{ "media_type": "text", "post_content": "What do staff want and what would make them happy? This is a serious question. I have been in public for 25 years. I swear I feel like a mom and therapist as much as a professional. I truly care about my staff. Treat then well, fight for them, invest in their futures. But the last few years it seems like nothing is enough. I am seriously considering early retirement because it is so emotionally draining on me. So many younger staff in here and all I see is complaints. Am I alone?", "post_id": "60d749f53e99390024a4edba", "reply_count": 306, "vote_count": 92, "bowl_id": "564a5cdb94887803001dd07c", "bowl_name": "Accounting" }

What do staff want and what would make them happy? This is a serious question. I have been in public for 25 years. I swear I feel like a mom and therapist as much as a professional. I truly care about my staff. Treat then well, fight for them, invest in their futures. But the last few years it seems like nothing is enough. I am seriously considering early retirement because it is so emotionally draining on me. So many younger staff in here and all I see is complaints. Am I alone?

likeupliftinghelpfulsmart
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You’re right! Most people including staff do not know what they “want” and what would make them happy. Young staff are still experiencing life and figuring things out. What they do know is that they don’t see a happy future working past 12am even if it’s for 8-10 weeks out of the year for $50k-$70k. My advice is to keep trying different approaches and see what works, that’s what business owners do. This is going to be interesting to see which firms will be successful attracting and retaining the new generation. I’m 37 and I’m a Tax senior, I understand your frustration of not knowing what staff want that would make them happy. I get both sides, one of the reasons I went into public accounting was that you could work for 12-15 years and make a significant income even if the hours were long. Money was my motivating factor. The newer generation is more motivated by life experiences and freedom. I also am seeing the value in that too, but I actually really like my job. Also the newer generation have so many options to make money that weren’t available 15 years ago. The options to make $50k-$70k without having to work past 12am is abundant.

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Life experiences, freedom..... AND MORE MONEY. I want it all baby

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I think some of the problem is that the firms need to be more up front about expectations of the hours that people work when they are recruiting. It seems like a lot of firms try to act like they have a laid back, easy going culture to attract people, but in reality have clients that are demanding and challenging work and need people that are committed to getting the work done. So part of the problem may be that they have hired the wrong person that has the incorrect ideas about how much they are supposed to work. The other thing staff want is a development plan and regular feedback on how they can improve. They do want to feel like they have an impact in the firm and that they matter. Some other accountants I have spoken with do not get to have client contact or ask clients for questions. They want training on that and to be able to manage their own jobs, without having to bug a partner just to request a bank statement or other item they need to complete a job. One of the other issues can be workflow and workflow management. Typically some people can get overloaded because they produce and get work done, while others that do not produce much or are not as strong of a staff member get less work. Typically, this is not being really monitored from a top down view. Work needs to be distributed more fairly and accounted for better. The other misnomer in public accounting is the theoretical bonus based on profitability ratios. Work 60-70 hours a week during busy season, you may have a large bonus. I think more regular bonuses spread throughout the year, rather than at an annual review would be better also.

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Partners will have to adjust their business model. Hire more people for one so the hours are less. Sure you’ll spend more at the beginning but it may end up paying off. Partners have such a short-sighted view of their business. Lol why is up to managers and staff to change it if they have no decision-making ability? Stop blaming us and make changes yourself. There’s a reason why more people are quitting sooner than ever and it isn’t just because of Covid

likehelpfulfunnysmart

In my experience: In college getting a big 4 job was a grand accomplishment and only the top 10% of accounting majors would land a big 4 job. If you got a big 4 job you were considered to be doing better than anyone who didn’t. Then you go to your big 4 job only to find out that it’s glorified slavery. Basically living in a dark cave for 2 or 3 months during busy season literally working from 9am until 11pm on average. You don’t get paid for OT, and the salary isn’t anything special. Like why would I be happy when I worked my butt off to get to the top of my field in my college just to make roughly ~60kish~ which is the same pay that I could be making at any other desk job? And at any other desk job I’d have to work way less hours and have less pressure put on me. Solution: Either pay staff higher salary since the big 4 is so “prestigious” or make them work less hours.

likeupliftingsmarthelpful

A life outside of work, which is something your outdated business model can't accommodate.

likefunny

Less work and more staff and higher pay = more cost. This needs to be factored into pricing. Will clients pay more for work? Those who are unhappy will leave eventually and the remaining people will do what it takes to make the firm money. Your staff have options, if they are unhappy with their situation, it is their responsibility to change things. No one will care more about your own life that you do. Don’t borrow other people’s problems, OP.

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The public accounting business model is physically and emotionally draining. On top of that, we spent our formative years watching our parents and friends' families hit by wave after wave of economic crises. After years of loyalty, employers dropped them like hot potatoes when times got hard. Why should we sacrifice such a huge part of our lives for work? Specifically where we are chewed up and spit out for producing high quality deliverables. The reward for being a good employee is more work. At the end of the day, we want life to be the bigger factor in the work-life balance equation. We see our European counterparts working less with more security. We want freedom to travel and experience the world, and technology means we no longer have to be tied to one location to continue earning a living. We want time with our families and friends, and the ability to be present for our children. Some groups are unicorns, but the unfortunate part about our business model is that life takes a back seat to work.

likeupliftingsmart

C1 - Why? With me WFH, the firm saves money by reducing office space, utilities, bandwidth, food, travel costs... firms make plenty. We don't need to punish WFH employees by reducing their salaries. I'm not talking a Silicon Valley salary for someone who's moved to Dubuque.

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We don’t want 30% raises every year, we want a wage closer to what we could make in industry. There is no incentive to work 2x as hard for half the money.

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You are an associate. What people 1 or 2 years out of college are making significantly more than you? Lol

As a leader in a large firm - I can tell you this: if you work on my team, I will move heaven and earth to create work/life balance. And I retain staff because of it. I take heat for it though. Actual exchange from about a week ago: Partner - “xx individuals on your team don’t seem to be working as many hours as I would expect. Have you communicated your hours expectations to your team?” Me - “I don’t micromanage hours. If they get their work done in less time, that is awesome. I don’t set an ‘hours expectation’. I set a work accuracy and timely completion expectation.” Partner - “For what we pay, they should be working overtime. That is our expectation”. Me - “My expectation is only that they work overtime when we have to meet a deadline, and that is the exception rather than the rule”. Partner - some snarky reply that I ignored. You want to keep talent? People want less work. Money is a motivator, sure. But people want to have a life. And they want to be happy and engaged at work. I don’t know why this is so hard to figure out.

likeupliftingsmart

I applaud you. People like you are the ones I wish I could work for and hoped to find in PA. If you care about my well-being, I for sure will respond by giving my all to you. It's a simple thing that decent humans tend to do for one another. Maybe we should all form a campaign to remind our alien overlords disguised as human Partners and Directors, to be a bit nicer to their humans cause they might be surprised how well we respond to that.

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in the good old days, staff worked like crazy during “busy season” but then the rest of the year was much slower pace but now it seems like busy season is year round

likesmart

Busy season and busier season

likefunny

It's a different generation that we are dealing with and we, as an industry, have not engaged them on a level that speaks to their values. I won't go so far as to say that the workers want to control the means of production, but the whole "Boss makes a dollar, I make a dime" system isn't going to be satisfactory.

likefunny

One thing that partners seem to discount and OP mentioned it here. By saying your staff can’t go find another accounting job and keep getting promoted isn’t technically correct. You have some of the brightest minds bundled up in each of your first year classes. Many of those kids are capable of going on to C level roles even outside of finance in their career. Audit gets so wrapped up in thinking they are just losing people to financial reporting and SEC acct manager type roles when you are losing body’s that are also making career parallels and transitions. Yes your pile of first years studied accounting and did the CPA. Them leaving the firm doesn’t mean they are going to be stuck as an accounting manager at some company for the rest of their careers.

likefunny

This will sound rude but I do not mean it that way. If you are being a 'therapist' to staff and you still do not understand what they want or see the common thread, it sounds like you listen to what they say but not understand what mean. So if you do not understand what they mean, are you really helping them?

likesmart

The problem is not what they can’t articulate, is because even if they do there’s not much you can do due to the business model. A lot times people just need to complain to feel better, and it is totally fair after they work 60+ work weeks. At the end of the day it’s always about more pay and less hours, or at least one of them.

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I know this isn’t what we want to hear, and I am one that like you OP invest in our people and I, most likely like you, know I have put in a lot of work to get where I am without complaining. However, the others are right. The model needs to change. Chasing a dangling a carrot with the expectation that one day it will pay off doesn’t work anymore. We are dinosaurs if we think anything different. Generations have changed, people value their time and there are alot of ways to make money more enjoyably and quicker. One thought is that profits for the partners will have to take a cut voluntarily and spread the wealth by hiring more people at higher salaries (already in the field) to absorb the work, so the reputation of public accounting changes and it can attract more students, or the system will crumble. Supply and demand and nobody wants to do this work for the salaries firms are trying to offer. Times have changed.

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The spread the wealth part is most important to me. KPMG US has something like 2,500 partners and the average pay for them is probably something like 600k. In what other industry do you see a few thousand employees of the same company making that much money? The income inequality is staggering.

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I’ll answer your question for the Houston market. Pay A1s 85K, A2s 95K and seniors 110K. There you go

likefunnysmart

lol engineering certs are not anywhere near 2x as hard as the cpa

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Not sure it would keep me from leaving, but I would take a considerable amount of pleasure if the firm fired about 50% of HR. Plus it would save money since they do basically no work and are terrible at their jobs

likefunnysmart

Not gonna say I disagree with this one. Lot of extra non client staff that don’t add a lot of value

likefunny

Maybe pay us for all the overtime hours?? Or hire more people so that people don’t need to work overtime hours. Provide better work-life balance. It’s not that hard to figure out.

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Strongly agree

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Agree, this is what I have been seeing too. From what I’ve seen, they want to get paid more, work less and work from home unless they don’t feel like it. They also want 30% raises every year apparently and want more PTO, but certainly not unlimited.

likefunny

EY1….you’re making 300K as a senior manager?!?!

likefunny

I heard the same basic complaints from managers and partners about staff selfishness and never good enough 20 years ago when I was a tax staff in big4. I think the reality is that public is a demanding career and always will be, but can be rewarding with either a future of becoming a part owner/partner or a resume credit to land a great industry job that fits better to that persons work/life. Partners/Managers need to listen, try to adapt where possible and provide honest feedback about what work will look like, what potential salary adjustments can be obtained and commit to helping the staff be successful as they can while they chose to remain in public. No career is without frustration and good leaders take the feedback and are honest, empathetic and humble with their response. Sometimes honestly sharing that public will be hard at times and it may not be a great long term fit for that staff is the best response to the complaint.

likehelpful

Completely agree with SAA1. Back in the old days this business model works however it won’t anymore because 1) not everyone want to a partner so they are sure they will not get the reward, and 2) public accounting is not the only resume builder anymore and there are more ways to achieve it than before. The pay gaps right now are just big enough that it will be hard to ignore, plus hours is always getting worse and worse. When I was a staff 7 years ago yes we have busy season but mostly people are pretty relax rest of year. But no even staff work 50+ hours during non busy season to accommodate all the internal deadlines, not to mention there are way more other expectation in terms of firm contribution, coaching, etc. Using shared service center is also a big issue - now new people do not have the same learning experience we had before, which lead to steeper learning curve for them and for people coaching them and the burden is on seniors/managers to now manager a bigger team.

likefunnyupliftingsmart

I did audit for 8 months. Went to a different firm/service line and got a more than a 70% raise. I didn’t mind audit, but I’m an adult with a graduate degree; you cannot pay me like a secretary or executive assistant and expect me to be cool with it. Inflation-adjusted wages have tanked over the last four decades (per some chart I saw on here, so take that with a grain of salt). With the internet (and Fishbowl tbf) we all know what a reasonable salary/raise/bonus is. Thus, we head for the door. No number of pizza parties, happy hours, or company-branded swag will actually make people feel valued. Got to open up that checkbook.

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@EY feel free to PM me

The problem is, that with the CPA and a masters degree, I make less on an hourly basis than a store manager at Chick-fil-A

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To be fair CFA managers are treated quite well…

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I want balance. I want to be able to work hours that allow a life even during our busiest season. I want to feel like I can charge what an engagement actually takes, I want more technical training and less being thrown in the deep end. Since starting public accounting I’ve struggled with depression, anxiety, extreme weight gain and have developed so many horrible habits to cope with the stress of this job. I think there is a huge disconnect between the current business model of public accounting and how most people want to live their lives.

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STA: I feel your pain. I started having depression whenever busy season starts, which is year round nowadays, and my mood swing are huge. I feel pressure in my chest randomly in the middle of the day and I think about my work even on weekends, worrying that something I did was not good enough. I act like a jerk basically but I am not.

likefunny

I wanna work from home as much as I want, get paid a reasonable wage, and have a life outside of work. I understand busy season and accept it. I don’t understand working 70s until June. I went to a top 5 acc. program in the country. Applicants for our program are dwindling each year, so much so that the program has dramatically relaxed acceptance standards to get more applicants. Experienced staff and seniors are leaving en masse in my city to take significant raises in private. The model has to adapt. The new generations don’t see the gleam in this route. They’d rather go work at a unicorn and get stock options and have WLB. It wouldn’t take much for me to stay a long time. Figure out staffing, keep busy season to an actual 3 months, let me work from home. I cant afford housing close to my clients so I’m 50 miles away from most of them. Having a one-on-one with me and promising more coaching isn’t going to help me. Give me actual flexibility and freedom and figure out the staffing issues so I don’t have to have a 6 month busy season

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I’m conflicted here as I see both sides. I grew up in PA the same as you OP. But I’m also exhausted and wish I had set boundaries earlier in my career and stuck to them. As a leader I try to honor the boundaries of my staff, and when I need to push them, we have a conversation. Definitely not the same as when we were staff, but we have to learn to encourage their growth and respect their limits. And you should also set some of your own. Yeah, being a partner means you’re heavily invested. But I know partners that take vacation and actually unplug, set a weekly date night and stick to it, and who aren’t afraid to do the work right alongside their staff to meet a deadline instead of just delegating. It’s about 50/50 whether my team has grown with me or left for what they perceive will be better WLB. I can only hope that they learned something positive from me while they were here.

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Completely agree and everyone is mot. It out for PA. I am 100% there with my teams and they know it. They laugh at me when I prep or change workpapers or returns. It needs to get done and if they have too much I have no ego and roll up my sleeves. We sink or swim as a team. I guess my bigger issue is put group is so big staff are spread between si many teams that it’s hard to manage them and help. Even if I try and balance some other team comes in and kills them anyway. I is when our team was small and I had my 15-20 people I controlled and could protect

likehelpful

ITT: A partner entirely uninterested in other perspectives and only seeking to preach.

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I worked at a place like this out of school. We’d have meeting after meeting about process and moral improvement. Partners would ask what the staff/seniors wanted. It would be more $ and/or more help (so less work hours). Tee up the lectures from partners and senior managers chasing the carrot about why the earth is flat and things are the way they are for a reason. Thank god I left. Found another firm that pays competitively and the workload is manageable. Those firms exist but too many firms are like the one described above.

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