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Employee Motivation, Recognition, Rewards, and Retention: Kicking It Up a Notch!

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Weaver employs more than 400 team members at offices in Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Midland, Odessa, and San Antonio, Texas. Operating offices in disparate geographical areas presents challenges in establishing unified practices across all locations. Moreover, business expansion fueled by acquisitions and organic growth presents challenges in maintaining an atmosphere where employees feel connected and accessible to partners and senior managers. While a larger workforce may equate to more expansive capabilities for serving clients, it also presents challenges for recognizing and rewarding the aspirations and contributions of individuals. Weaver is not immune, either, from economic pressures affecting the United States, in general, and the geographic regions the firm serves. While each CPA firm faces specific human resources concerns, the variety of employee motivation, recognition, rewards, and retention steps Weaver has taken may be adapted to address varying circumstances. Motivation Evaluate compensation rates.

Compensation is a motivating factor for employees, and addressing that factor in difficult economic times is not easy. Conducting a market analysis twice a year, however, ensures that compensation levels remain within a competitive range. Select office locations that promote greater work/life balance. Having offices located near restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, and other outlets for refreshment and relaxation makes it easier for employees to maintain a balance between professional and personal fulfillment. Define career paths for advancement. While not every individual aspires to reach the partner or seniormanager level, employees want to know that opportunities exist for career advancement. Sharing career path knowledge with interns, associates, and others during recruitment and employment interviews provides that direction and the awareness that advancement is possible within the firm.

Supply ample feedback. Employees want to know their work meets expectations. Engagement reviews provide feedback for specific assignments. Semi-annual and annual performance reviews provide feedback on more expansive levels and help employees to identify and attain tangible goals for improvement. Opportunities for employees to provide feedback regarding partner performance also enable individuals to aid in partner leadership development efforts. Plan employee activities for outside of the office. Employees spend considerable time with their coworkers and may only know them as professional colleagues, and not as individuals. Charitable and recreational activities outside the office provide opportunities for camaraderie and mutual respect to develop among coworkers. Such feelings nurture greater cooperation and teamwork within the office. Maintain regular communication among firm leaders and employees. In a larger firm with offices in multiple cities, employees should be familiar with other employees and their responsibilities. They should also feel connected to the firm’s leadership. With offices in separate regions, it is likely that feelings of physical and organizational distance will develop between employees and senior management.

Thus, it helps to have an accessible partner in each location. That partner’s presence enables individuals to have someone in a leadership position they can talk with, who is familiar with their contributions. Supplementing that partner access with regular communication from the firm’s CEO and other leaders and employees enhances that sense of connection. Employees are aware then of the firm’s critical issues, significant accomplishments, and the activities of their peers. Employees feel a greater sense of commitment when such information is freely shared. Recognition Publicize events that matter to an individual. Publicizing employee milestones (e.g., birthdays and employment anniversaries) and posting congratulatory messages via an online employee-communications portal or 6 NOVEMBER 2011 other medium keeps employees connected and provides frequent recognition opportunities. Such milestones should occur frequently throughout the year. Honor performance that exemplifies the firm’s core values. Employees whose performance best reflects the qualities most valued within the firm should be recognized and rewarded for their work. Such an award not only honors specific individuals, but also defines for others what it means to exemplify core values. Acknowledge the value of volunteerism.

Individuals want to be involved in helping their communities and professions. They want to know that a firm supports their volunteer efforts. Such efforts promote goodwill, community appreciation, and business development opportunities for a firm. Acknowledging individuals for their volunteerism nurtures all of those benefits. Call out an outstanding new employee. Providing an annual award for the best new employee encourages that individual to continue delivering performance. That award helps establish benchmarks of excellence for future new employees. Laud impressive business development efforts. Recognizing an individual for developing new business signifies the importance those activities play in spurring a firm’s growth. Rewards Establish a program that incorporates short-term, attainable goals. Offering rewards that are achievable throughout the year sustains the positive impact associated with presenting annual awards. These awards encourage employees to continue to give their best effort.

Such plans can be modeled, for example, on the rewards programs offered by various credit card issuers. Defined point totals may be given for an employment anniversary or other similar event, as well as for work-related accomplishments. By offering numerous opportunities to accumulate points, employees can always progress toward reward goals. Offer items that matter to employees. Rewards need to be meaningful to an individual. One of the benefits of using a points-based reward system is that numerous reward items can be offered for different point totals. Available items can be displayed on a firm’s intranet. Some employees may value a coffee mug or a gift card to a restaurant or movie theater, while other employees may value an iPad. By incorporating flexibility into a rewards program, employees may work toward earning items they really want. Retention Generate meaningful metrics and comparisons regarding turnover. Employee turnover will always occur. Measuring turnover on a monthly basis and comparing that information to industry norms illustrates any higher-than-expected departure rates.

That information lets managers know that human resource concerns may require further attention. Solicit exit interview explanations from departing employees. Offer departing employees the opportunity to participate in anonymous exit interviews. The anonymous nature enables employees to candidly discuss reasons for leaving. Employees may leave to relocate to different regions of the country, to start families, or to launch new careers. Some may opt for early retirement. Such interview responses indicate what a firm could have done to change an individual’s decision and whether any issues exist that require immediate attention. Be flexible with work schedules. Some employees have family obligations during standard work hours, while others work better during different hours of the day. Employees have varying priorities in their personal and professional lives, and those priorities may change during the course of their careers. Offering flexible scheduling enables employees to attain greater work/life balance, which makes them more likely to stay with the firm. Technological capabilities also allow employees to work from home at least some days each week.

Give bonuses for referring other employees to the firm. Employees know the culture and values of their firm. They may also know individuals whom they feel would fit in well with the firm. Offering referral bonuses whenever a recommended person is hired gives employees a greater sense of ownership in building the firm. Assign mentors to new employees. Starting employment requires learning new work responsibilities. It also requires getting acclimated to a firm’s culture, processes, and norms. A mentor gives a new employee someone to turn to for support and direction during that time of uncertainty. A mentor should stay with a new employee for at least 90 days. Allowing mentors to stay on for an extended period can be very beneficial to the firm, as individuals differ in the amount of time they need to adapt and thrive in a new work environment. Overall, the support from mentors reduces the possibility that a wellqualified new employee may leave. Solicit suggestions. Soliciting suggestions from employees and acting on them can be very beneficial to CPA PRACTICE MANAGEMENT FORUM 7 NOVEMBER 2011 both the firm and its employees.

Employees will feel connected to the firm and motivated in helping it succeed. Employee suggestions may include reducing paper or energy consumption or structuring benefit plans differently. Because employees are so close to various work flows, they may have valuable ideas for enhancing efficiency or work quality, which can benefit the firm by cutting costs and attaining greater efficiencies for growth. Offering a means in which individuals can voice their suggestions and implementing them helps employees recognize that their ideas matter. Such opportunities increase the likelihood that they will remain with the firm. Great workforces promote growth and continuous improvement Every CPA firm possesses unique characteristics. Every CPA firm faces specific challenges. So much success, however, depends on having a great workforce. Focusing on efforts that enhance motivation, recognition, rewards, and retention helps a firm become an employer of choice, a firm whose individuals drive growth and continuous improvement.

About the Author: Demetrice Branch is the director of Human Resources for Weaver. The firm is ranked as one of the largest independent certified public accounting firms in the Southwest with offices throughout Texas. Contact her at [email protected] or by calling 817-882-7767.  Nominations Open for 2012 Marketer of the Year Award CPA Practice Management Forum is proud to sponsor the 2012 Accounting Firm Marketer of the Year (MOY) Award. Submit your nomination by January 13, 2012. Self-nominations are accepted. To nominate yourself or another marketer, email [email protected] and include: • • • the nominator’s name, title, firm name, phone number, and e-mail address; the nominee’s name, title, firm name, phone number, and e-mail address; and the phrase “Marketer of the Year Award” in the subject of the e-mail.

The Marketer of the Year Award will be presented at the Association for Accounting Marketing’s 2012 Summit, which will be held June 10-13 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Nominees must have held a senior-level marketing position in public accounting for at least three years, although not necessarily at the same firm. Criteria for selection focus on leadership and impact rather than on conceptual or theoretical work. Strong candidates will have made a major contribution to their firm by: • • • Both nominator and nominee will receive applications after the J anuary 13 n omination deadline.

These applications must be filled out by both individuals for the nominee to be eligible, unless he or she is self-nominated. The deadline for completing applications is F ebruary 17, 2012 . strengthening an existing marketing program; creating/introducing a new marketing program; or significantly increasing a firm’s marketing orientation. Please call Marsha Leest at 845.369.3224 with questions about the MOY award. For information about the Association for Accounting Marketing and its annual summit, call AAM at 856.439.0500 or visit www.accountingmarketing.org. CPA PRACTICE MANAGEMENT FORUM Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

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