For example, managers can increase productivity by assigning the right number of employees to each project, avoiding over- or understaffing. Managers should also be sensitive to interaction problems between employees. When managers are aware of personality conflicts between employees, they should avoid assigning them to the same team.
Increasing productivity involves a careful study of employees' work performance and of managerial decisions, a daunting process in which individuals may feel unfairly singled out or victimized. While this process is painful, it is appropriate when responsibility for low productivity clearly lies with certain individuals. if, however, it is not obvious who the culprits are, the best approach to take is to consider not only individual responsibility, but also search for larger systematic factors behind the low productivity. The problem may be a result of poor management of people and inadequate allocation of resources. Alternatively, it could be the result of an entrenched office culture of underachievement, in which case the company should consider whether to apply incentives or threats as a remedy. If such a culture exists, the company may need to educate employees on how to allocate their time and resources more wisely to achieve higher productivity.
One proposed solution to the accountability problem is to solve as many of the firm's problems as possible by using the personnel and resources that it already has in-house. The first topic to address in-house is reinvigorating the old culture of the firm with a desire to improve (Clark and Estes, 2002). A meeting should be called to speak with employees about the need for higher productivity. The key is to clarify the need for a new work culture and enthusiasm. The point here is not to place blame, but to reassure employees that the firm is committed to solving this productivity problem within the current staff, and that people will have job security as long as they are willing to commit to redefining the culture of productivity within the firm. Similarly, a system of incentives, such as bonuses, should be established that are directly linked to productivity reviews (Clark and Estes, 2002). Accordingly, it should become firm policy that productivity reviews are conducted quarterly in order to monitor progress on both individual and general levels and determine if the new system is working. By making it clear that the firm intends to work with its current staff and offer financial incentives, the current employee workforce will be energized rather than intimidated. Thus, they are encouraged to be productive (Clark and Estes, 2002) rather than fear the implementation of a new system or have concerns about the job security or company advancement.
The idea of reforming the culture to one of productivity within the firm must not stop with the employees. It is necessary that managers take important steps to reevaluate their methods, as well, so that they properly allocate the resources within the firm. One way a manager can increase productivity is by getting to know his or her employees to better understand their relative strengths and weaknesses. That way, employees with strengths in a given specific area can be assigned to jobs that utilize those strengths. Similarly, identifying groups that work well together facilitates productivity in team assignments. Thus, it is important that managers analyze the human resources in the firm and use the performance indicators to arrive at the root causes of the performance gaps. A thorough understanding of the skills/knowledge and motivation indicators (Clark and Estes, 2002) would allow improvements in assigning tasks and to manage people resources the best way possible. By carefully overseeing the assets each unique employee offers based on multiple measures (Ardovino, Hollingsworth, and Ybarra, 2000) in the performance indicator, a manager can more skillfully delegate responsibilities to the appropriate parties, increasing efficiency and productivity. Employing such a strategy, the manager (in this case a partner) demonstrates his leadership abilities and shows that he, too, is committed to the new culture of productivity within the firm. By aligning his own behavior with the organizational goals (Clark and Estes, 2002), the partner sets the tempo and offering a good example, hopefully resulting in his subordinates taking a more active role in reforming the firm's approach to productivity. Finally, through using this analytical managerial approach, managerial criticism will need to be strongly supported by facts and data to hold any ground.
To increase efficiency, the firm can also diversify its efforts in a way that would increase both productivity and profitability. The accounting firm's current focus is on financial statement audits, bookkeeping, and taxation. We would be more competitive and successful, however, if it diversified into other fields of accounting. While the current focus does offer us a certain market niche, it is also restricting. For example, even if a corporation is happy with the firm's work in one arena, it cannot offer us more business of a different kind because we do not have the diversified staff to allow us to branch out into other fields. Thus, we cannot reap the benefits of a diversified firm that could address multiple different types of accounting issues.
The best way to do diversify in-house is to begin by first experimenting and expanding into a single new area of practice. Based on this particular experience, they can determine the value of the trial expansion and, if it works, refine this model and expand into other practice areas. Again, the first thing that a manager must do is take stock of the experience and ability of his employees (Clark and Estes). Are there any employees that already have experience or training in a given area outside of the firm's established specialties? If so, the manager should note this and discuss the possibility of having the employee do work in the new field. Secondly, the manager should see if there are employees who have overlapping specialties in this area. If there are, then this may be the best new area to implement first. After this, it would be worthwhile to find other employees enthusiastic the expansion plan. It is important to communicate and align the new organizational goals with the staff's personal goals (Clark and Estes) to ensure that the staff is motivated and enthusiastic about the expansion project, thus making the transition go smoother. Moreover, the manager must consider the amount of training current employees will need based on a skills gap analysis (Clark and Estes, 2002). If indeed there is a skill gap, the manager then considers alternative action strategies to bridge the gap. For example, can the training be accomplished on the job by pairing up less experienced staff member with more experienced staff members, or would this require outside training or certification? Another way to fill the skills gap is to bring in one accountant whose primary experience is in an area where the company intends to expand, and then use that new employee as a mentor to others who will practice within those areas as well. By this process, management can get a sense of whether or not expansion is possible given the current staff and expertise of the employee workforce. Based on the success or failure of this plan, the firm can then proceed into the next phases of the expansion based on the knowledge they have gained from the experimental program. Thus, the company can test expansion without suffering severe losses or providing a low-quality service that could be damaging for the company.
Although this plan is strong and maintains high morale within the company, the costs are relatively low for hiring new accountants and dismissals of employees, and it is unlikely that a firm will be able to undertake the plan completely in-house. Another solution to the accountability problem would be to take an opposing path and hire an outside consulting group to help the firm get a better sense of the productivity within their firm and then decide where to make cuts. By proceeding with this plan of action, the manager may be able to break up an existing corporate culture that tolerated lower levels of productivity and being to emphasize the point that employees need to reconsider the way they do their jobs in order to remain a part of the firm.
By hiring new people, the firm has the advantage of creating a new culture that supports the new vision endorsed by the managers --