Treating Employees Well Keeps Your Brand Strong

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Originally published in AccountingToday on July 15, 2013 (This version has been edited.)

Being unhappy in your job is the new normal. That’s bad news for your firm’s brand, not just your employees.

A recent article on AmEx OpenForum had disturbing news. A majority of Americans are now unsatisfied at work. This sentence from the article sums up the results of a survey as well as the general situation: “It found that 70 percent of Americans are either ‘actively disengaged’ from their jobs or simply ‘disengaged’—meaning ‘not inspired by their work or their managers.’ “

How sad! But why am I, a marketing specialist, talking about HR issues all of a sudden? It all boils down to taking care of your brand and the message you are putting out in the market. If your people are unhappy, they aren’t going to perform at their best. If they are not inspired, they will grow complacent. And if they don’t respect – or worse yet, downright dislike – their managers, this is bound to show up in the quality of their work as well as their overall attitude about your firm.

Unfortunately, I can’t say that this report comes as a total surprise. During the economic downturn, I heard quite a few managers express opinions that I found disturbing:

“She should be happy to have a job at all!”

“I don’t care if you have been making the same salary for 3 years, no one is getting a raise right now.”

“Aw, poor baby. You can’t handle the workload? There is a line of people who would be happy to have your job, so buck up!”

Some of the complaints were just whining that should be ignored, of course, but many of them were legitimate. I saw quite a few companies “milk” the economic downturn as an excuse to squeeze their staff more than was necessary. For some, it was an opportunity to boost profits and increase the cash on hand, which isn’t a bad thing on its face. But when extra profitability comes at the expense of the people who bring in that revenue it can create a situation that results in employees who feel used rather than appreciated.

Your employees are out there representing your firm at every moment, on or off the clock, whether you’re aware of it or not. When someone asks how work is going over a beer on Friday evening, you want your people to say good things (because they’re true). When someone from your firm is talking about the firm at lunch with a friend, chances are good that someone else is listening, and that someone just might be a current or potential client.

As we work with such a lot of different firms around the country, we hear a lot of gossip. I have to admit, some of you would be shocked to hear what your staff says about you, and about your firm as a whole, behind your back. Are your employees, and even your partners, sowing poisonous seeds? Is the word on the street that your office is a bad place to work, and therefore a bad firm to hire?

With the economy picking up and job opportunities starting to flourish again, now might be a good time to get a clear picture of what is being said about your firm outside of your walls. No amount of careful messaging and good marketing can overcome the actions and words of disgruntled staff.

When you are looking at the big picture, make sure you take into account what’s going on inside your firm as well as outside. Talk to your staff. Make sure they feel appreciated and understand that you value their contributions. Reward them for a job well done. If you don’t, they will find another accounting firm that does. And if that’s not enough to motivate you, be aware that your clients will too.

Follow Bonnie:
Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk is the president and founder of bbr marketing. Bonnie’s 20 years of marketing experience is vast and varied, including serving as the marketing director for a mid-sized Atlanta accounting firm. Her focus on high-quality services and advice is bested only by her determination to constantly hone her craft and increase the strength and reach of her clients’ marketing efforts. Named "One to Watch" on AccountingToday’s list of the "Top 100 Most Influential People," she is the president of the Atlanta chapter of the Association for Accounting Marketing, a well-respected speaker and a regular contributor to a variety of news and industry sites.

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