When salaries are tight, corporate culture becomes competitive differentiator.
by Rick Telberg
The days of concierge service and back rubs for accounting staffers may be over. But has building the so-called "great place to work" fallen by the wayside as a competitive necessity for firms and finance organizations in this economy?
In recent years, various media outlets and organizations have created a cottage industry in rating, ranking and publicizing the elements in compensation, benefits, working conditions and corporate culture that add up to a "great" or "best" place to work.
Considering the realities of today's economy, does a "great" place to work actually mean anything anymore?
In fact, according to CPA Rick Solomon, CEO of RAN ONE Americas and a contributor to the AICPA's new "Bull's-Eye! The Ultimate How-To Marketing & Sales Guide for CPAs," "Creating or working in a 'great place' is more important than ever."
"At the core of success for any firm is having a great team," Solomon says. "That means a team that is motivated and engaged in helping to move the firm forward, and actively participating in creating an awesome client experience. Having team members who go the extra distance for a client, to proactively engage where and when they can, is ultimately what increases client satisfaction and retention."
Still, the term "has taken on a bit of a redefinition," according to strategic adviser Jay Nisberg, Ph.D. "I think the characteristics of a great place to work may have changed."
"The concept of receiving partner respect and treating employees like ladies and gentlemen have taken on a higher level of importance," Nisberg says.
Despite a tight job market, Nisberg says, top-flight talent is still hard to find and keep, making corporate culture a competitive differentiator. "When it comes to human capital the A and B players are still capable of moving around and commanding interesting offers," according to Nisberg. "High-potential people don't like being yelled at, screamed at or treated like third-class citizens." Actually nobody does, Nisberg says, but the best people have options even in this economy.
Management consultant Rita Keller agrees, "building the reputation as a great place to work, whether the firm actually wins awards or not, is critical to the future of the firm."
But she goes further, citing data that show a tidal shift in the demographics of accounting and accounting firms. "The CPA profession is becoming a 'woman's nation,' and younger male CPAs are joining them in the quest to change how people work in a way that helps working parents be successful," Keller says. Referring to the Shriver Report, Keller says "men and women agree that government and business are out of touch with the realities of how most families live and work today."
"The simple truth is that people are motivated for their own reasons, not ours," adds Solomon. "What motivates people to perform at their very best is working in an environment where they feel valued, and that what they do makes a difference to the overall firm mission and success. And, as a result, they grow professionally and personally."
"A great firm brings out the best in people," Solomon continues.
Can yours afford anything less?