The employee attrition rate in public accounting is between 20% and 30%. That means each year, public accounting firms lose almost one-third of their employees.
Firms are elated when low performers leave on their own. However, firms are disgusted when high performers leave for other opportunities.
We, as public accounting firms, need to learn how to motivate employees so they enjoy their jobs more. This is true for any other business in the world too. My experience is in public accounting so that is what this article will center around.
How to motivate employees? That is such a simple question. Unfortunately, it does not have an easy answer.
Characteristics of a motivated employee
Before we look at ways regarding how to motivate employees, let’s look at some of the characteristics of motivated employees. Motivated employees will:
1. Enjoy their jobs more
2. Complain less
3. Smile more
4. Produce better results
5. Be more creative
6. Make more money (personally and for the company)
7. Take on more responsibility
8. Recruit other talented employees
9. Stay in their jobs longer
10. Be healthier
11. Desire to teach others
12. Buy-in to the firm’s vision and strategies
13. Give honest feedback
14. Have happy families
15. Be team players
16. Desire to be leaders
17. Desire to learn more
18. Make great friends in the firm
19. Be more profitable
20. Motivate others
Look at yourself, your employee base and your co-workers. Do you see each of these characteristics? If not, there is work to do. Before you can know how to motivate employees, you need to know what employees want.
Just think how great it would be to go to work every day if every employee was motivated and demonstrated these 20 characteristics every day. Wouldn’t it be great?
Why is employee motivation so low? Can we do anything to motivate employees or is the “self-motivated” employee required?
I agree that being self-motivated will help one in his career more than anything else. Unfortunately, even self-motivated employees need to feel valued and receive some external motivation now and then.
What can you do to motivate employees? Is it even possible to increase employee motivation? Yes it is!
Following are six ideas on how to motivate employees:
1. Say thank you frequently – As a leader and as an employee, nothing motivates me more than being told thank you. You probably feel the same. If we feel that way, our employees will as well.
We teach our kids to say please and thank you from the moments they start to talk. When don’t we, as professionals, follow our own instruction. We should always say please and always say thank you.
The significance of the act has no bearing on whether to say thank you. Thank you is always warranted.
Because you say thank you, your employees will know you appreciate what they do. It will motivate them to obtain that appreciation even more.
2. Ask about family or family events – Have you had an employee get married, have a child or have another significant life event? Did you notice how much they like to talk about that event?
We all like to talk about ourselves. Big life events get talked about even more. If you show interest in those events, you show interest in your employee.
Interest in their personal lives help employees recognize that work is not all that matters to you. You want work done but you also care about your employees’ lives outside of work. That will increase employee motivation.
3. Ask for ideas, feedback and advice – I want my employees to know they can have an impact on how things are done. They have the ability and the responsibility to affect change.
Do your employees openly give you advice or feedback? Mine do. They know it’s okay to bring up ideas for improvement, give me feedback on a process that needs to change and give me advice on what I can do better.
They know it’s okay because I ask. I ask frequently.
From the day an employee starts working with me, I tell them to look for ways to improve our processes. They come with experience different from ours. They can have a positive impact from day one if they choose.
Talk about how to motivate employees – let them criticize the boss! Ha!
4. Provide guidance on a career path – I was talking to an employee the other day and told him that my view on leadership is that a good leader makes himself replaceable.
As a leader, I want to work with people smarter than me. If I worked with people the same as me or not as good as me, we would not progress as a group. We’d stay the same or decline.
When I identify an employee who can replace me or who has special skills for something else, I tell them. Of course, I will not push them into a career path but I can tell them what I think will be a good career path for them to take.
5. Provide flexibility – As much as we’d like for work to be all anyone thinks about from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., that doesn’t happen. Life happens.
There are times when an employee may need to come in late, leave early or leave during the middle of the day. Maybe an employee could be more productive one day by working from home.
There are several easy ways to provide flexibility to your employees. The more flexibility one has, the harder it is for that employee to say that work is too much to have a life. It’s easier to have that “balance” everyone is striving for.
Achieving the work/life “balance” motivates spouses as well as the employees. In public accounting in particular, spouses cause many otherwise happy employees to find a job in industry.
The perception is that an industry position will provide better flexibility and work/life balance. If we can provide this to the employees within our companies, they will be less likely to leave for other jobs.
6. Offer company-wide opportunities – Characteristic number 11 from the list of above is teaching others. Happy employees will want to share what they know with others.
Offering an employee the ability to teach a company-wide class, work on a team of people from across the company or participate in the planning and execution of a company-wide initiative will increase that employee’s motivation.
I’ve had the opportunity to do this several times and it always motivates me. Teaching courses to people from across the firm has helped me meet peers I would have not otherwise gotten to meet.
More importantly, teaching those courses has helped me get out of my introverted shell. It forced me to get in front of a group and present. I’m so thankful for that opportunity.
Do you now know how to motivate employees?
How can you increase employee motivation? We’ve looked at only six actions you can take to motivate your employees. There are so many more things you can do.
If you take each of the 20 characteristics of a motivated employee and apply a specific action to garner that result, you’ll increase employee motivation in ways you never thought.
Even though we all want self-motivated employees, we also need to be motivated to help motivate others. It’s our job as leaders.
Are you a leader? Regardless of your position in your company, you’re a leader to someone. You can be the example to change someone’s life. Let the leader inside you come out because you now know how to motivate employees.