Tuesday, November 6, 2018

“Engaged” to a Best Firm

Some years ago, I got the chance to interview Arnold Schwarzenegger prior to his breakthrough in movies and later, politics. He was at the time a 7-time winner of the Mr. Olympia contest – the most prestigious bodybuilding competition in the world. After the rounds of traditional questions that accompany any profile, he revealed something that to this day I still remember.

He confided to me that when he is in a strange city he can walk into any gym and tell within 30 seconds whether he’d enjoy working out there. It was just a visceral feeling he got but could not fully explain, nevertheless he knew that it was likely a combination of things – atmosphere, equipment, clientele etc.

I can sort of relate.

Throughout my working life, I could usually tell very early in a job whether it would be a long or short-term tenure as I’m sure many of you have. Fortunately, over the last three decades, it has been more the former than the latter.

I mention only because I noticed my former publication has just released the 2018 winners of Best Firms to Work For. The competition spans three categories – small, mid-sized and large firms but all are judged on the same criteria – submitted anonymously by their own employees.

So, what makes a CPA firm or any workplace for that matter a clear favorite over another to work for?

Obviously, salary and benefits figure in – if you’ll pardon the bad pun. As do opportunities for advancement. But again, lots of companies offer those.

Each year there seems to be an industry buzzword that is repeated at conferences and CPE sessions more often than a middle school rumor. And the most recent winner is far and away “engagement.”

What the 2018 winners have in common regarding their staff is engagement – and while the term is somewhat amorphous and can mean different things to different people, it lays a foundation of forging the belief in management and imbuing staff with a common purpose through the good times and bad.

Whether it’s offering mentoring programs for the younger employees or having them interact with clients very early on or placing an emphasis on education, each of the trio of 2018 winners has burnished its staff engagement strategies.

I don’t know whether potential employees can tell within 30 seconds if they would be happy working for one of the winning practices, but in this climate of hiring woes the aforementioned firms are obviously doing something right.

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