How to Motivate Your Accounting Team

Even the most intrinsically motivated individual might find it hard to get motivated about reconciling cash receipts for the hundredth day in a row, or undergoing an extensive audit into the firm’s financial practices. Larger companies can often drive motivation through shared team goals and internal competition. In a small business, the accounting department may only be one or two individuals. And while financial incentives may work for a time, they are unlikely to lead to sustained improvement. The challenge for a small-business manager is to find motivation methods that will endure despite the repetitive nature of the tasks.

  1. Meet with your accounting staff on a one-to-one basis. Seek input from each employee, and actively listen to his comments and concerns. Get to know the individual desires and career aspirations of each staff member, so you can tailor your motivational efforts to each employee’s specific needs.
  2. Provide development opportunities. Although small businesses may not be able to provide career progression and promotional options, allow staff to attend training and educational classes. Institute a mentoring program for staff to learn from a more senior accountant.
  3. Enrich the job. Accounting tasks can be mundane and repetitive. Allow employees the opportunity to learn other functions throughout the company — such as working in marketing or payroll. Explain how the accountant’s actions affect the organization — for example, that the accounting data is provided to investors and a well-run financial operation can mean lenders are more likely to provide capital.
  4. Recognize the performance of the individual, not the performance of the firm. For example, reward staff for the reduction of errors, or the completion of a successful audit with few accounting concerns. Don’t give rewards based on the accounting performance of the company, or you will be providing a strong incentive for staff to manipulate the numbers.


  • Watch for burnout, which can derail motivation. Lead by example, emphasizing that breaks and lunches are important and should be taken, even when the workload is high.
  • Smaller financial gestures and rewards — movie tickets, gift cards or small, unexpected bonuses — are likely to be more motivating than large lump sums.


  • Avoid giving financial incentives to complete year-end closing or to complete work at the end of an accounting period. These incentives will come to be expected and failure to provide them at next year’s closing may actually serve to demotivate staff.
  • Seek input from each staff member regarding the professional education and development opportunities she receives — requiring an employee to attend a class in a subject she is not interested in will drive down motivation instead of increasing it.

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