This week I want to get into your team engagement.
I see a lot of firms pour effort into their hiring process but then leave team members feeling disconnected from the firm and their own professional development.
The most significant barrier to firm growth is due to the inattention + indifference of firm leaders toward their team members.
But before we jump into engagement, let’s talk about fraud.
I don’t remember much from my formal audit education, but one thing that has remained is the fraud triangle.
I have used this numerously with business clients and as a director for a handful of non-profits organizations.
The fraud triangle touches on the three greatest factors that enable internal fraud in an organization:
Anyone of these factors by themselves does not mean fraud will occur in a business. However, with two the chances of fraud increase significantly.
The fraud triangle is interesting because it weighs the individual, the environment, and the leadership as equal factors.
These factors are the exact same for your team’s engagement.
Engagement is the X factor for your team. Engaged teams work better, learn faster and take ownership of their work more.
I would take five highly engaged mediocre-skilled employees over 10 totally disengaged, highly skilled employees.
The good and bad thing about engagement is that it’s dynamic.
Engagement can be improved with effort. But it can also nose-dive quickly.
In 2015, I took over the operations department and the finance group for a manufacturing company. At the time, the design lead (we’ll call her Beth) was on the verge of quitting. Her previous boss, who I replaced, had created a toxic environment for her.
Three months after my move into that new position, I met with my boss for a performance review. One of the first things he said was that I ‘saved’ Beth.
He highlighted that her performance had increased (completing more jobs per day), all while taking on more responsibility from the floor manager.
I was confused. I couldn’t remember doing anything special for Beth.
The only thing I tried to do was talk to each team member daily about non-work related stuff.
Oh, and not be an a**hole.
If you don’t remember anything else from this week’s newsletter, remember this:
Engagement is easier to improve than you think. It’s not about elaborate perks and compensation packages. Engagement comes from small and consistent personalized efforts.
If you don’t know where to start, use the engagement triangle.
Focus on at least two points to ensure your team remains engaged.
1. Motivation/ Incentive
Paying a decent wage is the bare minimum for keeping an employee engaged.
As the accounting talent pipeline continues to get squeezed, additional perks will be mandatory to attract and retain good employees.
The nice thing is many valuable perks are non-monetary.
A clear path to advancement. Most employees need to know what future opportunities exist. Good employees are planning a few steps ahead, so show them the steps that exist with your firm.
Their engagement now depends on their perceived opportunities later.
Flexibility with their schedule. Time is a finite resource for everyone. For many, not having flexibility with one’s own time feels suffocating.
Your team members have partners, children, animals and lives that don’t keep the same hours as a typical 9-5 work day.
More people are opting for flexibility instead pay these days. Offering flexibility has a massive ROI.
Fixed Cost Model. Essentially, this cost structure ensures certain firm margins but empowers your team to ownership and initiative with their workload – check out newsletter TFYW#019 for all the details.
2. Opportunity/ Ability
Your team wants opportunities to engage for professional development.
Professional development comes from striking a balance between doing repetitive work to become an expert while encountering new opportunities to stretch oneself and skills.
Automony. Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are needed to scale your firm. They’re great for team training and support.
SOPs also prevent you from wanting/having to micromanage. If you want to disengage an employee, stand over their shoulder while they work or continually ask for updates.
SOPs are the guide to allow team members to ‘figure things out’ without the cost of them starting from scratch.
Clarity. Be clear about expectations. Most perceived disengagement or poor performance is due to confusion around expectations.
I have had high expectations but neglected to communicate them fully at times.
I was frustrated because my team was not achieving goals that none of them knew about.
Be clear about timelines, level of quality, frequency of updates and communication, organization, and any other expectation in your mind.
Your team cannot read your mind.
Challenges. People want to learn and be challenged. Part of learning is making mistakes.
Creating an environment where feedback is not a threat to employment but is part of their training is essential for high engagement.
People will be more keen to take on new assignments if they’re not afraid to fail. We have to frame failure as an investment for future success.
3. Realization/ Justification
This is where being human comes into play.
With fraud, if people can rationalize their behavior, there is a greater chance they will commit fraud. When employees can dehumanize the impact of their actions, fraud is justified in their mind.
With engagement, if you care about them personally, there will be more justification in their mind for them to care about you and the work they do.
With any relationship, if we invest our time and effort and get nothing in return, we’ll stop investing.
Team members must perceive that what they invest in the firm is equal to or less than what they receive.
Just like delivering value to a client, the value your employee receives has to be more than what they’ve paid.
Key ways to deliver value to your team
Mentorship: $ – Offer thoughtful and consistent conversations about professional development in the firm and beyond.
Unless your firm is growing like crazy, you will not have the space for all of your team to progress inside your firm. Encourage them to learn and develop for what they want now and in the long term.
Accept that good talent may only be with you for three years.
Non-billable time: $$ – I know there’s work to be done. I get it. But allowing your team to attend a conference or off-site training while being paid is a huge moral boost and demonstrates your investment in them.
Off-site adventures: $$$$ – This is a team-building weekend or trip where you can connect human to human.
Matt The CPA posted this just last night after my newsletter was already completed. I had to throw it in here.
How engaged do you think his team is?
If you don’t want to take your team on a cruise, there are other options. It is crazy how something as simple as having your team at your house to eat at your kitchen table can humanize the relationship.
When they can see firm leadership as humans and not emotionless direction givers, they will invest more.
No amount of training or pay can fix a disengaged team.
Build The Firm You Want.