know how to provide a deeper range of value — by means of insight, wisdom, technical knowledge and guidance. For radical firms, technology is a core component of the work we do. We don’t see it as an overhead item; it is part of the cost of goods sold. This is the shift we believe traditional firms must embrace to stay relevant today. So when “old school” firms balk at the cost of cloud technology, they forget about the price. It is truly priceless if you embrace the transformational change that comes with it. But if you insert new tech on old school process all you are going to get is expensive technology. The true value of software comes with redefining and retooling all your processes to allow for a more results-driven environment with inherent transparency and collaboration for all involved. Also, tech can replace labor? Absolutely. The more efficient the technology becomes the less need for labor. The technology can actually replace positions so if there is a talent shortage, automation may be considered an alternative workforce. The best part about the technology is you don’t have to listen to them tell you about their events of the prior evening! There’s a lot less drama. Even if it doesn’t completely replace the labor, it allows for easy outsourcing. important role in a firm’s ability to attract and retain emerging leaders. This compares to just 58 percent of existing senior firm leaders, according to the CCH Leaders Now and Next Survey. Among the leading ways firms are enabling their work environments or plan to within the next three years is through deploying new technologies to improve workflow (85 percent). In addition to a greater reliance on technology, the CCH Leaders Now and Next Survey found most firms (75 percent) also report they are using or plan to use in the
  6. 6. 6 Technology and Talent: Are You a Future-Ready Firm? In addition, when you work in the cloud, the world becomes your recruiting grounds, and with it comes a whole new opportunity for labor costs. For instance, a New York firm can hire a remote Midwest worker for two‑thirds of the cost. Gone are the traditional ways of recruiting at college fairs. Speaking of traditional, the hierarchical supervisory structures of days past are becoming just that — history. Collaboration is the name of the game. The new model of management, according to Sandra Wiley, shareholder of Boomer Consulting, is circular — it’s little groups of people who self‑manage. How do you best do that, especially if your team is in different geographical locations? Technology! The talent coming in doesn’t just think it’s cool if you can offer it, they expect it as part of their work culture. If you can’t offer the ability to work from wherever with instant access, they will think you are behind. Period! The bottom line is it doesn’t matter what technology tool you use; the name of the game is collaboration and transparency. For firms that are seeing themselves getting left behind or losing their talent to competitors or private industry, the first step is recognizing the need for change and managing their practice differently. It’s not easy, but it doesn’t need to be so hard. Look around and reach out for help. We’re here. 1/16 2015‑0429‑1 When you have to be right For More Information CCHGroup.com/Axcess 800-739-9998 © 2016 CCH Incorporated and its affiliates. All rights reserved.

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