12 Things CFOs Can Do to Improve Employee Engagement

By Robert Half March 21, 2017 at 7:00am

Do your finance and accounting team members like their jobs? Would you say you have full employee engagement? Do you think they enjoy working for you? If your initial response to any of these questions is “yes,” you might be wrong. 

More than half (52 percent) of the CFOs interviewed for a Robert Half survey said they’re concerned about whether their workers are sufficiently engaged on the job. And employee engagement isn’t something to be taken for granted: About a third of the professionals surveyed for our 2017 study on happiness indicated they may leave their jobs in the next six months.  

Are you concerned about your employees' level of engagement at work? See what other CFOs say in the infographic below.

As a finance or accounting manager, what can you do to improve engagement and keep your team members happy while they do the work they love? Here are a dozen ways to improve employee engagement and be the boss whose team loves coming to work every day:

1. Get to know your employees

Amy might be your star accountant, but she’s also a mother of two who loves to bake and is writing a mystery novel. Take the time to see past a job title and get to know the people who make up your staff. Not only will this show them you care, but it will also help you identify what motivates them.

2. Provide feedback often

It can be as simple as saying “good morning” and participating in a little water cooler chat at lunchtime. Communicate your expectations and the company goals clearly. Offer a little inspiration or a few words of wisdom now and then. Give your team some recognition for the transactions and reports they complete each day. Give constructive criticism when warranted to help them improve their skills.

Read our report, "The Secrets of the Happiest Companies and Employees.”

3. Ask for feedback more often

Find out how you can better support their efforts or remove roadblocks. Involve everyone in brainstorming meetings when you need to streamline an accounting process, assess a risk or launch a new finance initiative. Ask your team to share regular status updates on their projects with management.

4. Play to their strengths

“Micromanagement is the key to employee engagement and job satisfaction,” said absolutely no one, ever. Executives who try to control their staffs’ every move is demonstrating a lack of trust. Instead, identify your employees’ strengths and weaknesses, and divvy up the work accordingly. You’ll have a more efficient team, and workers will feel more useful and appreciated

5. Also play some games

Whether it’s part of a formal team-building exercise or just a quick break from a long meeting, playing a game encourages people to come together and get to know each other. Some types of training and even routine tasks can be framed within a game setting that keeps people thinking and laughing, too. Making space for humor in the workplace can improve engagement by leaps and bounds.

6. Set up some incentives

Everyone appreciates public recognition or the opportunity to earn a bonus for going above and beyond. Look at the more challenging aspects of your team’s responsibilities to find opportunities to provide rewards for their efforts and encourage them to overcome common frustrations, reduce costs, identify inaccuracies, or improve processes.

7. Keep them challenged (but not overworked)

A bored worker is one who is not engaged — but that’s not an invitation to drop a massive project with a pressing deadline on the desk as a “boredom cure.” Better ways to challenge your team members include giving them more responsibility or freedom on a project, or asking them to mentor a new employee in your organization.

8. Encourage creativity and innovation

An innovative organization must be staffed with innovative employees. This may sound like a no-brainer, but think about it. As a manager, don’t be afraid to approach your workers with an issue and ask for suggestions. Be sure to celebrate those who come up with truly creative, effective solutions.

9. Help with their career paths

Managers can help promote job satisfaction by regularly talking one-on-one with staff members about their career paths at the company. They can also offer training and development opportunities, set up a mentoring program and succession plan, and steer them to a leadership role.

10. Be honest, and offer constructive criticism

Is a client unhappy with your staff’s performance? Does a looming deadline mean overtime is on the agenda? Be frank with your employees. Even if they don’t like the news, they’ll appreciate the transparency.

Too often, employers point out what a worker did wrong without offering suggestions for improvement. When you notice an issue with an employee, be sure to keep your criticism focused on the work and not the person. Talk through ways both of you can ensure the issue doesn’t arise again. 

11. Celebrate their successes

Don’t wait for the holiday party or annual company picnic to tell your employees how much you value them. While not every success requires a ticker tape parade, workers will feel more valued when you take a few seconds to acknowledge their achievements.

12. Show them the big picture

Employees who feel like a cog in a machine often have low job satisfaction because they don’t see the point of their work. Be sure your entire staff understands what your organization is trying to accomplish, and remind them that each contribution is essential in meeting your goals.

Your management style can make or break employee engagement. What kind of boss do you want to be?

However you choose to work on employee engagement, the goal is a win-win for you and your staff. By boosting their job satisfaction, you can expect to improve your retention rates.

Make sure your company is staffed appropriately. At Robert Half Finance & Accounting, we place more than 140,000 accounting and finance professionals annually. Find out how you can work with us to find skilled candidates who can become engaged employees.

Employee Engagement infographic

Editors note: This post was originally published in 2014 and was updated recently to reflect current information. 

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