Can Morale Drive Profit?

Many CPAs think so. How does YOUR office rate? Join the study; get the benchmarks.

by Rick Telberg

New workplace research provides some healthy food for thought for CPAs and finance professionals—particularly for managers of firms and accounting departments interested in their own profitability and in retaining superior employees.

The Gallup Organization reveals that companies with the highest proportions of “engaged” employees increase their earnings more than twice as fast as companies with low proportions of engaged employees.

Moreover, Gallup shows that companies in the top-quartile for employee engagement have 18 percent greater productivity levels and 12 percent higher profitability than the bottom quartile companies. That all translates to 2.6 times faster growth in earnings per share. But only about 29 percent of employees are actively engaged in their jobs, according to Gallup.
So how does that translate for CPA firms and finance departments?

First, the good news: CPAs say their co-workers are twice as likely to be “committed” or “engaged” than Gallup’s average. In fact, about 65 percent of the CPAs joining our study agreed that their firms have committed and motivated professionals.

Of course, the bad news remains: Some 35 percent are not so impressed with their colleagues.

The reasons vary. But many of those who are not pleased with their co-workers’ commitment say that morale is low, and some cite a lack of motivation.

“If I add a new client, they sigh because it is more work for them even though they are under-utilized,” says Robert Dunlop in Windsor, Ontario.

“The staff in my office barely put in their time, are terribly unproductive, and morale is low,” says Laura Canales, in Boise, Idaho.

Some of the responses suggest that some firm structures could be partly to blame.

“Our firm is too autocratic and [not] structured to encourage staff engagement and motivation,” says Michael A. Gray, a CPA in Rutherfordton, N.C.

Meanwhile, the majority of CPAs who say that their staff is committed and motivated note several positives about the firm. For example, one respondent says that associates “are constantly asked to get involved with new projects and expanded roles.” They are given “a high level of responsibility and independence,” and employees are compensated “based on what they contribute to the firm.”

Does this mean that employees are either committed or not committed by nature, or is their dedication a product of the firm’s environment? In other words, do those firms that encourage creativity, offer flexible hours when needed, and reward those who put in the hard work, in turn, create such gems?

Judging by the responses, one could surmise that those firms that enjoy a committed staff have helped create that environment by encouraging their employees to be creative and to take ownership of projects. Furthermore, they are rewarded for their efforts. If the team succeeds, everyone succeeds.

RATE YOUR OFFICE: How’s morale in the typical CPA workplace?

Copyright © 2007 Bay Street Group LLC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission. First published by the AICPA.