Best Place to Work?

Just about every major city has its own version of a “Best Place to Work” competition in which 100 or more local companies are ranked according to comprehensive surveys submitted by company employees. Even if your city doesn’t have a formal listing, chances are there is some kind of effort driven by your local newspaper to rank the best of the best.

Too often, Big 4, regional and even large, local accounting firms make the cut with comments focusing on how “fun” a company is to work with, or perhaps, an extended number of generous benefits for employees. It makes sense that larger companies tend to make the list simple because of the number of employees who submit feedback on the surveys, as well as staff having more bandwidth focus on making their employees happy.

What about the small business community? In particular, why can’t a small accounting firm be a “Best Place to Work?”

From my perspective, most firms are way too busy to devote time to these kinds of competitions, let alone spend any measurable effort thinking about how satisfied Sally Sue is in her bookkeeping position. Yet, it doesn’t have to be that way. Why can’t a small firm be just as desirable a place to work as a larger firm? Here are some ways to do that:

Ask the Staff What They Want

When was the last time you asked your employees what they wanted? I’m not saying a firm owner is insensitive to their employees’ needs, but, again, it’s a matter of finding enough time in the day to address this topic. Think about these questions:

  • Could the staff work remotely and still get their jobs done?
  • Conversely, would some of the staff who currently work remotely rather work in the office? Working from home isn’t for everyone.
  • If they could spend $100 on any kind of employee amenity, what would that be? You’ll be amazed at the kinds of responses you’ll get – everything from a new microwave oven to a permanent parking space.
  • Do they really want a holiday party, or would they rather have the cost of the party divided among staff through cash bonuses?
  • Are a defined number of vacation and/or sick days still relevant? A lot of firms are eliminating these policies by relying on the employee to use his or her discretion … if you want to take 5 days, then take 5 days, as long as your work is covered by someone else or the engagement/project is finished.

Is Your Technology Employee-User Friendly?

This topic is as old as DOS, yet the managing partner or owner of so many small firms brings on new technologies without asking their employees for feedback. Sometimes, new technologies are installed without employees even knowing they are going to be installed.

You’ll win friends and earn yourself a “best place to work” accolade, if you make your employees part of the decision-making process. This also applies to subjects beyond technology – everything from office supplies to new furniture and just about anything in which an employee will need to do his or her job. I know this sounds simplistic, but you won’t believe how much a small effort to reach consensus will make a difference.

Are There Better Ways of Getting the Job Done?

The end result of any write-up or accounting work is mostly the same, but is there a more efficient way of getting the job done? All too often, companies of all sizes do the same thing year after year because “that’s the way it was always done.”

What would your firm look like if you were to make an employee’s job more efficient? Naturally, technology is a large part of the effort, but so are other areas, including, for example, the communications effort with the clients, or even the process to collecting on outstanding A/R.

Again, you’re looking for employee input in most of these cases – and I guarantee you there will be some huge hidden gems you’ll uncover along the way. No matter how you get there, what you’ve done is improve the workplace.

Take Baby Steps

You can’t achieve a “Best Place to Work” ranking overnight, or even in a short period of time. It will take several months, and even several years, before you may realize enough changes to experience an attitude shift among employees.

No matter what you do, just do it. Begin today and you’ll no doubt see some measurable results!

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