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2020 Vision: What’s in a (job) name?

WHILE MOST ACCOUNTANTS are juggling their time this week between understanding the finer detail of the Summer Budget, liaising with suppliers of pre-made budget books, filling envelopes and emails with tax rates, and still trying to get their chargeable hours; I’ve been pondering what’s in a name. Specifically, what’s in the job titles and credibility that we give our staff.

The accounting profession has always staggered me with regards how it treats staff. Most of us running a practice or managing a team should know the broad theory of Maslow’s hierarchy, and I’d hope that we all fulfil the physiological, safety and security needs of our staff.

Presuming that we are all paying an appropriate wage, and looking after our team, we are satisfying the “hygiene factors” identified by Herzberg in his Motivation-Hygiene theory and should then be looking at recognising achievement, recognition, responsibility, advancement, and growth.

So why is it that accountants entering the profession at 18 years-old work more 40 hours per week, study every evening and weekend for years, to strive towards becoming a “semi-senior”? Or a “part qualified”? Shelf stacking at Tesco’s would lead towards management, a better management training package, and more recognition than most accountancy practices give staff.

Think about how this looks to the outside world as well. Would you want emails from an “accounts assistant”, a “tax junior” or a “semi-senior”? Would you appreciate your car being serviced by a “semi-mechanic”, or your boiler being repaired by a “plumbing junior”?

Card sharks

Now let’s move on to business cards. I remember having to use blank business cards, and handwriting my name and (personal, not expensed) mobile number for prospects. Seriously? This either makes the team member look unvalued, temporary; or makes the firm look extremely tight. Not a good look either way!

This approach clearly doesn’t benefit staff, nor does it inspire confidence in clients. I can only surmise that this was a self-serving exercise by the powers that be in each firm; perhaps because they had to endure the same hard slog for recognition and – heaven forbid – a five pence piece of card with their name on.

I appreciate that this all might seem irrelevant to some. We’ve been guilty of all of the above, and now we must constantly ensure that we get this messaging – both internally and externally – just right. I hope this hits a nerve with at least one practitioner, who then goes on to give their staff the recognition and credibility that they deserve.

(PS If you are doing the juggling mentioned in the first paragraph, and the chargeable hours, you’re doing it all wrong…!)

Carl Reader writes our 2020 Vision column. He is a director of Wiltshire-based firm d&t, which won the 2013 British Accountancy Award for Independent Firm of the Year-Wales and South West England

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