How to reward and motivate your team

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The end of the financial year presents career development and pay review discussions. Finola McManus looks at the ways a practice can motivate employees.

Many practices are coming towards the end of their financial year and the time for career development reviews which usually include pay review discussions. The current trend is a move away from traditional annual pay rises in line with inflation and towards a system whereby individuals can be in control of setting their own pay rewards and increased earnings.

Accountancy practices are keen to develop and retain a team of people that are self-motivated and eager to be rewarded by results. Bonus schemes have changed dramatically in recent years. There used to be a variety of methods used to calculate and pay out bonuses. These included:

  • % share on increase in profits year on year ( with changes in profit being defined by partners and disclosed as a % change)

  • Personal targets set for individuals and bonus paid if target achieved linked to basic salary

  • Bonus paid for achieving target chargeable hours

  • Bonus paid for having no sick days

  • Bonus paid for passing exams

  • ‘Bonus pot’ shared at the judgement of the Senior Partner and solely at their discretion

  • ‘Bonus pot’ shared at the discretion of the team itself who decided who get what proportion.

  • Bonus paid as a % of increased fee income generated by an individual- by winning new clients or performing additional services for existing clients

Many of the above schemes have worked with varying degrees of success for many firms. The success of such schemes is largely dependent on the culture within a firm and how strong both morale and communication is between the partners and its team.

It should also be noted that most of the above methods of calculating a reward favour those in the team who produce chargeable work and do not readily recognise non-chargeable team members who are often more client facing than accounts production and compliance staff.

Clients often report it is the way they are greeted when they visit or call that really makes them feel valued as a client. The team members at reception or answering phones can often get overlooked when it comes to being rewarded for the value they add to the firm and delivery of client service.

Current trends in how bonuses are rewarded

  • Set KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for both the firm as a whole, and individual team members. These are often non-financial key underlying success drivers which can be easily measured. Bonus payments are then paid periodically based on KPI targets.

  • Set client service targets and a system of how to measure that client service. If client service levels are exceeded then a bonus payment is made equally to every member of the team. This works well as it makes every team member feel responsible for delivering client service regardless of their role.

  • Not everyone is motivated by money alone! The more progressive firms ask each team member what is of importance to them this year: time or money. The individual reward will therefore be tailored accordingly with some people wanting money and others preferring time off as a reward. Of course, the underlying performance measurement or target has to be set first.

Assuming you agree what the target should be and how it will be measured for your firm and individual team members, here are examples of the various reward schemes I have seen firms offer recently:

  • Finish early Fridays

  • Team outings and trips

  • Team building days out of the office

  • Summer/Christmas work party

  • A day off each month for hitting billing target

  • Extra Christmas shopping day off

  • Not having to work on your birthday

  • Takeaway lunch for everyone in the office each month

  • Vouchers for high street stores and restaurants

  • Flexi time

  • A given number of ‘duvet days’ that can be claimed in a year

The list is endless – do ask your team what matters to them and don’t make the decision for them. Team members are more likely to stay with a firm if they are given choices.

Finally, it goes without saying that you have to ensure the correct PAYE treatment is applied to any bonus schemes- whether they are cash or benefit related. 

Recent team feedback surveys continually report that individuals stay with a firm not just for the salary and job satisfaction but usually because of the variety of rewards on offer.

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Great article
Having given this some thought recently I am very pleased with the content of this article as it has given me much more to think about!

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You go into

a restaurant with a multiple choice menu. It takes ages and you can never decide. Go somewhere with a small choice menu and the decision is made very quickly.

I tell (yes TELL after all it is MY business) my team that if they want a job this is how it's going to be and we go on to another successful year.

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