People always assume that just because you’re an accountant, you are: 1) good at math, and 2) in love with numbers. Having worked 4+ years in audit at a Big Four accounting firm (thus having met dozens of other accountants), and then another almost 5 years in “industry” (this is what we accountants coin any job not in an accounting firm), I can honestly say that these stereotypes apply to less than a tenth of all accountants I’ve encountered in my career. The one thing that can be said about accounting is that it tends to be pretty repetitive: month end, quarter end, year end, financial statement audits, tax audits, etc – it’s all just one big cycle. So in between all these exciting “ends” and audits, how can you keep your finance team engaged? Here are my top three employee engagement best practices for accountants:
First – recognize, recognize, recognize! Most of the time, an accountant’s work is reviewed by their superior and then it is onto the next task in order to complete month/quarter/year end. Rarely is a bank reconciliation or an accurately inputted invoice showcased for other team members to admire and be in awe of (maybe because that would totally affirm the stereotype that all accountants are nerds). Due to the natural isolation of accounting tasks, an accountant will normally be thanked and if lucky, maybe even praised, in a one-on-one situation by their manager. Why not kick this up a notch – recognize your awesome employee in front of the entire team! Not only will this boost your employee’s confidence and employee engagement, it will also set the bar high for the rest of the team who will undoubtedly want to work just as hard to impress you and gain similar praises.
Second – don’t be a micromanager! Providing your finance team with autonomy will foster a sense of trust between them and yourself, as well as a feeling of responsibility for them to deliver nothing less than the best. As Steve Jobs once said “… when you have really good people, you don’t have to baby them. By expecting them to do great things, you can get them to do great things” – and we all know how Apple turned out. ‘Nuff said.
Lastly – change it up a bit! In case you haven’t noticed, the accounting and financial reporting life cycle can be predictable and monotonous to even the most passionate accountant (yes, they do exist). One way to ensure that your finance team stays engaged and focused is to stimulate their interest with new projects and challenges. This can be anything from job rotations after a period of time, to volunteering one of your accountants to join a company-wide task force that is totally unrelated to finance. By showing that you believe in them enough to give them new opportunities, they will in turn appreciate the challenge and excitement (yes, this exists in accounting too) you have brought to their daily work routine.