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Why Mark Zuckerberg Isn’t A CPA And More Big Four Engagement Ideas From The City Of Brotherly Love

By Rob Starr, Content Manager

As the generational landscape shifts in the Big Four firms and Millennials slide their chairs in around the tables once reserved exclusively for the Baby Boomers, many of the once long held traditional beliefs about the staples of the business world like employee engagement are being redesigned to suit those taking the reigns.

The transition makes for some interesting crystal ball gazing and other well informed prognostications from those current in the Big Four ranks, those looking to start careers with

Douglas Ross

Douglas Ross

these industry leading firms, and other former Big Four auditors who have traveled other roads less taken and started companies that specialize in recruiting Big Four professionals. Douglas M. Ross, CPA, is the Managing Director of one such firm, Aces United LLC in Philadelphia, and he recently shared his thoughts with us on the state of employee engagement today.

We started our conversation on the differences between the Big Four and other corporate entities.

“There’s a uniqueness in the population of the employees in the Big Four,” Ross said. “In many ways, that population is uniform across the board. You’re talking about a lot of recent college graduates and people who have never worked for another company.”

Limited Exposure

These people generally have limited exposure to a wide variety of corporate America influences and don’t often come in with the experience of having worked with a number of other companies. Ross, who was recruited from college into the Big Four, sees the experience as a training ground of sorts.

“I always looked at it as boot camp for corporate and other private industries. When I reflect, I remember how challenging it was from a work/life balance perspective,” he says adding that he also sees it as a crash course in learning how to interact with other people and the appropriate way to carry yourself.

According to Ross, these are the reasons that employee engagement in the Big Four needs to take a different approach from other corporate entities. Next, we talked about the inevitable generational aspects at play.

Instant Gratification

“The Millennial demographic is online and is more prone to seeking instant gratification,” he says. Ross highlights the information sharing abilities that are commonplace as one of the ways that Big Four employees and recent college graduates gain insights into cutting edge corporate cultures they never had before.

“The Googles and Facebooks have been glorified as the gold standards, so the expectations these employees develop when they enter the workforce are different. What may have worked with engagement twenty years ago won’t with this new generation of Big Four auditors.”

The biggest challenge for today’s Big Four firms as far as engagement goes is offsetting the expectations that arise from the modern internet related Horatio Alger stories that aren’t the business norm. Ross says that while the role models of today’s young professionals are the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world, these rags to riches stories don’t present a set of realistic expectations for young auditors.

“Mark Zuckerberg didn’t cut his teeth at large public accounting firms for ten years and then start Facebook,” he says.


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