Just because the accounts payable specialist job description mentions a lot about invoice handling duties and nothing about playing office basketball doesn’t mean there isn’t room for both in your department.
Employee motivation in AP is an issue very near and dear to my heart. After speaking with organizations that maintain dedicated employee motivation programs – often allocating funds for the programs as part of the yearly budget – and seeing the real benefit they have on productivity, it’s hard to imagine why any company wouldn’t have one.
A recent article published on our sister site, The Accounts Payable Network, describes Sony Pictures Entertainment’s employee motivation program and the success it brings. Shared Services Center Manager Lisa Cook uses motivational techniques and teambuilding exercises to get her staff engaged in their work. The idea is to not make employees succeed, but to make them want to succeed.
For example, one of the best ways to motivate employees is through contests. When Cook wanted to sign up more vendors to receive ACH transactions, she framed it as a department-wide competition. The employee that enrolled the most vendors each month received a certificate and a gift card. In addition, Cook holds a similar contest to help cut down on the number of aged invoices.
"People like contests," Cook says. "And we have different kinds of contests to highlight the different kinds of people. Not always the same people shine. Someone may not be the most productive, but they provide great customer service and really take the time to provide clients with information.”
In addition to gift cards, other common prizes for these competitions include free lunches, movie posters, Sony merchandise, or – quite often – simply the recognition and applause from their peers. While the prizes represent a tangible goal, the true result of these contests is that AP employees become excited about their jobs.
Another way to keep employees engaged and productive is to allow them to participate in activities completely unrelated to their jobs, if just for a few minutes a week. Cook routinely organizes quick teambuilding games like office basketball (using the trashcan) and guessing games.
A large Internet clothing retailer recently allowed their entire staff – AP included – to participate in an “American Idol” singing contest and management routinely takes the staff out to local restaurants for happy hour.
Earlier I asked why any organization would not have a dedicated employee motivation program. However, I already know the answer. It’s hard for some companies to see how spending money on non-core business functions can improve their bottom lines.
While I understand their concerns, the results of motivating employees are evident. Cook says that turning the ACH enrollment process into a contest was so successful that it will become an annual tradition. Also, taking time out of the workweek for activities that help the AP staff work together better has had a noticeable impact on customer service and cost per invoice.
Although it may seem counterintuitive at first, throwing ice cream parties for your staff just might shave some time off your next month-end close.