• Career Center

    Being a Great Place to Work During Busy Season Means More Than a Free Slice of Pizza

    By | January 9, 2017

    Back when I was a tax associate, my colleagues and I would watch the Hoops and Yoyo “It’s Sarcastic Wednesday.” The part that cracked me up the most was when they say, “I’ll do large amounts of free work for a slice of pepperoni!” But why is it so funny (but not really funny at the same time)?

    One of the parts of busy season that seriously amused me was the amount of time, energy, and devotion spent on the food menu for everyday during busy season. It felt like the entire staff’s motivation hinged on whether we were receiving tacos or pizza for dinner.

    It boils down to a discussion of motivation and what makes millennials stay at a company. Is it the chicken tacos or a slice of pepperoni? I think not. Now, I’m not saying stop buying dinners during busy season. Let’s not get crazy now. Food during busy season is a necessity.

    But what I am saying is that millennials want so much more than nightly meals. Firms cannot keep doing SALY and expect to retain their best employees and have a dynamic and innovative firm culture.

    In lies the age old question, what do millennials (and really all employees) want during and after busy season? Here are just a few ideas.

    • Opportunity for personalized advancement. A recent Gallup study has shown that “millennials are the most willing to act on better opportunities: 36% report that they will look for a job with a different organization in the next 12 months.” The whole concept of work in public accounting is antiquated: work 3 years get promoted to senior, work 3 years get promoted to manager, work 3 years get promoted to senior manager. Millennials get impatient. There has to be an actual difference in compensation and promotion timeline for top performers compared to average performers, otherwise, what's the motivation? An extra slice of pizza coupled with more stress?
    • Mentorship and coaching. Millennials crave personalized leadership development. We love to know how we are doing in our work and how we can improve to get the results that we want. That means not waiting until they reach Senior Manager to start teaching networking, dynamic communication, and business development skills. That also means not waiting until Senior Manager to learn what really makes you unique, your strengths, and how to step outside of your comfort zone to grow. PwC recognizes this and has created an entire Leadership Coaching Center of Excellence focused on developing their employees through coaching. Coaching is a powerful experience that can take you from a good to a great leader and from an OK job to an amazing career. 
    • Understanding the firm’s purpose. Bonus added if the firm clearly articulates how each employee fits in with that purpose. Employees no longer want to go to work, sit there for 8, 10, 12 hours, and go home. What’s the point? Why am I working so hard? The whole concept of automatic employer loyalty is gone. Firms must do a great job differentiating from the competition, showing why their purpose is so meaningful, and getting their employees involved in fulfilling that purpose. If not, employees will leave and they do often if this isn’t done well. KPMG attempted this with their Higher Purpose Initiative. “KPMG’s research revealed that employees whose leaders talked about purpose scored significantly higher on retention, brand, and purpose-related items than those whose leaders did not.” The results show that while the campaign was not perfect, the increase in employee satisfaction was impressive.

    At the end of the day, firms that reduce stress and negativity and increase purpose and creativity will create a more positive result. Stress breeds more stress and innovation breeds more innovation. So maybe spend less time on ordering that pepperoni pizza and more time on inspiring and supporting your employees.

    • Big4Veteran

      I feel like corporate America created the Millennial generation. Millennials see how corporate America treated their parents, which has informed their view of the modern work world. For many, many years, companies took care of their employees by providing job security, a fair wage, benefits, pensions, etc. But in recent decades, corporate America has decided that employees are just “the help” and treat them as such. Wages are stagnant, the benefits keep getting worse, companies demand more and more, and they will terminate you at their convenience.

      One political party in this country believes that unregulated capitalism is the key to our economic and societal success. This political party appeared to have won the argument over the last couple of decades, but perhaps not in the long-run. The Millennial generation is the first to have wised up and begun to fight back against an equation that used to be relatively in balance.

      P.S. Good article by Rachel. I gave her shit for some of her previous lousy articles. So I think its only fair to give her kudos when she gets one right.

      • herman

        I tend to agree with the overall post, but the “many, many years, companies took care of their employees by providing job security, a fair wage, benefits, pensions, etc.” was at best from the 1950s to the 1980s.

        • Big4Veteran

          Ok. 30 to 40 years. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on what comprises “many, many years” in our modern economy.

    • Guest99

      This nonsense only exemplifies the bratty, self serving attitudes pervasive throughout the working world today. Instead of learning to adapt, the writer expects everything else to change to fit her own whims.

      Here is your purpose. It’s simple: the purpose of an accounting firm is to exchange accounting services to other companies and individuals for money. The purpose of you as an employee is to exchange accounting services to the firm for money. If your job wasn’t important, the firm wouldn’t hire and pay you thousands of dollars. It doesn’t matter if you are the director or janitor. But no, you won’t feel special. Sorry to break it to you, but you won’t find any magic in this. Nothing about this is designed to make anybody feel special.

      Yes, the public accounting industry requires long hours during busy seasons. There is also pressure to move up or out. Yes, it is hard. The trade off for this is much higher compensation than the average, and a well defined promotion route. I can’t think of any other industry that offers a promotion track like this. You have a much greater chance to reach the top 2% of earners in a relatively short period of time in this industry. Even when starting out from an entry level position. Not many industries can provide that. I’m not saying every person will achieve this – some won’t. Instead of recognizing this as an asset and opportunity, inexperience and immaturity force the writer to view these things as negatives.

      Is higher compensation and job advancement not your thing? That’s fine. That means it’s time to move on to something else. But don’t run around demanding that an entire industry changes to fit with your own personal ideals. You should have done some research to determine if you are a good fit for the industry.

      • Smack That

        Is the average attrition rate any higher than it was in previous generations? I honestly don’t know the statistics, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s relatively unchanged over the last 50 years, at least. If so, then is this all just a bunch of get-off-my-lawn grumpy fuck old accountants just bitching about the next generation of whippersnappers? Maybe, maybe not.

        • Big4Veteran

          Attrition in public accounting is a good thing. It always has been. In an environment where everyone steps up one rung on the ladder every year, there has to be high attrition. The business model wouldn’t work otherwise.

          I see a bigger impact of the Millennials in private industry. In private, you want employees to stay a long time. Turnover is costly and inefficient. So I’m seeing a huge challenge in trying to (1) figure out what these kids want and (2) trying to find a way to give it to them while still making sure all the work gets done with high quality and on schedule. It’s getting harder and harder. “Kids these days” don’t give a shit about the company, and are unwilling to lift a finger unless they see it as benefiting themselves.

      • Big4Veteran

        1. Everything you said above is true.

        2. It doesn’t matter. The firms who adjust to the new reality will be the ones that survive. The firms that don’t adjust will struggle and possibly perish.

      • Randy Culpepper

        “The trade off for this is much higher compensation than the average”…ummm, are you sure about that?

        I work in industry, and not only do I earn more than my public accounting counterparts (locally, at least). I also work fewer hours and don’t have anyone micromanaging whether or not I wear crew or v-neck undershirts.

        • Guest99

          Yes, I am sure that public accounting offers much higher compensation than average.

          Private industry is great too, however the trade off for that is lower maximum earning potential for most and job security isn’t quite as good.