Tom Hood, CPA, CITP, CGMA, shares his insights, tips and techniques on how to turn these challenges into opportunities. Tom is CEO and executive director of the Maryland Association of CPAs and the Business Learning Institute.
1. Information Overload
First on the list is information overload, including accounting and tax complexity issues. Tom refers to this as “filter failure.” “There is so much noise out there, so much content, and so many things we feel compelled to stay on top of,” he says. “To better manage the feeling of information overload and to turn it into an opportunity, be strategic about what you listen to.”
You might need to develop a better filter. Here are 3 examples:
- Filter by topic. In other words, specialize. Think about developing expertise in a specific area, so choose to pay attention only to items that pertain.
- Filter by source. Find trusted sources and stick with those.
- Collaborate. Use social media and other tools to reach out to others to get thoughts and advice when you have questions.
2. Work/Life Balance
Tom’s experience working with young CPAs indicates that they feel there is no work/life balance. “Smart phones and laptops mean we are always available, 24-7, and our companies and clients frequently expect an immediate response,” he says. “The secret to solving the work/life balance is to know yourself and to create a work/life integration you can live with.”
For some, this means turning the phone off at a specific time each night; for others it means better boundaries between your professional and personal life.
3. Generational Issues and Communications
Tom has done quite a bit of work around generational issues in the workplace and has discovered these issues just aren’t going away.
“Management, mostly made up of baby boomers who complain about the millennial employees, who then complain about the baby boomers; on the other hand, GenXers complain in every direction! The issue is that none of these audiences are in the same room talking to one another. The answer to working together is communications and collaboration.”
Each generation has its own set of beliefs. How many times have you heard someone say these statements:
- “He is not committed to his job.”
- “She just doesn’t listen to my ideas.”
- “He has a poor work ethic.”
- “She has tattoos.”
“With four generations working side by side, there are a lot of conflicts,” says Tom. “Each of these generations were influenced by various events that impacted who they are and how they work. There is no right or wrong. We just need to work together and understand what motivates each group to move forward. The opportunity in this is to tap the hearts, smarts, and ingenuity of all of your people to work together toward your common goals.”
4. Developing Networking Skills
The old adage “It’s not what you know but who you know” is true, especially when you are trying to grow your clients or build your career. Whether using social media or the traditional handshake, developing networking skills is a key strategy for all young CPAs hoping to get ahead. Tom suggests making use of local CPA chapters and AICPA social media to build that network.
5. Keeping Up With Technology
Everyone needs a strategy to keep up with technology, but young CPAs, in particular, need to understand how technology helps them work better, smarter, and more accurately, and how to use technology to collaborate with colleagues and clients. According to Tom, it is especially important to understand how technology can impact your job.
“MIT research shows that new technology can make some jobs obsolete. For example, the Chicago Sun-Times recently eliminated all of their photographers, replacing them with reporters using iPhones as cameras. Young CPAs need to be vigilant to understand the impact new technologies have on their companies, their clients, and their career.”
6. Finding Career Guidance
“The key to gaining more responsibility and respect—and rising in the ranks of an organization—is having the requisite technical proficiency combined with leadership proficiency,” says Tom.
This means having not only accounting skills, but the ability to think strategically, collaborate with others, synthesize ideas, and communicate those ideas.
AICPA’s Young CPA Leadership Academy and conferences like the E.D.G.E. can provide access to the resources you need to build your strategic capabilities. The next E.D.G.E. conference will be held in New Orleans on August 7-8, 2014. Look for registration information in the beginning of 2014 on AICPA.org and on the Young CPA Network social media.
7. Understanding Social Media Benefits
Social media really combines all of the top issues facing young CPAs, especially generational issues and communications. Although Tom says the leadership of many organizations see social media as a waste of time that distracts employees from their workload, research by the Harvard Business Review and a study by MIT Sloan and Deloitte found social media is a tool for collaboration, innovation, operations, and leadership.
“In fact, the Harvard Business review quotes analysis by McKinsey Global Institute that found social media has a potential impact of increasing knowledge worker productivity by 25%. That’s a total economic impact of $900 billion to $1.3 trillion annually in the consumer packaged goods, consumer finance, professional services, and advanced manufacturing sectors.”
“Young CPAs should stay on top of social media by being active in it and learning to use it in a way that impacts their career, as well the ability to do their jobs,” he says. “Knowing how to use social media will be an incredible asset for years to come.”
The Crux of It
With the pace of change and complexity on the rise, CPAs must become more global-minded, proactive, future-focused, balanced, and tech-savvy to maintain their competitive edge. Tom sums up it up quite well:
“In a period of rapid change and increasing complexity, the winners are going to be the people who can learn faster than the rate of change and faster than their competition. Hopefully, these 7 areas give you a place to start.”
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