Leadership | Learning / Education

Surviving the Shift Change in Accounting

I can still hear the sound of the factory whistle at the Bethlehem Steel shipyard in Locust Point that signaled the shift change.

I worked my way through college as a security guard on the night shift in the shipyard guarding the large ships being repaired in the dry docks. Every day I would check in and our the welders, electricians, steel workers and other trades making their way down the gangplank to punch out and make way for the next shift.

Day in and day out I witnessed this shift change. The fascinating thing was that the workers came on and pretty much picked up the work that the prior worker was doing with the same skills as the prior shift. Welders picked up right where their fellow welders left off.

Can you hear the shift change whistle? Because today the whistle is blowing for the accounting profession. The shift change is the transfer of the retiring baby boomers to the next generation of leaders that will be taking the helm in the next few years. Except this time it is not the same as the shipyard. This time the incoming shift will require a new set of skills and tools to continue the work of the prior shift. This time it's different.

The shift change is different in five fundamental areas:

  1. Technology - hyper-connected, mobile, social, cloud, and big data.
  2. Generations - Generation gap, generation lap, and 2 for 1 (Boomers to Xers).
  3. Workplace - Work is no longer a place we go, but what we do - open, collaborative, and flexible.
  4. Leadership - A recent Harvard Business Publishing study found only 32% of business leaders believe that their organizations have the right leadership to achieve their strategic goals and cope with the current business environment.
  5. Learning - L>C, flipped classrooms, participation and engagement are the new normal. 

The Shift Change in Accounting from Tom Hood

The cause of the shift change is the rapidly changing and complex hyper-competitive environment which has become the new normal. The key to managing this shift change is a very simple, but very big idea - develop your talent by keeping your L>C2.

The winners of this shift change will be those who can keep their rate of learning greater than the rate of change and greater than their competition or L>C. This is true for organizations as well as individuals. The secret to talent development and L>C2 is in the 4 C's - Competencies, Career Path, Curriculum, and Cloud Learning. Here is how we think about these 4 C's:

  • Identify critical skills needed or competencies linked to your business strategy.
  • Develop a clear career path that shows how people progress in your organization (Our framework is called theBounce)
  • Map the competencies to the career path and create a curriculum.
  • Add in "just in time" cloud learning to help you get the right talent with the right skills at the right time.

The skills needed for the shift change are these:

  1. Leadership: The ability to develop and share insights and the aptitude to mobilize and inspire others to action. Leadership is about finding possibilities and developing people, utilizing their strengths, and shaping the future.
  2. Communications: Able to give and exchange information with meaningful context and appropriate delivery and interpersonal skills. It includes the ability to make thinking visible to others in a way they can easily grasp.
  3. Strategic thinking: A future-minded and flexible mindset that thinks critically and creatively. The ability to link data, knowledge and insights together to provide quality advice for strategic decision-making.
  4. Collaboration and synthesis: Being effective at engaging others and working across boundaries to turn challenges into opportunities, including the ability to consider the whole picture (past, present, and future context) and create alternatives and options for the future.
  5. Being tech savvy: Anticipating technology changes and how they can benefit others. Being adept at standardizing data for transparency, efficient exchange, and visualization.

How can you respond to the shift change whistle? The changes in technology have ushered in a new era and opportunity to help accountants develop talent and keep their L>C. There are new systems available that were previously only available to the largest organizations that can provide a learning platform to support talent development.

An example of this big idea in action is from a Gaithersburg, Maryland CPA firm, DeLeon & Stang who implemented the 4 C's into a cloud-based learning system with the help of our team of customized learning consultants. The managing partner, Allen DeLeon said, "We see this system as a key recruitment and retention tool, allowing us to offer our people many of the things that the largest firms do - competency–based curriculum, career paths, and just-in-time learning, and our own custom D&S learning center."

You can read his case study here.

How are you responding to the shift change whistle?

Call us at 888-481-3500 or e-mail info@blionline.org for more information on how BLI can help you thrive during the "shift change".


Tom Hood