An example of "what's it like to be a senior staff" writing seems in order, after all the drama of the nasty early fall combined recruiting, layoff and UFE exam analysis season.
The thought of explaining what it's like to run jobs with eager young staff ready to assist you came about, ironically, after noticing that Stuff Accountants Like, an unashamed homage to the inventor of the online genre, Stuff White People Like, announced their site is going on an LOA, an extended vacation - I found it amusing that my search for the SWPL link led me to their article about taking a year off - so "unashamed homage" is not too subtle a term here.
SAL explained that the work involved in writing new posts has taken its toll and a busy season is no doubt about to smack the author in the face.
My own busy season is in unabashed full swing - now that I've been working in as a CA firm for a few years I have the joy of being trusted to Get Things Done, while at the same time being granted more staff who assist me with these tasks which Must Get Done.
This means that this year's busy season has been more intense than ever.
You may rightly ask, "Why are you busy so soon, don't most financial statements come out after the December year ends, causing a busy season for CAs in January and February?"
The answer is that you must remember that yes, I'm a CA, but I'm also an IT auditor, so our busy season starts earlier in the fall, as we need to test our clients' information technology before the end of the year rather than after..
And fortunately, despite the crunches we face, the workload still is not as bad as the hours in financial audit - I've experienced those too.
This month I did start to charge hours that resembled theirs, however, hence another instance of my habitual unannounced pauses in posting here. It really didn't feel like my last post was about 20 ago, and yet that's been the gap - that's just a sign of how much work had to get done.
Now you think, "but at least you have staff to help you - that'll help you get things done, right?"
It's wonderful to have a team with whom you can share the workload. But it doesn't make the workload magically disappear.
The moment you start delegating work, you're creating a new type of work: audit supervision!
There's a metaphor here, somewhere.
Supervising audit staff.
It's its own kind of fun - depending on who you work with, varying levels of supervision are needed. If you're good at explaining complex tasks the time spent on supervision is minimized, but you still have to check in on your helpers to make sure things are getting done properly, otherwise someone will have to end up re-doing some or all of the work, which is never good for your engagement's budget.
The other exciting element of quasi-stress comes from having competent staff. And given how incredibly difficult it is to get hired in my group, we're blessed with unusually competent staff.
Wait, what's this, now?
Competent staff can give you stress?
Certainly - the only thing that can cause you as much trouble as staff who can't get the job done, are staff who get the job done so fast you have nothing else for them to do for you!
While it's not a problem that they did a good job, it will be a problem if you don't anticipate that this will happen. If work gets done faster than you expected, you're still responsible for keeping them busy for the rest of the week. You did prepare and set aside more work assignments for them to handle when they finished early, right?
Thankfully this isn't usually a huge problem - even if you really did run out of things for them to do. More work inevitably creeps up, or you can earn brownie points with other senior colleagues by sharing out your now "free" staff on their projects instead, giving them their own moment of relief.
Or, if all else fails and you're entering slow season - lucky you - no one has work to share, but any decent sized firm will have a large volume of self-study materials your staff can turn to.
Those self-study materials are both a blessing and a course. If you have new staff you need to check up on them and make sure that they know you'll have more assignments ready to share with them, rather than quietly sit around going through the self-study modules. There's nothing wrong with gaining more "book knowledge", unless there's "real life knowledge" to be gained by working on actual audit files!
If you do things well by the time your blissful vacation or LOA rolls around work is under control, your review notes are cleared and your managers and partners are not liable to get you to stay late the day before you take off because the job got done.
With that in mind, when would be the best time to take time off from work? The answer varies, but it's been discussed in depth in this myCAsite forum discussion, so go read that instead of making me write about it now. I still have more work to do, and this is my one day off all week long!
The sad news I broke ten days ago about "layoffs" hitting writers coming back from the UFE is being discussed in greater detail at mycasite.com.
Click here to go to the article and read more details about the unfortunate "welcome back from the exam, pack your desk up right away" terminations.
What's most troubling about all this is the fact that the website of the firm in question (which one of the unfortunate former employees identifies here) actually has, as of writing, a job posting for a CA articling student.
Uh, what, sorry? If I was drinking something at the time, I probably would've done a spit take all over my monitor on seeing that.
It's more bizarre than anything I saw at Nuit Blanche.
Well, with the possible exception of the young father who wanted to smoke up instead of returning to his lady and child. That was even weirder, but only by a small degree. And this wasn't bizarre at all, just cool.
In the firm's defence, their website states, on the career page that their "structure is unique in Canada. Management decisions are made
What I read from that is that even if one or two offices treat staff in a particular manner, perhaps the others wouldn't.
Judging from the feedback I've received, offices in both the East and
West went through this nasty shock - particularly with a very
unfortunate attitude towards paying out termination severance. I won't
be surprised if some lawsuits start making way in the news - though my
limited knowledge of this field of law suggests that the cases will
probably be settled out of court for superior severance packages in lieu of an even nastier PR hit.
Even worse, of course, is the news, also reported in the mycasite.com conversation, that at least one other firm employed the completely asinine tactic of informing people of their layoff before the exam. Is that HR department staffed by people who simply enjoy dishing out incredibly brutal practical jokes? The mind spins.
"You're getting your two weeks notice, oh, and good luck on the 13 hour exam."
Honestly, this is madness.
You'll note my hesitance tonight in using the word "layoffs" - I'm sympathizing with Francine's attitude that this is really a cutback deserving another name, since layoffs suggest a seasonal reduction in force whereas the hiring post I found suggests that this is merely more of a cost-saving measure than anything. But then again, "forced termination" and other terms sound awkward and clumsy, so I guess I'll continue using the term whether or not it's 100% accurate. And having added this little note in, I'm going to stand by the fact that words are imbued with the meanings we give them; "getting let go from the big 4" is one of the meanings for the "layoff" so I'll keep using it in this sense. Comments? Click here and leave some.
The month before, the count was 416; in September the total count was only 376, that's an improvement.
Accounting firms continue with dismissals as they welcome new hires and prepare for another busy season. After condemning the day-of-UFE terminations, a week later I heard that more terminations went through. Exact numbers are, as usual, hard to come by, since each firm is understandably secretive - but the carnage seems to be less severe than last year - if you had a chance to spot the warning signs, and had an escape route, it was a good time to transfer out of regular audit as soon as you could.
As anyone would, I feel bad for everyone who was sent home, especially those who haven't completed their CA student programs, since your options are a bit more limited. The big upside is that lots of small and mid-sized firms still need people, even in a lousy economic time. Hopefully they'll all find a good new home.
Some people find a job that's less stressful than audit and accounting too.