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Motivating your employees. (Today's Accounting Manager).

One of a manager's responsibilities is to inspire staff and encourage them to strive for excellence and remain productive even during difficult times at your firm. While this can be challenging, there are steps you can take to generate enthusiasm in any business environment.

Motivation should relate to individual needs. For instance, a staff member who enjoys collaborating with others may prefer team goals; an independent worker will strive for individual objectives.

Here are some suggestions to motivate your team:

* Reward achievements. Your employees will be more motivated to work hard if they know you recognize and appreciate their contributions. Awards don't have to be costly to have an impact. A few inexpensive ideas include providing an employee-of-the-month parking spot or offering an occasional long lunch, short workday or movie tickets.

* Address stress and burnout. Encourage your staff to speak up when they're overwhelmed. If people know that they can be honest when they have too much work on their plates, you'll be able to offer them help or suggest time-management tips.

Emphasize the importance of taking breaks. Staff may be tempted to skip lunch hours when they are busy, which can contribute to burnout. Show employees that it's okay to take breaks periodically during the workday by doing so yourself.

* Bring in temporary help. Extended periods of overtime with no relief in sight can quickly erode motivation and morale. Support your team during peak workloads by bringing in temporary staff. These professionals can manage daily accounting demands while your employees focus on priority initiatives.

* Provide competitive salaries. Underpaying staff sends the message that your firm doesn't value their work. Be sure that what you are paying is in line with current industry standards. Government reports, trade publications and job board sites are just a few resources that can help. Our company also publishes an annual salary guide covering starting salaries for a variety of accounting positions. (For a free copy, call 800-474-4253 or visit

* Maintain a sense of humor. Incorporating humor into the workplace can alleviate stress and create a more positive environment for everyone. Just make sure the comments and timing are appropriate.

Here are some long-term practices to create a culture conducive to motivation.

* Explain the "big picture." Let people know how their assignments tie into the firm's goals and priorities. A staff accountant assigned to conduct research for a client may not understand the significance of her work until it's explained to her. She may be surprised to learn her efforts could help generate additional business with the company; knowing this may prompt her to devote extra time to the project.

* Promote two-way feedback. Supplement annual performance appraisals with periodic conversations about how the employees are doing. Let team members know right away when they've exceeded or failed to meet expectations. They can then take the necessary steps to perform their best work.

Also solicit comments from your staff. Is there anything you can do that would further their career goals? Listen objectively to their ideas and take appropriate action.

* Create a safe-to-risk environment. Allow employees to take prudent risks in their work. By demonstrating trust in your staff, you'll inspire them to develop creative solutions to problems. Make sure they keep you informed, but don't micromanage their efforts. When mistakes are made, focus on what can be learned from the process instead of placing blame.

* Lead by example. You can't expect your team to be motivated if you aren't yourself. Demonstrate the attitude you want others to emulate. Arrive at work with a positive mindset. Avoid complaining about other managers or firm policies in front of employees. Simple actions can have a major influence on employee attitudes.

* Support mentoring. If your firm doesn't offer a program, consider adding one. You'll give new and less-experienced employees a head start on acclimating to your company's work environment and access to an advisor for career questions. At the same time, you'll motivate those who serve as mentors because they'll feel recognized for their expertise.

* Provide professional development opportunities. This means you are concerned about the staff's long-term career growth. You can offer seminars, e-learning programs or classroom-style courses. In the process, you'll gain a more skilled workforce.

Max Messmer is chairman and CEO of Robert Half International Inc. (RHI), parent company of Robert Half Finance & Accounting", Accountemps" and Robert Half Management Resources." RHI is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm placing accounting and finance professionals on a full-time, temporary and project basis. Mr. Messmer's most recent books are Motivating Employees For Dummies", Managing Your Career For Dummies", Job Hunting For Dummies", 2nd Edition, Human Resources Kit For Dummies" (Hungry Minds, Inc.); and The Fast Forward MBA in Hiring (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.).
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Author:Messmer, Max
Publication:The National Public Accountant
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2002
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