The Importance of Younger Mentoring and Development

The ongoing focus within the accounting marketplace on the importance of excellent recruitment and the retention of talent has led Derek Smith, Consultant at Foulger Underwood to reflect and make the following comment :  

The admission to partnership is a major step for all parties concerned.

Older partners frequently forget how difficult the transition can be and new entrants often underestimate the scale of the change that is required. All parties tend to underestimate the scope and nature of the challenge.

At the heart of the transition is the need to recognize that the new status requires different skills and attributes and that it also brings new responsibilities both financial and otherwise. In the majority of cases it involves a transition from the ‘safety net’ of employment to the freedom (and downsides) of self-employment. All too often this can lead to some form of isolation, self-imposed or otherwise, and a difficult adjustment to relationships with erstwhile peers and bosses.

In our experience the most difficult element of the transition is the failure to recognize the comparative naivety of the new entrant whose career has often been based on the assumption that technical skill is the most important skill (or even the only necessary skill) and whose knowledge of the structure and modus operandi of professional service firms is extremely limited. In addition, they frequently lack management or personal skills training or knowledge.

All too often their previous role has involved at best the management of processes rather than people and little or no requirement for leadership skills. There is a strange irony that established partners will often vocalize that an individual is “not yet ready” but will do little to help the individuals concerned to get ready. It is also common for us to find that prospective partners are not even aware that they are prospective partners until a third party tries to recruit them. This is likely to be an increasing reality with the major firms determined to be more involved in the SME market sector!

We have helped a number of firms to alleviate these problems by the provision of mentoring/coaching assistance to firms. The programme of preparation for an employee who is singled out for partnership, is vital if the transition is to be successful. The ability of a ‘new’ partner to contribute to the overall wellbeing of the practice, as a member of the Board, is paramount. 

The overall process is intended to ensure that the candidate has a full understanding of the transition which is planned, to put in place a tailored development plan to assist the candidate to overcome any identified weaknesses and to ensure that the candidate has a full understanding of the role of a partner in general and their intended role in particular.

Put simply, the mentoring role which we undertake helps ensure that all parties find the success, that the appointment is intended to bring!