Art of Accounting: Staff evaluations with and without time sheets

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I have seen firms that use time sheets provide staff evaluations based on total chargeable hours, the ratio of chargeable hours to total hours, realization based on their time charges and sometimes collections per hour they charged. This is then compared to other staff at similar levels to determine “performance.”

Alternatively I know firms that do not use time sheets and use the following measures to evaluate their staff. Look this over, compare to the time sheet evaluation methods and decide which you think is more appropriate:

  • Type of and range of clients worked on;
  • Gross fees collected from clients worked on;
  • Timeliness of fee payments of those clients;
  • Level of responsibility assumed by staff person;
  • Amount of involvement and oversight by partners;
  • Frequency of client calls to staff person rather than to partners;
  • Whether partners are kept up to date with client information and servicing issues;
  • An evaluation of their work by quality reviewers;
  • How well deadlines were met;
  • Whether there is an appearance of being in control or being rushed and overloaded;
  • Responsiveness to calls, emails and client communications;
  • Apparent effectiveness and efficiency of work performed;
  • Client complaints about staff person or quality of service;
  • How well client relates to staff person;
  • Referrals from those clients;
  • Growth of people supervised or mentored by the staff person;
  • Whether younger staff can step up to handle that person’s work;
  • Additional services clients of that staff person engage firm for;
  • Whether fee increases are accepted reasonably well;
  • Ideas and innovative suggestions by staff person;
  • New products or services developed for the firm;
  • Willingness to step forward and assist others when needed;
  • Technical ability;
  • Growth in technical abilities;
  • Niche or specialty growth;
  • Use of software;
  • Adaptation to AI and other innovative tools of delivering services to clients;
  • Whether firm systems and processes are followed and adhered to;
  • Periodic use of tele-meeting facilities rather than in person meetings;
  • Engagement in extra activities such as article writing, presenting speeches, community service, CPA society participation and mentoring.

There is no question that the latter is harder and more time consuming, but we are considering potentially career-changing staff evaluations, and firm-altering changes in staffing or staff morale. Staff evaluations are perhaps one of the most important management functions, especially when they are accompanied by salary increases; they should be done with the utmost seriousness and care, backed by the most information possible. I do not believe that using time charges solely can produce a reasonable result. If you use time sheets, then it should be just one of more than two dozen measures.

A question for partners to ponder: If you were being evaluated, which method would you prefer?

Message to staff people: When you go to a meeting that will evaluate your performance, be prepared by being ready with responses to the items on the above list. I actually did this when I was employed, and I can tell you that I received higher raises because of my preparation.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on the Accounting Today Top 100 Influential People List. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition.” Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com. Ed is an adjunct professor in the MBA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University teaching end user applications of financial statements. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or emendlowitz@withum.com.

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