Leaders Need to Listen to the Brain to Engage Employees in Uncertain Times

Plenty of ink has been spilled and Zoom bandwidth occupied over the past few months with ideas about how to keep employees safe and productive during the pandemic. Most of the information out there, however, has been largely built on traditional business concepts and principles, when the notion of employee engagement may in fact be better served in the same way that other aspects of this crisis have been – by listening to the science.

That’s the angle that E3 Solutions CEO and past IPA PRIME Symposium keynote speaker Don Rheem took in his recent IPA webinar “Engaging Employees in Uncertain Times.”

Rheem says the stresses and isolation brought on by the pandemic will have a serious impact on employee engagement, which Rheem defines as an employee’s willingness to freely give discretionary effort. In other words, the less engaged someone is, the less likely he or she is to go above and beyond; employees may manage to remain productive throughout this crisis, but they’re unlikely to excel.

Why? Rheem says it’s because humans inherently feel safer in groups – with the work tribe being one of the most common. Without a sense of team and togetherness that they get in communal office settings, employees are less likely to have confidence and may not perform at their very best – particularly when many may be grappling with the mental health effects of the current situation, such as unfamiliar remote work, isolation, family stressors, time management challenges and more.

Leaders and frontline managers can help, Rheem believes, by being as consistent and predictable as possible, since these, according to Rheem are two of the most important needs employees look for to feel secure. Consistency should take the form of more validation and recognition, while predictability is best demonstrated through a greater emphasis on ongoing feedback and support. This is where frontline managers need to excel, since 70% of employee engagement is related to an employee’s direct manager/report.

Rheem believes the importance of emotion cannot be understated during this pandemic, or any crisis, since emotion serves as the internal GPS in human beings, guiding actions, behaviors and thoughts. As the COVID-19 crisis slowly pans out, he says it’s critical for leaders to acknowledge the stress employees may be feeling and to not dismiss the very real sense of fear that they may be experiencing.

Some important messages to convey during this, and any crisis include continued reassurance, encouragement, connections, clarity and consistency. Supportive leaders can demonstrate these qualities by being inquisitive listeners through conversational support, while also offering the tactical support of real-world solutions like family care, technological resources, home office assistance and work reallocation. The result will be employees will feel supported, heard and secure – and will be more engaged as a result.

“The future of work will be determined more by how it feels than what it pays,” Rheem says.

Report: Women Twice as Likely Than Men to Leave Employer Within a Year Following Pandemic

New research conducted by the WerkLabs division of the Chicago-based The Mom Project reveals the negative effects of the coronavirus pandemic on employees – particularly women and working moms.

In a recent survey of approximately 2,000 professionals across the country, women reported they are twice as likely than their male counterparts to leave their employer in a year’s time due to their workplace experience during the pandemic. That number is deeply connected to workplace satisfaction during the pandemic, with women scoring an average of 15 points lower than men on all drivers, meaning their work experience was more negative.

The impact of COVID-19 continues to hit many working moms, who are trying to juggle day-to-day lives and childcare on top of their careers. The economic impact of working moms’ coronavirus-related anxiety is estimated at $341 billion. Not only are women and working moms balancing a plethora of responsibilities, they are also fearing for their jobs – approximately 60% of the jobs eliminated in the first wave of pandemic-induced layoffs were held by women.

Of the professionals surveyed, more than one-third (38%) reported both their work and well-being have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Many participants who volunteered to offer more information on how the pandemic has impacted them and/or their work experience note that leadership believes because social activities are lessened or nonexistent as a result of the pandemic, the employee has more time for work and thus can handle a larger workload – regardless of work-life balance or other responsibilities like child care.

With the lines between parenthood and career blurred indefinitely as a result of the pandemic and various shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders and mandates, parents need greater support now more than ever. More than 50% of working parents are currently without childcare, and 1 in 5 working parents said either they or their partner are considering leaving the workforce to care for their children.

Full-time working mothers in two-parent households average 22 hours of childcare per week during the current climate while maintaining their jobs. Married men provide an average of 7.2 hours of childcare per week compared to 10.3 hours for married women, among those employed full-time.

“The pandemic has forced an unprecedented rapid shift in workplace culture and it’s important we understand and address the positives and negatives of this change because this may be the ‘new normal’ moving forward, or at least for an indefinite time,” says WerkLabs president Dr. Pamela Cohen.

New Study Examines Why Belonging at Work is Crucial During Crisis

New research from Center for Talent Innovation points to stark differences in workplace experiences along lines of race, gender, and ethnicity, and calls upon companies to make dramatic change.

At a time when the pandemic, economic fallout, and social uprising have magnified inequities in American society, new research from the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) calls upon business leaders to create workplace cultures that drive a sense of “belonging” for all employees.

The new report, The Power of Belonging: What It Is and Why It Matters in Today’s Workplace, measures employees’ sense of belonging and finds that White men score higher than female employees and employees of other races or ethnicities. Among those groups, Black women and Asian women score the lowest.

The nationally representative survey of 3,711 college-educated professionals was fielded in February and included a scale with 24 questions used to calculate a “belonging score” ranging from 0 to 10. Respondents’ median belonging scores were analyzed across a broad range of demographics including gender, race/ethnicity, generation, LGBTQ identity, and status as a parent, veteran, or immigrant. Belonging was defined as being 1) seen for your unique contributions; 2) connected to your coworkers; 3) supported in your daily work and career development; and 4) proud of your organization’s values and purpose. The report offers data-backed solutions for what organizations, leaders, managers, and colleagues can do to promote a workplace culture of belonging for all.

Belonging scores correspond with positive career indicators. Professionals in the highest quartile of belonging scores are far more likely than those in the lowest to say they are very engaged at work (97% vs 54%), very loyal to their organization (93% vs 35%), intend to stay at least two years (88% vs 61%), and would recommend their company as a good place to work (71% vs 17%). A lack of belonging is associated with negative outcomes. Those in the lowest quartile of belonging scores were over four times as likely to say they felt “stalled” in their careers compared to those in the highest quartile (47% vs 11%).

“Companies are being called upon to dismantle bias within their organizations, and that means they need to look inward at their corporate cultures to understand what makes it so hard for certain groups to advance,” says Lanaya Irvin president of CTI.  “Belonging will become increasingly relevant in the aftermath of global pandemic, economic disruption and social unrest. This report gives corporate leaders a path forward toward creating inclusive cultures where all employees feel seen and heard and respected in their authentic identities and across lines of difference.”

“To recover from our current global crises, companies need employees who are engaged, loyal, and proud to work for their companies,” says Julia Taylor Kennedy, CTI executive vice president and co-lead researcher on the report. “That’s what you get when employees feel they belong. Inaction on systemic racism and the disproportionate impacts of COVID will damage belonging at companies, when it’s needed most.”

A follow-up survey in May revealed stark differences of the COVID-19 crisis across racial groups in the trauma employees of color are bringing into the workplace. Black professionals were more than five times as likely to have lost a family member as a result of COVID-19 as their White colleagues (11% vs 2%), and Latinx employees were four times as likely as their White colleagues to have lost a family member as a result of COVID (8% vs 2%). Asians in our sample were twice as likely as their White colleagues to have lost a family member to COVID (4% vs 2%). In addition, more than one in five Asian women (21%) have changed their behavior outside of work to avoid racial harassment.

“There’s potential for real, systemic change right now, as the systems and structures that promote inequity get torn down and rebuilt,” says Pooja Jain-Link, executive vice president and co-lead researcher. “Belonging is crucial to the creation and forming of new systems. We need to feel like we belong to each other and belong to this new world.”

Leaders: The Pandemic Has Revealed the Truth About Your Heart. Do You Like What You See?

Deb Boelkes says how you behaved during the coronavirus crisis reveals some essential truths about whether you lead with your head only or also with your heart. The good news? It’s not too late to switch to a more heartfelt leadership style. Here’s what that looks like.

A couple months ago, a crisis hit the world—one that changed almost everything about how companies operate. We all know the details, so no need to enumerate them here. But as we continue to navigate this fearful, uncertain, emotionally charged stretch of history, Deb Boelkes wants leaders to ask themselves a big question: What has the pandemic taught you about the role your heart plays in your leadership style?

“Times of crisis and extreme change have a way of revealing hidden truths,” says Boelkes, author of Heartfelt Leadership: How to Capture the Top Spot and Keep on Soaring. “It shows us what we’re made of. It shows the people around us what we’re made of. And while many leaders have had to make really tough decisions in the upheaval caused by COVID-19, the way they did those things speaks volumes.”

In other words, if you had to lay people off, did you do it with love and concern? Were you patient as employees struggled to balance their newly remote jobs with home schooling and child care? Did you say thank you? Did you double-down on efforts to keep people engaged and inspired? Did you continue to nurture their growth and push them to live up to their potential?

All these are the attributes of what Boelkes calls a “heartfelt leader.” They mean you don’t lead only with your head—always putting goals and profits ahead of people—but you also care deeply about employees’ well-being. (It’s not an either/or proposition, she says. People who truly believe you care work harder and are more engaged, making it a smart financial strategy.)

In Heartfelt Leadership, Boelkes lays out the path to leading with the heart. Full of real stories and lessons from top heartfelt executives, the book will help you learn to transform from a person people follow because they have to, to one they want to follow.

Now that the dust is starting to settle and businesses are—ever so slowly—starting back down the road to normalcy, Boelkes urges you to take a good hard look at your own “heartfelt quotient” and see how you stack up. Here are a few things heartfelt leaders regularly do:

They give their personal best every moment. “My first job working for a major corporation was at Disneyland,” says Boelkes. “My high school drill team auditioned and was selected to perform together throughout the winter holiday season. I was a ‘marching card,’ the ace of clubs with the Alice in Wonderland dance unit. Once we had the job, we each gave our personal best every single moment. We competed against ourselves to set new personal best records with each ensuing performance. If any one of us made a wrong move, it impacted all of us, and it certainly impacted our ‘guests.’ We all depended on each other. Disneyland depended on us. The audience who had paid so dearly to attend depended on us. If any one of us failed individually, we all failed. We had to work together at peak performance, in perfect unison, every single time. We had to be perfect. No excuses. Ever. Disneyland set a bar for job performance and work ethic against which I have measured every other career and customer service experience I have ever encountered throughout my life. My heartfelt thanks will forever go to Walt Disney and all the Disneyland cast and crew members for that incredibly important lesson.”

They build a culture of love. (That’s what draws the talent.) Tim Hindes, co-founder and CEO of Stay Metrics, a provider of driver retention tools, believes that successful companies are the ones that lead with love from the top down. He says, “When we started with two of us in 2008, we basically grew the company to $30 million in under three-and-a-half years. It wasn’t the two of us who did it. By the time we were done, we had thirty-five team members. We constantly had people coming into our offices saying, ‘This guy is talented. He wants to be part of this.’ If you dare to create this type of environment, one so unorthodox, you’ll find talented people will come to you who don’t want to play the old game. So, not only is it the right thing to do, it’s a brilliant move. I do think a lot of the problems we have in business, if you root down to it, are an absence of love and culture at the top.”

They live by the Golden Rule in good times and bad. It’s the foundation of trust. Colleen Barrett, president emeritus of Southwest Airlines, says, “You just have to practice the Golden Rule, on or off the clock, with each other, with your customers, with anybody you come into contact with. It’s really simple. I’m not saying we never fight with our unions. You know, we’re 86 percent unionized. At Southwest, you could be in the middle of a ferocious negotiation over something or somebody or some work rule, whatever. But…if you walk into the room at the beginning of the day, when you walked in as a total stranger, you would not know who was who, because they’re not on one side versus the other. They’re intermingling. They’re talking. They know each other by their first names. They know their families. They know something about them because that’s who we are. Do we argue? Yes. But do families argue? Yes. Do we have disagreements? Yes. But there is such a trust there.”

They use the magic words—”I don’t know”—and use them often. Garry Ridge, chairman and CEO of the WD-40 Company, shares the power of admitting that you don’t have all the answers. He says: “I love three words so much, ‘I. DON’T. KNOW.’ I think they’re the most powerful words we can use as leaders, to say, ‘I don’t know. Tell me what you know.’ Suddenly these barriers come down. Fear goes away. Conversation happens. Dialogue. Learning. Eventually, we come toward a position we both then say we think we agree on.”

They strive to never hurt anyone. This should be a given, but as a leader, your goal should be to enhance the lives of your employees and certainly to do no harm. Garry Ridge says, “When we put on the badge of leadership every morning, we take on the responsibility of other people. As leaders, we have no right, by our actions, to mess up other people’s lives. We leaders need to take that extremely seriously. Too many leaders out there, through their overinflated self, their ego, who are driven by short-term goals instead of long-term thinking, make decisions that hurt people every day. They have no right to do it. The Dalai Lama says, ‘Our purpose in life is to make people happy. If we can’t make them happy, at least don’t hurt them.’ Our purpose as a leader is to help people engage and enable, NOT to hurt them. We want to apply to their positive, not to their negative.”

They keep asking, “How do I help you grow?” Britt Berrett, former president of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, emphasizes the need to show your people who don’t necessarily share your values that you care. “I had a funny experience with one of our chief officers,” says Berrett. “I adore her and work very closely with her. For me, my time is very precious. I don’t have a lot of slack time; for me, it’s my faith, my family, and then my job. I knew there was time we needed to spend together. She needed that one-on-one time. It was in the afternoon, so I said, ‘Let’s go grab lunch.’ My favorite lunch restaurant is Wendy’s. So, we went off to Wendy’s for lunch. I didn’t think anything of it. We sat down. I thought we had a good conversation. Later, I found out she was a little put off we went to Wendy’s. The message to her was I didn’t really care. I didn’t really know. She was absolutely right. In the frenzy of the day-to-day, I kind of forgot that. We laugh about it now, but whenever we go out to lunch, it’s always Wendy’s. We’ve made a joke out of it. But I needed to understand what was important to her and how I needed to show up as a boss. That’s what genuine leaders, I think, do. They ask the question, ‘How do I need to show up to help you?’ You’ve got to modify your strategy and your behavior to help them grow.”

They don’t treat employees like assets. Howard Behar, former president of Starbucks Coffee, says, “We hear leaders all the time say, ‘People are our greatest asset.’ They’re not assets. You don’t own them. They can choose or not choose to be part of your organization. There’s nothing keeping them there, except maybe fear of loss. The more we treat people with caring, with love, the more they want to perform, the more they want to be part of the organization. Here’s how it works in the real world. When you trust people and you give them more responsibility and accountability when they’re ready for it—sometimes even when they’re not ready for it—the more they want to perform, the more they don’t want to let you down. They don’t want to let their teammates down. They don’t want to let themselves down. It just works. There’s no magic here.”

They recognize that everyone who works for them is a somebody. Paul Spiegelman, former CEO of BerylHealth, says, “Everybody is a ‘somebody.’ We’re not taking ‘nobodies’ and making them feel like a ‘somebody.’ We’re recognizing they are ‘somebody.’ I can ask people questions. I can learn enough about them and show I care about them to make them feel good about themselves. To me, that is probably the secret sauce, so to speak: Make people feel good about themselves.”

“Even if you have to admit you haven’t been acting like a heartfelt leader, now is the perfect time to turn things around,” advises Boelkes. “Right now, many people all over the world are taking stock of their lives and vowing to become better, kinder, more loving human beings. No reason leaders can’t do the same. Let this crisis be a growth experience—one that inspires you to start making a positive impact on your company, on your employees, and on the world.”

Platts’ Perspective: Firms Are Put To The Test On Just How Agile They Are

As the COVID-19 pandemic grinds on into month two of social distancing and work-from-home orders, firms around the country are finding ways to adapt. Although it may at times feel like learning to fly while building the plane at 30,000 feet, MPs in many firms are seeing the resilience and adaptability of team members shine through this otherwise dark chapter.

But that’s not true for everyone, and astute leaders need to recognize the disparity that may exist in their own firms.

For some, embracing remote technology and managing their own time is empowering and uplifting, and they are maximizing their productivity. For others, staying focused and keeping priorities straight is proving to be a real challenge.

For some, social distancing and working from home has allowed them to reconnect with those they love, and technology has allowed them to grow even more connected to their coworkers. For others, isolation has led to bouts of stress, anxiety and loneliness, and social scientists have reported a disturbing increase in domestic violence during this pandemic.

For some, there is a new level of enthusiasm for the technological changes that have been thrust onto their firms, breaking through the barriers and obstacles that existed before and pushing them solidly into the future with new ways of working. For others, getting back to a normal routine in familiar settings with the usual processes is the ultimate goal.

For some, the disruption of everyday life has led to an energizing search for new educational opportunities or even a recommitment to their New Year’s resolutions. For others, simply surviving the pandemic and returning to a familiar routine will be a triumph.

Our hope is that a majority of the good men and women who make up the public accounting profession fall into the first group – agile, resilient and ultimately dedicated to creating permanent change for the better. But we all need to look out for those in the second group – they will need extra help getting through the coming weeks and may feel disconnected from the progress once this is over.

While we encourage all firm leaders to wrap your arms around everyone, please be sure to pay special attention to those who may need a little extra TLC to get through this. Stay safe, and most of all, stay focused on the end goal.

Learning Experts Recommend Developing a Culture of Self-Directed Learning

A new survey illustrates why the training and development teams at most organizations can “drive people completely insane,” in the words of a Nigel Paine, a consultant, author and learning technology expert.

In a recent webinar, Paine discussed results of research on mandated training by Learning Pool, a U.K.-based online learning platform for businesses:

  • Only 26% think the online compliance training is effective
  • 53% already know the course content
  • 43% think the course content is irrelevant

What the results show is, Paine says, is that companies are throwing too much training at their employees without getting to know them as individuals and build on what they already know.

Staff consider the most appealing features of learning to be personalization and relevance. What’s least important are “bells and whistles,” Paine says. “Our learners are way, way more sophisticated than that. If it’s relevant, if it does the job, they don’t care whether it’s got videos built into it or gamification.”

Titled “Moving to a Culture of Self-Directed Learning,” the April 23 webinar, hosted by Chief Learning Officer magazine, discussed the benefits of addressing staff-wide learning and development needs through a bottom-up, personalized approach. Upskilling can be done more quickly this way and with more involvement and control by the staff, the speakers say.

Learning and development departments are under pressure to quickly improve the skills for their staff, with the same amount of money as last year or even less. With the pandemic pushing learning online, these professionals are more pressed for time than ever, but the needs for new skills continues.

What skills are most highly valued today? Paine, citing McKinsey research, says they’re not technical skills, but social and emotional skills – empathy, creativity, collaboration, leadership, resilience etc. “They were growing before this pandemic began. They’re now exploding.”

This contrasts with information gathered just a few months ago, says Sharon Claffey Kaliouby, North American vice president for Learning Pool. “As of January 1, the data scientist was the sexiest job role of all in the 21st century.”

To personalize training options, Paine says machine learning can come into play. An online learning platform that displays a limited number of choices based on the learner’s needs and interests, much like a Netflix queue, has been proven useful and more engaging. “It allows the individual to choose what, when and how.” As choices increase, the platform gets smarter, so to speak, and selections get even more personalized.

Billions of dollars are being lost in organizations that are not delivering learning experiences in the right way, Kaliouby says. “It gets me riled.” Many companies are offering the same mandated training to nearly everyone in a company, regardless of job title or experience.

Although mandated learning is not going to go away, giving staff more choice and control increases engagement. Requiring training that is not needed is disrespectful and does not acknowledge skills that have already been attained.

“That kind of top down, directed, controlling, micromanagement is now being exposed for what it is. It’s now failing spectacularly to cope with the demands of the present,” Paine says. “The bottom-up, supporting, empathetic, helping, trusting, guiding kind of management is going gangbusters.”

Soft Skills Like Growth Mindset, Creativity And Communication Matter In 2020 And Beyond

When Udemy for Business analyzed the fastest-growing soft skills people are learning at work in 2020, they saw an uptick in learning about topics like growth mindset, creativity, and innovation. It’s increasingly important for employees to adopt a growth mindset of continuous learning and be open to change in the workplace. While skills training is key, building an organizational culture and leadership to nurture innovation and creativity is critical.

Employees are leaning into their innately human skills and what robots can’t do. Critical thinking, communication, storytelling, and emotional intelligence top the list of fastest- growing soft skills in 2020 in the workplace.

Top 10 fastest-growing soft skills in 2020

 1) Growth Mindset

2) Creativity

3) Focus Mastery

4) Innovation

5) Communication Skills

6) Storytelling

7) Culture Awareness

8) Critical Thinking

9) Leadership

10) Emotional Intelligence

 Source: 2020 Workplace Learning Trends Report: The Skills of the Future

Managing Partner Viewpoints from the Archives, Part I: Promoting Alignment, Parsing Advice

While deep industry knowledge, technical expertise and the ability to bring in business are all de rigueur for MPs, today’s leaders must also have the skills to handle the messier challenges of a rapidly changing business environment.

This was among the many observations to emerge from the anonymous, candid responses of more than 70 MPs to a brief survey from INSIDE Public Accounting awhile back that shed welcome light on some of the most common frustrations and rewards they have experienced in the position. During this current period of uncertainty in the profession, their insights on two topics from that survey feel particularly relevant and instructive.

What one thing do you wish someone told you when you became MP about aligning the firm behind a common vision?

The Importance of Alignment

MPs aim to make a common, firmwide vision their guiding light, encouraging everyone to work toward the same goals and operate with the same values in mind. It’s a huge challenge, but one of the most important parts of the top job. Respondents generally agreed that alignment is the top priority for any MP. Most recommended to start articulating the firm’s vision on the first day, making it clear and compelling, ensuring it fits with the partners’ individual goals and compensation plans, and remaining vigilant.

These MPs also noted that over-communicating the vision and embodying that vision in every decision and action were crucial components of getting the message across. It’s a goal that one respondent said requires him to be “as much psychologist as MP some days.” Some of the other comments on alignment from MPs included:

“I wish they had told me that this would take time, and that simply saying it once or twice or communicating it in one or two presentations would not be enough. Alignment can be a 12- to 24-month process if done well, so patience is needed to carry this out.”

“Do it sooner rather than later. Lack of common vision is a really big deal; you may not think so, but it really is.”

“Many partners have their own agenda and goals in mind. It is challenging to try to get them to change their goals to ones that would be more beneficial to the overall good of the firm.”

“Partners will say they are behind a vision but watch what they do more than what they say.”

“Compensation structures drive behavior and must align with the vision. If they aren’t aligned, compensation structure will dictate behavior.”

“You will have competing interests at the firm and making sure everyone is aligned on a compelling and differentiating vision will move the firm forward as one. If there is no common vision, the firm will be a sub-par performer.”

When alignment works, respondents said the rewards are palpable. One MP expressed pleasure in seeing everyone “pulling in the same direction,” after a strategic planning process that involved input from all parts of the firm. The result? A newly energized team.

What one piece of advice did you receive about being MP that didn’t turn out to be true?

Differentiating Between Good and Bad Advice

Most MPs were given advice about taking on the top job that turned out to be untrue, while many were relieved that some of the warnings were unneeded. In other words, take most advice going in with a grain of salt, including some of the unfounded advice that our MPs encountered on their way to the top job (accompanied by their comments):

Expect to make more money – “That hasn’t occurred to my satisfaction.”

You can’t please everyone – “While that may be true, we can seek to build positive relationships with all and show them that we care about them.”

It’s a miserable job – “It’s hard, a lot of work and a lot of stress, but it’s not miserable.”

It gets easier – “Turns out, if you grow and merge practices, that is not true.”

You are the boss – “The opposite is really the truth – you work for the benefit of everyone in your firm.”

Dealing with employees is the most difficult part of the job – “Dealing with the partners is more work.”

Keep paying partners more and they’ll follow you – “Partners want increased compensation and the right to challenge leadership and direction.”

Young partners will never develop business like the senior partners – “Our young partners have risen up HUGE and helped take the firm to a much higher and profitable level once those senior partners finally retired.”

Many MPs wouldn’t change a thing, despite misperceptions, stresses and the difficult decisions required. One respondent said that the “visionary/entrepreneurial aspects of the MP role far outweigh the challenges. It is a great opportunity to lead and have a lot of fun learning from peers.” Another added that “I love it, find it rewarding and wouldn’t want to do anything else. It has some frustrating moments, but by far, I love being an entrepreneur and building on the legacy we have started to create.”

These are the types of positive thoughts about the position that MPs will do well to keep in mind as they navigate the challenging waters ahead.

Looking Ahead Pays Off With High-Growth Service Lines, More Satisfied Workforce_Part Two

Lessons on predicting the future have been circulating throughout the profession for the last five years. The Anticipatory Organization™ Accounting & Finance Edition teaches the difference between “hard trends,” things that will happen, versus “soft trends,” things that may happen.

By examining hard trends related to digital disruption, an aging population and new regulations, firms have been making concrete changes.

Maryland Association of CPAs (MACPA) president and CEO Tom Hood says client accounting services is an example of an opportunity linked to a hard trend in demographics. Bookkeepers are growing older, CFOs are retiring and the shortage of talent is continuing. For many firms, managing finances for clients as a CFO-for-hire is one of their fastest-growing practices.

Consider the results of these firms: Ridgeland, Miss.-based HORNE (FY18 net revenue of $91.3 million), Gaithersburg, Md.-based DeLeon & Stang, Salina, Kan.-based K·Coe Isom (FY19 net revenue of $69.4 million), York, Pa.-based Stambaugh Ness (FY18 net revenue of $15.1 million) and Canfield, Ohio-based Hill Barth & King, or HBK, (FY18 net revenue of $93.9 million).

The firms have had better success with innovation projects since they are based on hard trends, and they are having more meaningful conversations with clients. Leaders have learned to narrow their opportunities to one or two “must-dos,” while staff are accepting change more readily and enjoying new ways to serve clients.


  • HORNE, seeing cybersecurity problems coming down the road, bought a small tech company in 2016 and created HORN Cyber Solutions, one of the fastest-growing practices at the firm.
  • HORNE created a mobile application for its government services division that allows property owners to take photos of damages during a disaster and easily file for recovery programs.
  • HORNE and K·Coe have implemented value billing since technology allows more work to be done in far less time.
  • HBK leaders and staff are talking to their clients about the future, discussing trends like AI and 3-D printing. HBK acquired a technology consulting firm last year to add technical experts and services to its subsidiary HBK IT.
  • Stambaugh Ness, which sets aside weekly meetings to apply hard trends to their industries, is distributing The Anticipatory Organization™ model to clients to help them plan projects that give them a competitive edge.
  • K·Coe’s research into hard trends by industry has led to trade show presentations, white papers and more consulting opportunities.
  • Deleon and Stang is rethinking the audit process to make it future-oriented rather than historical, focusing on business succession planning services and consulting with clients in new ways.

“I just think as CPAs we’ve got to be more educated about the future because it’s coming faster,” Hood says. “That’s why I feel like this program – for us as an association and the folks working with it – it’s a game changer.”

As CPAs Learn To Anticipate The Future, An Unimaginable Crisis Hits: Part One. Read Part One.

Culture Over Cash? Glassdoor Survey Finds More Than Half Of Employees Prioritize Workplace Culture Over Salary

Glassdoor, one of the largest job and recruiting sites, released a survey measuring sentiment around mission and culture in the workplace today, along with the level of importance of both.

Glassdoor surveyed more than 5,000 adults across four countries: the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany.

Among key findings, Glassdoor found that 77% of adults would consider a company’s culture before applying for a job there, and more than half, 56%, say company culture is more important than salary when it comes to job satisfaction. In addition to asking people the extent to which they value culture at work, the survey also uncovers the importance of culture and company mission to recruitment and retention, as well as the extent to which job seekers are now looking for employers whose values align with their own personal values.

“Having a compelling mission, culture and values are critical when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent in a competitive job market – it is what differentiates each and every employer,” says Christian Sutherland-Wong, Glassdoor president and COO. “Job seekers want to be paid fairly but they too want to work for a company whose values align with their own and whose mission they can fully get behind.”

Culture Is PrioritizedWhile the majority of participants place culture above salary when it comes to job satisfaction, the survey shows company culture matters significantly more among younger adults. Millennials are more likely to place culture above salary than those age 45 and older in two of the four countries surveyed – U.S. (65% for Millennials versus 52% age 45 and older).

Company culture can be a critical factor for job seekers when applying and when deciding whether to stay with a company. More than three-quarters, 77%, of adults would consider a company’s culture before applying for a job, suggesting that a negative perception around culture could significantly impact ability and efficiency to fill open jobs. Nearly three-quarters, 73%, of adults would not apply to a company unless its values aligned with their own personal values.

When it comes to retention, nearly 65% of employees say their company’s culture is one of the main reasons for staying in their job.

Recruiting Needs To Be Mission-MindedAn overwhelming 89% of adults believe it is important for an employer to have a clear mission and purpose. Sixty-six percent of employees believe people are more motivated and engaged because of the strong company mission where they work, and 64% say their company’s mission is a main reason they stay in their job.

In a sign that company mission may be top of mind for job seekers, 77% of adults believe employers are becoming more mission-driven to recruit and retain talent.

Culture is a Key Driver of Employee SatisfactionCoinciding with this survey, Glassdoor Economic Research published a report on the leading drivers of employee satisfaction across the five countries.

According to millions of reviews shared voluntarily and anonymously by employees on Glassdoor, across four of the five countries studied, the culture and values of a company are the strongest predictors of employee satisfaction, followed by quality senior leadership and career opportunities.

“A common misperception among many employers today is that pay and work-life balance are among the top factors driving employee satisfaction,” says Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor chief economist. “We find little support for this notion in Glassdoor data. Instead, employers looking to boost recruiting and retention efforts should prioritize building strong company culture and value systems, amplifying the quality and visibility of their senior leadership teams and offering clear, exciting career opportunities to employees.”