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Treating Workers with Respect – What Accounting Firms Can Do to Improve Their Bottom Line

Welcome back from the weekend, folks. With the short week coming up, I hope this one is not terribly swamped for you.

The Harvard Business Review recently published a McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy study on the treatment of bottom-of-the-barrel workers. Its sampling followed a range of companies large to small from 2005 on through the latest recession. The biggest takeaway from the study was that every employee matters and the companies that provide every employee with a voice see the most positive improvement with their bottom lines.

Idealistic? A bit, yes. But the study’s author, Jody Heymann added, “How work is structured, how it is rewarded, and how workplaces encourage employee engagement are all central to the profitability of firms and to the quality of the daily lives of working men and women. Employees determine 90 percent of most businesses’ profitability.”

Read the article or the study if you’d like to know more. If you do, you’ll notice that none of the success stories were founded on better pay. Often times a company’s success was about listening to employees and acting on their feedback. Foreign concepts, perhaps; but this is what KPMG’s Summer Blast! program is attempting to do just that. I wouldn’t be surprised if the other firms follow suit.

The Chicago Cubs will win the World Series before my input is ever requested by a firm for programs like this, but just for kicks I’ve laid out a few ways the Big 4 could improve worker relations with minimal financial impact.

Stick with summer hours – Friday afternoons are notoriously slow; interns are hung over, partners are reviewing work from home the beach/mountains/countryside; and weekend plans hinge on the prospect of not getting stuck in traffic. And since most clients are at their slowest pace in the summer; so why force workers to be locked up until 5:00pm?

Release staff members early; 3:00pm would be a fair start to one’s weekend plans. Firms should take it one step further and adjust utilization reports to reflect this change. Is an extra half hour Monday through Thursday really necessary to the bottom line? (Blogger note – comment below if your firm adjusts utilization reports). Relieving the necessity for staff members to make up the time is a better act of good faith than the time off itself.

Leave the steaks at home – grab a (pitch)fork and volunteer – It would take some effort, but organizing a community service day for every office would provide employees with the opportunity to escape the office and interact with coworkers in a different kind of way. Volunteering in the community is encouraged by every firm and is generally a big hit among the younger staff members. Partners and managers would have an opportunity to connect with their staff on a more casual yet work-appropriate level.

Comment below how you’d like to see your firm approach the issue. If they were listening, what would you say?

Daniel Braddock is a former Big 4 human resources professional and auditor. You can read more of his posts for Going Concern here.