Let’s Stop Paying Lip Service to People Development

Yesterday, I had three conversations with leaders of firms in completely different geographies, of a variety of sizes about slightly different, but completely related topics:  a lack of traction in a mentoring program, an inability to get engagement reviews completed and concerns that a partner group didn’t have enough empathy to engage people.

In all three cases, there are steps the partner or HR leader can take to improve  these people programs.  But the real root cause– the crux of the people challenge in public accountingis that firms pay lip service to their commitment to people but do not reward those who develop people above those who do not.

I have the privilege of sitting in the “small room” with firm leaders as they identify their future partners. I have never once heard a leadership group choose a candidate on the basis of their people development abilities.  Instead, the things that drive promotion continue to be client service ability, chargeability, book of business and the ability to develop new business.

No matter what a firm says they value – the truth is that they do not pay and promote based on people development skills.  I’ll go even further:  firms make it difficult for their best people developers to dedicate the time to invest in people development activities because they must first focus on the “holy grail” items of client service, chargeability, book and BD and there isn’t enough time left for mentoring, training, performance managing and career planning.

Our CPACA white paper predicts a tidal wave of pent up turnover is near, coupled with the continuing exodus of our “top end” Baby Boomers into retirement.  These two factors are creating a perfect storm – where young people rule and firms scramble to improve their engagement and recruiting programs.

As your firm refocuses on your people programs, please discuss this blog with your senior leaders.  Ask what you’ll need to change to place a genuine – not lip service — premium on people development.  Do it now — before it’s too late.  I truly believe your firm’s future depends on it!

About the Author 

Jennifer Wilson is a partner of ConvergenceCoaching, LLC, a leadership and marketing coaching, consulting, and training firm that helps leaders achieve success. 

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