The Importance of Committing to a Thorough Interviewing / Hiring Process by Guest Blogger Bryan Edwards, MSA, CPA

Sometimes you reap what you sow…………………..

Have you had too many employee challenges and too much turnover?  It’s easy to bemoan not finding “the right” candidates/employees in a tight labor market.  One path to better results is to analyze your hiring process.

Being both a CPA and recruiter, I have the opportunity to see many organizations’ hiring processes.  If you are looking to improve your hiring and retention results, consider these questions:

  • Am I realistic in assessing the current labor market?  A strong economy, many baby boomers retiring and the 150 hour CPA requirement all contribute to fewer candidates in the market.  Be careful waiting to interview too many candidates only to lose your top candidate due to delays.  When you see somebody you like, you have to move quickly in a competitive market; otherwise somebody else will.  Also, researching the appropriate salary range for a particular skill set and experience level are key.
  • Is it appropriate to delegate the screening process? You, as the hiring manager, know what you need better than anybody else. Therefore, it makes sense to be as involved as possible in the early stages of the process.  This is an investment of time, but it is an investment that pays off.
  • What personality and working style makes sense? Beyond your company culture, specific roles require specific working styles.  Somebody who is a great Analyst, for example, usually wouldn’t be the right person for a high volume data entry role.  Consider what specific working style makes sense given the nature of the work.
  • Are we doing all we should to ensure an employee’s long-term success? Once hired, do they feel they are a part of the team?  Have they been introduced to possible mentors?  Are they being invited to participate in events?  Employees in today’s market decide quickly whether or not they consider their new positions to be a long-term fit.  Make sure you invest as much in them post hire as you did to hire them in the first place.

Assessing your hiring and onboarding process prior to a search is an investment in the beginning, but pays good returns in the end.  You are more likely to locate and secure the right fit and they are more likely to stay with your organization for a longer tenure.

Best wishes in all your hiring processes,

Bryan Edwards, MSA, CPA

Bryan R Edwards, CPA, MSA

 

Advertisements

The Call for Private Company Standards

Several years ago the call for separate private company GAAP was loud and rancorous.  The FASB was accused of too much focus on public company issues that resulted in financial statements which were complicated, or worse, meaningless to the users of private company reporting.  The roar got so loud that a blue ribbon panel was formed and recommendations were made to have a separate board for private companies much like the GASB for governmental organization.   The path was set for the FASB to be relegated to public company issues only.

Instead, the Financial Accounting Foundation (FAF) which oversees the FASB and the GASB decided to take a different route.  The Private Company Council (PCC) was formed, but instead of having standard setting authority, it could only make recommendations to the FASB, much like the EITF.  Many thought that the PCC was destined to fail because it seemed it had little more authority than a predecessor organization known as the Private Company Financial Reporting Committee (PCFRC), and the FASB had generally ignored any recommendations or suggestions from the PCFRC.  There were some critical differences including designated staff support for the PCC and a requirement that the FASB actually vote on formal PCC recommendations including an explanation of why they didn’t vote in favor of such recommendations, if the vote came to that result.  Still, it was far short of a separate standard setting board, and many thought that a FASB primarily funded by a public company levy (as the result of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act) would continue to focus on those who provided the money.

It has now been five years since the PCC was formed, and I would have to say that the PCC has been a great success.  They made a big splash addressing a handful of issues that private companies had complained about for years, but the real story of success is the day to day council the PCC is now providing to the FASB in its standard setting work.  You can see its impact on almost every new standard issued, from private company specific issues addressed in the share-based compensation standard, that went into effect this year, to the issues addressed in a consolidation standard update proposed a couple of months ago.  There is a great article on the subject that can be found here.

Maybe the FASB got religion and realized they had to change because they finally saw how serious the profession had become.  Maybe the more formal recommendation and rejection process had an impact on their thinking.  Maybe the advocates for differential standards realized that, in the end, the big issues were few in number and, once they were addressed, felt like they could live with a mostly single set of GAAP. Whatever the reasons, I’m happy we all came together as a profession to help create a better answer that works for everyone.

Thank you FAF; thank you FASB; and thank you and happy birthday PCC.


Leading the Profession

I recently had the honor of attending my first meeting as a full member of the TSCPA Executive Board.  This is the third professional association leadership team that I have had the privilege to serve on during my tenure as a CPA, and I was thoroughly impressed by what I saw.

The Executive Board:

  • Takes care of your money; they make sure your dues are being used appropriately for the right things.
  • Protects your license; they help CPAs get better, deal with the few bad apples out there and have a good relationship with the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy (which is not something that can be said about every state CPA society).
  • Plans for the future; they want the society and you to be prepared for the future and take the time to think and plan accordingly.
  • Finds ways to help you advance your career; they make sure we provide critical learning opportunities and work with the AICPA to provide tools and resources.
  • Voices your concerns and ideas to standard setting bodies and regulators though committees including the Professional Standards Committee and the Federal Tax Policy Committee.
  • Works to better serve you; every board member‘s first and last concern is your profession and how we can help you succeed, no matter how you define success.

I came away impressed by the quality of caring and of the ideas put forth by my fellow board members.  The discussion and interactions made clear that everyone takes their service on the Executive Board seriously, and that makes me proud to be a part of such a great leadership team.


Perfection, Not Here

As I look out at the world today, it seems like people are being held to a perfection standard no one can meet.  Any current or past action that doesn’t meet today’s social norm is a permanent blight on your record. The most concerning part of the underlying tone is that people can’t change.  Any mistake made is a view into their true unchanging nature and a perfect excuse to ignore or even ridicule them for the rest of time.  I don’t know what is driving this change, but it seems to be a combination of events and effects.

The explosion of social media clearly has had an impact.  People are putting their entire history and every thought on line.  You can’t get away from the permanence of the internet in the cloud.  Because you can’t change or get away from your past, the human psyche then leads people to take the position that they are always right and anyone who has a different opinion must be wrong, or worse, evil.  The alternative is to admit that you are wrong or evil and unwilling or unable to change.  People just can’t handle the alternative, so it must be everyone else who is evil.

The problem is life is never that simple.  We are all complex people made up of things we have done that are good and bad.  In the final book of the Harry Potter series, one of the things Harry had to come to grips with was that his hero and mentor, Dumbledore, was not the perfect saint Harry viewed him to be as he grew up.  Dumbledore did things he regretted.  Dumbledore did things that he should not have done.  Dumbledore was even pals with one of the most evil wizards of his time, Gelleret Grindelwald, before they had a falling out. Those things did not necessarily make Dumbledore a bad man, they simply made him human.  Harry had to come to grips with the fact that Dumbledore was a person just like you and me, with imperfections.  But the key is that those imperfections did not define the man. He was and should be defined by everything he did, not just one or two bad things.

We all make mistakes; we all have failings that continue to be part of our lives.  The question is can we learn from them, can we overcome them? Maybe the bigger question today is will society allow people to change?  Can people be less than perfect, but still meet with society’s approval and acceptance? I hope so.


Voluntold

People want to work for organizations that care.  At least that is the “known fact” that underlies a lot of thinking in corporate culture and leadership advice these days.  Like a lot of “known facts” this one has a strong basis, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t misunderstood or misused by organizations in their efforts to create a positive culture.  Organization show care through any number of efforts:

  • Paying fair wages to a diverse employee base
  • Treating their suppliers with respect
  • Developing and changing products so they can be produced in a sustainable manner
  • Providing a reasonable rate of return to their owners and investors
  • Continuously developing their employee’s skills for an ongoing career
  • Supporting the community

It’s the last point that sometimes leads to efforts that result in a culture clash.  The problem starts with the assumption that for the organization to get credit for supporting the community it means money raised and volunteers provided must be in the name of the organization.  This leads to money raising efforts where employees feel compelled to give, and voluntold “opportunities” where the whole group goes out on a day to support a charitable effort in the community.  Organization leaders then pat themselves on the back because not only did they check the box on supporting the community, they also checked a box on a team building exercise.

The question is, how many employees are gripping behind the leaders back about “having to go work” for a charity they don’t want to support when they had important work to do for the organization itself which they will now get told is late.  Maybe they would have preferred to use those eight hours by leaving a half hour early two days a week to go couch a youth sports team where one of a bunch of kids was their own.  Maybe they would have preferred to give money to a different charitable organization that supports their view of how to make society better.

My point is not to do away with community outreach programs.  My point is two-fold.  First, make sure they are truly voluntary.  As soon as people start feeling like these are voluntold “opportunities,” the impact goes from team building to culture crushing.  Second, provide options for people to participate.  Instead of giving money to a specific charity, have a contest or drawing where an employee gets to select this month’s or quarter’s recipient from a list of potential charities.  Instead of having a team day, provide a clearing house of volunteer opportunities or participate in the President’s Volunteer Service Award program as a certifying organization, and celebrate your employees who received recognition by highlighting them to the community.

Supporting the community is a great way to show your organization cares, but be careful that you do so in a way that builds a positive corporate culture, not a negative one.

 


The Biggest Myth

The second biggest myth about the CPA profession is that we all do taxes. As soon as someone finds out you’re a CPA, one of the first things they do is ask you a tax question. The reason I say it’s only the second biggest myth is because at least it’s true that a significant minority of our profession do tax work for a living.

The biggest myth is that being a CPA is about working with numbers. Isn’t the reason we all became CPAs is because we were good with numbers and liked math!  In coming up on my 27th anniversary of getting my CPA license, and I can still honestly say the college course I use most, day in and day out, is the course I took on business and technical writing.  A course which I am not ashamed to say I got a “B” in back in college. But who cares about that; I mean it wasn’t like I was going to be using it all of the time. It wasn’t actual accounting. Hah!

Ask a CPA what they do, and if they aren’t talking with clients, colleagues or others in their organizations, they are probably writing those same people responses to questions or memos to document research and decisions. The fact is that as CPAs we write a lot.  Have you seen those footnotes and MD&A’s? Have you seen the support documentation for a tax position or a valuation report? That doesn’t even crack the surface when you start including all the emails, instant messages and even blogs that some of us write.

Writing is a big part of what we do, but many of us have never taken a course or even read an article on how to be a better writer. Therefore, I thought that I would share a few articles I read recently to help me become a better writer. I may not do everything these articles say, but I’m a true believer in lifelong learning, so I figure I have some time to keep improving.

Think you don’t need any help?  Check out this article from our profession’s own Journal of Accountancy on English expressions that trip up writers.

Think you need to use big words to communicate with all those smart people in the world? This article on readability will make you think twice.

Want some simple steps to quickly improve you writing? Try this article with 15 easy steps to improve your writing.

Wonder what that passive voice versus active voice discussion is all about? Check out this article with tips on using active voice.

Want some proof on how to communicate better? Check out this article on science backed tips to improve your writing.

Remember, you may be the smartest CPA in the world, but if no one can understand you, that won’t matter. Words matter as much as, if not more than, the numbers.


Making a Difference

One of the things I hear often is that Millennials (not Generation Z, which is just now entering the workforce) say they want their life and their job to make a difference in the world.  While that is a great goal, I wonder, as a solid member of Generation X, if they understand what making a difference is?  It seems if they aren’t solving the water crisis, stopping hunger, ending disease, or reversing climate change, that they don’t think they are making a difference.  Saving the world is an unobtainable goal, and attempting to do so will either burn you out or end in depression from realizing it can’t be achieved.

One of the characters from one of my secret movie favorites – The Core – put it this way,  “I’m not trying to save the whole world.  That is too big, its impossible.  I’m just trying to save my daughter.”  Now, being Hollywood, saving his daughter meant saving the whole world, but there really is a kernel of truth in what he had to say.  You don’t make the world better by changing everything all at once.  You make it better, by making little changes each day; by helping one person each day.

There is another quote from another one of my favorite movies – Saving Private Ryan – that really gets at the heart of making a difference in the world.  In the end, the elder Ryan asks his wife if he was a “good man.”  Captain Miller told him in his dying breath to “earn this” life he and his men gave him. Ryan felt the best way to earn it was to simply be a “good man.”  And, of course, his wife says he was, and the film ends with his family surrounding him.

I think one of the best things about the CPA profession is that we are surrounded by good men and women making a daily difference in the world around us.  We are not all Hollywood perfect, but we all do a little bit each day to make a difference, to make things better for those that depend on us.