It Starts at The Top: How to Keep Your Team Engaged in Work

Posted on 27th April 2017 in Advisory

Written by Freya Hughes

Staff engagement is important in every industry but especially so for accounting firms. With so much competition for clients and new cloud and advisory strategies to implement and grow, you need to be confident you can count on your people. John Ryder, Founder and Managing Director of Hive.HR is a client of FUTRLI and an expert in employee engagement. It’s estimated the cost of replacing employees is 150% to 250% of annual compensation figures which isn’t affordable risk. In this blog, we speak to John about how your practice can work on staff retention because prevention is definitely better than cure.

Engagement is not the same as happiness. It’s one thing to introduce perks in the workplace though a smile on someone’s face does not mean they’re engaged. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should do away with ping pong tables or beers on Fridays! However, it is of note that while employees enjoy these perks, they might not be working hard or productively. Engagement is what happens when you have an employee who will care about the business and want to do the best they can to help it evolve. It’s about emotional commitment and loyalty to seeing the business do well.

Why should you care?

Engagement underpins business performance. As the owner of your firm, you want to increase your revenue and stock shares. Engaged employees impact on this hugely. Let’s break it down – engaged employees lead to…

  • higher service quality and productivity
  • higher customer satisfaction
  • higher sales (therefore, higher profit)
  • higher shareholder returns (stock prices)

It starts at the top

If Partners aren’t drilling into what colleagues want in the grand scheme of things, they won’t feel valued or nurtured, and there’s a risk they’ll start to resent or dislike their working environment. Gallup state that the best, high-performance managers will create strong, positive teams. They’ll focus on strengths, engagement, and performance. All the while developing interpersonal relationships with employees. If employees are spoken to about things outside of the workplace by their managers they feel more comfortable and relaxed. This usually results in better quality work from employees as their connection with their bosses makes them strive to do well. The more employees are driven to accomplish tasks, the better morale is likely to be – and that reflects directly in what your client base say about your firm.


“The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers” – Sybil F. Stershic


People don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. In your firm, think of who left most recently. Did they have a good relationship with their manager? If not, look to retraining management as complacency can creep in without being noticed.

Make a rewarding working day for your staff

Forecasting for change is a failsafe way of keeping your firm from harm’s way. By now, I hope you’ve got to grips with your What if scenarios. You can use these for pretty much anything you could imagine – including how to cope when losing the interest of your best talent. If you prepare for the worst, it’ll open your mind to think of why the worst might happen. Create contingencies for what might happen – if a real big-hitter with your clients suddenly drops their resignation on your desk, do you have the funds to employ recruiters? Budget some of your cash to invest in a recruitment agency – if you have a good relationship then they’re more likely to put your interests first. It’s win-win: the recruiters will understand your firm and you’ll find the right recruit to fit your firm.

Calculate what you can afford to invest in. Advisory services have been talked about for years but technology now makes it possible to scale this in your business. We’ve heard great customer success stories from firms who have embraced advisory across their entire practice and it’s been reported that it has had a positive effect on keeping accountants engaged in firms. Becoming advisors will see your employees know their clients better than ever before and this will give you a positive uplift with client satisfaction – as clients are nurtured by default. When they help clients understand what their numbers really mean, your team become teachers, not lecturers. Put yourself in their shoes, isn’t this a more a rewarding path to follow? Keep your eyes on the prize, being brighter and better than the competition. 

Embracing change will pay off

Providing a clear vision of what managers and the company as a whole are out to achieve will give staff members a sense of true involvement in the firm. Respecting workers’ efforts and providing praise or constructive criticism on a regular basis makes completed work feel appreciated and breeds enthusiasm for success. As Monster puts, “Collaborate, communicate and listen. Happy employees accomplish amazing things.”

Hive’s research has thrown out some staggering statistics. Results from a Kenexa study into 64 organisations reveals that highly engaged employees achieve up to twice the annual net income of organisations whose employees are disengaged. Doubling income is something most firms can only dream about but the answer could be literally, sitting right in front of you. Consider what this extra cash could be used to achieve? Keeping up with current shifts and trends, will ensure your firm is rolling out services that business owners actually need. You’ll notice that after the change is accepted, innovative services like this will breathe a new form enthusiasm into your firm. Staff need a challenge, it’s human nature to tire of repeating the same tasks daily.

Weaving employee engagement into performance expectations for managers and employees is a must. Both need to feel empowered to help their immediate environment succeed and thrive. Make them care about what they’re doing. When employees care and are engaged they use discretionary effort. This means they won’t require supervision to do a great job. They’re likely to serve one more customer even though it’s the end of their shift, they’ll do unprompted overtime to complete a task – they take pride in what they’re doing so you’ll get more out of them.


Take our advice – offering business advisory services keeps employees engaged

Start your free trial