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

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.

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