Signs that Your Business is Out-of-Date

The impact that NextGen talent and customers will have on our industry is something I’ve been writing about for more than a decade now. At the time, my article was controversial, but it has since become more mainstream. I wrote in 2011 that many business practices were out of step with current trends.

Today, I’m feeling a little down. Why? Our profession and its leaders haven’t advanced their companies as quickly or as far as needed. The clock is ticking! Pew Research predicts that Millennials will overtake Baby Boomers as the country’s largest adult population next year. 75 per cent of the American workforce will be made up of people born after 1980 in the next seven years. Clients and talent are becoming more diverse in terms of appearance and needs.

The next generation of employees and clients are looking for companies that are strategic, open, transparent, adaptable, remote-ready, empowered, efficient, technologically advanced, and result-oriented. These are the types of firms that these people want to work with. How are things going for you? Is it possible for traditional firm leaders to make such a judgment on their own? Or do their NextGen clients and employees have to?

It’s time to shine a new light on some of the more archaic habits that people are still engaging in. Consider giving this list of 13 outdated culture and talent practices to some of your Next Generation employees and see how well they think your company stacks up in terms of its future readiness.

Indicators of an out-of-date business

  1. Saturdays are required to be spent at work during peak season by the company’s policy (or mandates any specific timing or location for “extra” busy season work).
  2. It’s not uncommon to refer to the people who work in customer accounting as “the girls.”
  3. They believe that remote workers are more likely to cheat the system or be less productive than those in the office.
  4. Every year, the company honours or otherwise recognises those who have logged the most billable and/or total work hours. Some company executives even wear their total work hours on their sleeves like the Red Badge of Courage (when we know that hours worked may speak to effort but not necessarily results).
  5. Five. Harmony is valued over authenticity — so leaders choose nice instead of honest and stay silent instead of addressing problems before they fester rather than confront them head-on.
  6. Leaders believe that most people don’t need to know “need-to-know” information.
  7. Attending firm strategy or management retreats is not open to key administrators such as those in charge of marketing and HR.
  8. The IT strategy of the company excludes the use of video cameras and laptops by employees (to facilitate remote work and remote communications).
  9. Nine. Firm leaders appear to operate from a “father or mother knows best” mentality, and they do not solicit feedback to ensure that their way of operating is still valid. Some leaders may retaliate when they receive feedback, but this retaliation goes unnoticed or unchecked by others.
  10. Even in the face of rising labour costs, partners find ways to avoid raising client rates and fees.
  11. It’s not uncommon for business leaders to try to keep their employees away from information that contradicts their own beliefs, but they’re forgetting about one crucial reality: the internet!
  12. Leaders may wait to promote talented females to higher levels of leadership until they know if they plan to start a family and what will happen if they do.
  13. The leadership team takes an eternity to make and implement decisions — even simple ones like providing laptops or cameras to employees or implementing a Dress for Your Day policy. It is all too easy for one partner to sabotage a decision by voicing their displeasure. Your change agents will become frustrated and worn out if things remain stagnant. And eventually, they will decide to leave the company.

So, which archaic habits did I overlook?

Because I focused on culture and talent, rather than clients, I came up with a long list. Our next article will look at how outdated client management practices (such as only accepting payments by check) can put your firm at risk as NextGen clients rise.

In the meantime, which of the outmoded practices have you or your team noticed? What can you do today to start shifting one or two of these?

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