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Nothing says “We value you” to an employee like a cash bonus – unless it’s actually saying, “We value you” to the employee in front of their colleagues and coworkers.

Knowing that people love recognition, and that different people respond to different incentives, Accounting Today’s 2018 Best Firms to Work For aim to recognize their staff members’ achievements and hard work frequently, publicly and in as wide a range of ways as possible.

In fact, Texas-based Best Firm ATKG aims to customize how it recognizes employees. “We administer the 'Five Motivators' survey to understand what drives people and how best to reward them,” the firm reported. “For some, it's a simple card. For others, it's a shout out at our team meeting. For still others, an in-person thank you with a gift card means the world.”

Whether it takes the form of a plaque, a gift card, a check or all three, Employee of the Month, Quarter and Year Awards are common at the Best Firms, as are special bonuses and recognition for anniversaries and years of service.

And then there are a host of firm-specific awards that come with some spending money to sweeten the deal. North Carolina’s Blackman & Sloop, for instance, has its Rock Star Award – “for employees who go above and beyond to get the job done” – which includes $200 and an award to sit on the winner’s desk.

And in Arizona alone, HeinfeldMeech gives $100 and an engraved award to the winner of its annual HEART Award (for peer-nominated employees who demonstrate the firm values of “Honesty, Excellence, Attitude, Respect and Teamwork”), while Henry & Horne gives out a cash bonus and an award to winners of its peer-nominated BESTT Pillar Awards (which recognize individuals for their contributions to five individual pillars of the firm).

Just a little further north in Colorado, staff at Whipplewood CPAs can nominate peers for a Hero Award, where those who’ve gone above and beyond receive $110 – presumably for giving 110 percent.

Regularly scheduled awards are popular among the Best Firms, but so are spontaneous gestures. As an example, at Michigan-based Gordon Advisors, “gift cards are handed out ‘on the spot’ for appreciation or for a job well done,” and at Massachusett’s Wolf & Co., “employees are given 'spot bonuses' by managers for 'above and beyond' contributions.”

In Florida, Kaufman Rossin has enlisted technology to help: “We recently implemented Bonusly, a social application allowing employees to recognize amazing work by their colleagues with regular microbonuses.”

Beyond money

Cash is always appreciated, and firms like Cassady Schiller will often provide it for a job well done – but the Cincinnati-based Best Firm also provides personally written notes and reported, “The personal thank-you note proves to be very appreciated.”

Reading from the same playbook, during Spirit Week at Missouri’s Mueller Prost CPAs, managers sent thank-you notes to employees, while Iowa’s McGowen Hurst Clark & Smith gives a note and something sweet: “When an associate goes above and beyond their job duties, we have special thank-you cards and big star-shaped chocolates to recognize them for their dedication to the firm.”

And sometimes, recognition is as close as the people sitting next to you. “At our weekly ‘huddle’ meeting, the floor is open to share ‘wow’ moments,” reported Missouri’s Wilson Toellner. “During these moments, team members are often recognized (not just by management - more often by one another) for something notable they did the previous week, small or large.”

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