In my last article (Accounting Today, Sept. 4-17, 2006, page 22), we explored the importance of understanding what motivates your people. I encouraged you to use the six professional motivators to ask them to prioritize what motivates them - both as a team and individually. In this article, we'll explore actions and ideas that I'd like you to consider for appealing to each of the six within your organization.Acknowledgement and respect
Acknowledgement and respect are the least expensive of the six, and sometimes have the most impact. It is the act of communicating your appreciation for your people's efforts, and showing them courtesy and kindness in the work place.
When you are appealing to this motivator, you are encouraging all people connected with your organization, including partners, owners and clients, to treat your people with dignity and honor.
Some potential actions that you can take to show your people acknowledgement and respect include:
* "Catching" your people in the act of doing something good and thanking them for it.
* Sending personal-appreciation e-mails to people for a job well done, or in honor of their birthday or anniversary with your firm.
* Stopping by someone's cubicle or office to tell them what a great job they did on a project.
* Sending group communications acknowledging team accomplishments or singling out a team member for a particular achievement.
* Sending handwritten notes of appreciation.
* Implementing a "wow" note program, where anyone can submit someone's name and accomplishment for acknowledgement, and then reading "wow" notes at firmwide meetings.
* Providing your team members with constructive, honest feedback about their areas for improvement, showing your interest in helping them grow.
* Ensuring that any acknowledgement given is specific and sincere - generalizing, over-blowing or acknowledging people when they don't deserve it can have a demoralizing effect.
Camaraderie and fun
In this area of motivation, you'll focus on team-building, developing a feeling of relatedness to others at work, undertaking activities to promote socializing, and making sure that you're promoting enjoyment in the workplace and on client projects. Some ideas for promoting camaraderie and fun include:
* Appointing a director of fun - someone to ensure that fun is considered and planned for. This person would then form a "fun committee," develop a calendar of fun activities and gain approval for their plan and budget from the owner or leader group.
* Investing in team socials and events, and allowing them to be scheduled to overlap portions of the work day when possible to maximize attendance.
* Sponsoring facilitated fun events, including scavenger hunts, celebrating Halloween or having other "theme" dress days; holding contests around problem-solving and brainteasers; or bringing lunch in or hosting brown-bag social lunches once per month to encourage all team members to eat together.
* Interacting directly with your team members and showing a genuine interest in knowing about them - their interests, dreams and background.
* Opening yourself up to them - but only if they ask, so it isn't all about you!
You're probably already pretty focused on this area of motivation, but remember that it is only one of the six - and, surprisingly, isn't always the most important one! When working in this area, you'll undertake activities to ensure that your firm's salaries, commissions, financial incentives, stock options and other income-based pay are motivational.
Some actions to explore related to motivating via compensation are:
* Investing in benchmarking data to ensure that your firm is paying market rates for base salaries. Good sources for this data include the American Institute of CPAs' PCPS MAP survey, Robert Half's annual salary guide and the fee-based service on www.salary.com.
* Ensuring that each team member has specific, measurable goals, with "by-when" dates for each. These do not all have to be financial goals, but they do have to be measurable. These goals will enable you to consider financial incentives against achievement or, even if you are not ready to put incentives in place yet, will provide you with specific measures on which to base your performance evaluations and merit increases each year.
* Pay your people when they help you recruit new members of the team - and today's minimum for employee referral program incentives is $3,000.
Flexibility and time off
You'll appeal to this value when you empower your people to schedule their own time, choose their work hours and days, work from home, take time off for personal activities and earn time off.
Some flexible considerations are:
* Friday afternoons or full days off in summer months or slower periods to compensate for heavier busy-season schedules. This can be a real competitive differentiator in recruiting today.
* Implementing paperless technologies and remote access to enable your team members to work from anywhere, at any time. This will support working from home on the evenings or weekends, and will help overcome the overtime boundary that some perceive when "having to be" in the office after hours.
* Rewarding your people who value this motivator with time off, and working hard to ensure that they take all of their time earned each year.
* Holding more team meetings via telephone to allow people to attend from anywhere.
Responsibility and challenge
When appealing to this motivator, you'll provide your people with expanded duties and responsibilities, and increase the complexity and importance of their work.
Actions to consider in this motivational realm include:
* Inviting more junior people to participate in your firm's strategic planning process - especially in the input process, where you're measuring your firm's current state and identifying areas for improvement and market opportunities.
* Allowing your supervisors and managers to participate in conflict and performance management meetings to see your technique in action.
*Delegating assignments based upon their potential to provide challenge and growth.
* Clearly outlining and communicating the steps that team members can take to grow within the firm, if that is their desire.
* Including your staff members in the interviewing and hiring processes.
* Encouraging team members to act as mentors for new staff or those junior to them, even if informally.
* Rotating responsibility for group communications processes - meeting agenda preparation, meeting facilitation, meeting recapping, internal e-mail communications, etc.
* Challenging your people -they will step up!
In this area, you'll invest in developing additional skills, abilities and enhanced market value for your people during their employment. When developing your people, you'll look at continuing education, investment in certifications, mentoring programs, leadership development and more.
Some ideas to evaluate are:
* Defining your team members' roles and responsibilities to help them establish a career path and let every person know their "part" in the play within your team.
* Encouraging written goal-setting at all levels in your firm, with specific actions and by-when dates for each goal.
* Involving your people in problem-solving, and sharing your view of what works and doesn't work about their ideas.
* Developing a firm environment that challenges the status quo, and laying strict ground rules to foster a safe haven for raising concerns and suggesting solutions.
* Investing in three types of education for your people - technical (enhancing their audit, tax or technology skills), soft skills (enhancing leadership behaviors and management skills), and business model education (teaching your people about the mechanics of running your business, including budgeting, financial management, billing and collections, and more).
If you're like me, you look at these ideas and think, "When will I ever get this done?" But don't allow the initial idea overload to stop you from making a difference in the level of motivation and performance of your team.
Instead, follow the advice of my prior article on this subject, and identify your top two or three corporate motivational values first. This will allow you to focus your firm-wide energies on those motivators that are most important to your entire group.
Then, involve your key firm leaders in a meeting and pick one motivator from your top firmwide motivators - only committing to implement three ideas in that one area to start. The results will be so positive that you'll gladly take on more of these ideas as you gain momentum.
Now go out there and motivate!
Jennifer Wilson is co-founder and owner of ConvergenceCoaching LLC (www.convergencecoaching.com), a leadership and marketing consulting and coaching firm that specializes in helping CPA and IT firms achieve success.
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