Do you want your team to feel empowered and motivated? It all starts with building a strong foundation of an employee-first culture. When your employees feel valued, respected, and supported by their leaders, your company develops trust in its talent. This kind of environment leads to increased job satisfaction for everyone in the team and has a positive impact on productivity, morale, and collaboration, which are all key factors for success.

What does it mean to have an employee-first culture and why is it important?

An employee-first culture prioritizes the values, opinions, and well-being of its employees above everything else, even client satisfaction. This type of culture creates an atmosphere that encourages teamwork and communication among team members, making it easier for everyone to perform their best work.

Creating an employee-first culture brings both tangible and intangible benefits. Some of these benefits include

  1. Attracting top talent: Finding talented individuals for accounting firms has become increasingly challenging. While other industries may have a surplus of talent due to economic concerns, accounting firms face a different situation.

There’s a problem with supply and demand. The demand for accounting majors remains high, but many college students are choosing different majors, and fewer accounting majors are interested in public accounting or becoming certified public accountants (CPA).

The accounting profession is facing an image problem. Most young people aren’t interested in spending an extra year in college to take the CPA exam or working long hours to advance in their careers.

This problem won’t go away anytime soon, but firms that demonstrate an employee-first culture, where individuals are valued and respected, will have an advantage in recruiting the best candidates for the job.

  1. Increased employee engagement and innovation: When employees feel heard and respected, they are more likely to take ownership of their work and contribute meaningfully. By creating an environment where employees feel comfortable giving feedback and sharing their opinions, you empower them to become leaders. This gives team members more autonomy in decision-making, which is essential for fostering innovation and finding creative solutions.
  1. Reduced employee turnover: An employee-first culture is one of the most effective ways to reduce employee turnover. When employees feel valued and supported, they are more likely to stay with a company for the long term.
  1. Revenue growth: Taking a proactive approach to your firm’s culture has benefits. According to a study by Deloitte, companies that actively manage their culture experience an average revenue growth 516% higher over a 10-year period compared to those that don’t.

How can you create a culture that prioritizes employees?

Creating a culture that puts employees first may seem challenging, but the following steps can help you get started:

  1. Foster two-way communication: In traditional accounting firms, decisions were made by partners, and employees followed suit. In an employee-first culture, communication goes both ways, and leaders take the time to regularly meet with employees, listen to their concerns, and take action based on their recommendations.
  1. Focus on providing opportunities for employee contribution: Encourage employees to participate in decision-making processes and give them opportunities to take on more responsibilities in their roles. Be open to feedback from your team and develop relationships with each individual. People feel valued and appreciated when they have meaningful opportunities to contribute.
  1. Offer mentorship, coaching, and learning opportunities: Providing mentorship and coaching is crucial for creating an employee-first culture. It helps employees further develop their skills and knowledge. Support from leaders boosts employees’ confidence to take on greater responsibilities within the firm.

Learning and development programs are also essential for creating an employee-first culture. These programs help employees stay updated on industry trends, improve their technical knowledge, and develop core skills such as communication, problem-solving, and leadership. They also foster a sense of community within the organization, which is vital for a thriving culture.

Show appreciation for their work

Recognize and reward your employees’ achievements. You can implement incentive programs, provide financial rewards, or simply express your appreciation through words. When employees are recognized and rewarded for their hard work, they feel valued and motivated to continue striving for excellence.

In fact, according to Quantum Workplace, organizations with formal recognition programs experience 30% less voluntary turnover and are 12 times more likely to achieve strong business outcomes.

Prioritize well-being  

Prioritizing employee well-being is crucial. Before the pandemic, many firms didn’t prioritize employee well-being, but that had to change when workloads and pandemic-related stress led to burnout in the profession.

Improving the overall health and wellness of your team requires personalized approaches, but here are some ideas:

  • Listen to your employees. They know where gaps exist and can help identify improvements.
  • Support physical wellness. Ensure employees have time to take care of their health and consider offering stipends for gym memberships, fitness classes, or creating a healthier workspace.
  • Destigmatize mental health. Include mental health benefits in your employee benefits package and create an environment where employees feel comfortable seeking help.
  • Encourage breaks and vacations. Allowing employees to recharge helps them return to work energized and more productive.
  • Support flexible work arrangements. Giving employees flexibility in when and where they work helps them balance their work and personal commitments, making them feel more in control of their time and energy.

Creating an employee-first culture is not an easy task. It requires time, effort, and commitment from leaders to ensure that employees feel supported and valued. By focusing on communication, development, appreciation, and well-being, any firm can create a thriving employee-first culture and reap its benefits.

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