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Progress Magazine’s Best Places to Work awards: A road trip adventure

A drizzly Tuesday morning. 7:30 a.m. Seven chilled professionals in raincoats and heels. One big white Suburban. The scene is set for what would turn out to be a surprising day for the group of MRSB staff who ventured to Halifax for Progress Magazine’s Best Places to Work awards luncheon.

As our behemoth of a rental sped down the highway, across the Confederation Bridge and pulled into Timmy’s for our first pit stop, the general mood was tepidly optimistic at best. Sure, we always enjoyed each other’s company, and Kathryn, our HR Manager, had brought along a peppy mix of pop-rock favorites to keep us seat-dancing. But our chances of coming home with the coveted No. 1 spot were only 1-in-31…not fantastic odds.

Still, there was a chance. And as we finally cruised through downtown Halifax and pulled up to the Westin Nova Scotian hotel, we felt ready for whatever the afternoon had to offer (especially the three-course lunch!). After a quick pic of our team posing inside the lobby, we made our way to the banquet hall and took our seats.

The first wave of suspicion came when we were joined by Terry Keough, Sales Manager with Progress. Cordial conversation ensued, but seeing as accountants don’t tend to beat around the bush, particularly in matters of grave importance, we cut right to the chase. ‘Do you know something we don’t?’ one of us asked with raised eyebrows. Being a seasoned veteran in this type of game, Terry replied ‘Not at all!’ He then went on to explain that the magazine takes a highly objective role in choosing each year’s Best Places to Work in Atlantic Canada. That is, the results of each nominee’s employee surveys are analyzed by a third party and, according to Terry, only two people at Progress even get to see the results before they’re announced. We settled back into our salmon and mashed potatoes.

The banquet room was festively decorated with a Hawaiian theme, and we were prompted to have a group shot taken in the onsite photo booth, leis and kooky glasses mandatory, of course. By the time we had sat back down and started dessert, they’d begun announcing this year’s winners. We should note that there were several other Island businesses present, and that for the past two years PEI has laid claim to the top spot. Our marketing officer’s fingers were furiously tweeting congratulations and updates to our legions of online fans (ok, to our 600 followers) as the list started at 31 and worked its way up.

As nice as it was to see a variety of outstanding companies walk smilingly onstage and accept their award gift, our fingers began to tremble with each forkful of chocolate mousse as we pseudo-patiently waited for our name to be called. As number 11 came and went, we began exchanging excited glances. We were at least in the Top 10!

...our fingers began to tremble with each forkful of chocolate mousse as we pseudo-patiently waited for our name to be called.

By the time Halifax Stanfield Airport’s Peter Spurway announced Provincial Credit Union as the #5 Best Place to Work, we were buzzing as if we’d all just downed a litre of Starbucks along with our meals. And then, suddenly, it was down to two…This must be what the contestants on American Idol feel like when they think Simon is going to verbally flay them but instead praises their contract-worthy warbling. Peter finally announced the runner up… Beaubear Credit Union! We were #1! After much cheering we made our way to the stage. The moment was complete as we gathered for a group photo, each of us grinning ear to ear.

Let’s just say the ride home was a bit more, um, boisterous than when we’d set out that morning. A gregarious rock song blasted from the speakers as we rattled the CBC clappers we’d received at the banquet, and Kathryn kept us all singing and jumping up and down in our seats as if we were on a school bus heading to Rainbow Valley back in ’92.

By the time we’d gotten back to the office, things were slightly more subdued. The building was quiet, everyone having gone home at the usual time. But we were thinking about what the day’s events meant to our small business, and felt lucky and honored to be recognized by our local community. We would like to congratulate ALL winners of this year’s Best Places to Work, and thank Progress Magazine, our Partners, staff and clients for giving us the chance to show what we can do as a determined small business in Atlantic Canada.                                                                              

Stay tuned for our next post, which will provide some tips on how you can make your business next Year's Best Place to Work!

fraud - the new 'f' word

A few quick tips on avoiding fraud from our Bookkeeping & Reporting advisors

No one likes to think that their company will be the victim of fraud, but it does happen, causing unnecessary stress and, too often, financial hardship. While there is no way to totally protect yourself against this new and menacing ‘F’ word, there are a few simple tasks that should be performed regularly that can help minimize the risk to your organization.

Bank and credit card statements

  • Statements should be opened immediately upon receipt or review via online banking. Make sure this happens on a regular basis.  Check with your financial institution if you find any items, however small, that you do not recognize.  A small fraudulent charge may be a precursor to a larger one.
  • Where possible, the person who prepares checks and processes payments in your organization should not be responsible for reconciling bank and credit card accounts.  Often just knowing that someone else will be reviewing the account can be a deterrent to fraudsters.  If your staff number is small, consider outsourcing this task.

Internal Controls

  • Petty cash should be reconciled on a regular basis and signed off by a supervisor.  Receipts should accompany all charges.
  • Inventory spot checking is a good way to discourage internal theft and easy if you have a perpetual inventory.
  • Restrict personal internet use on company computers to minimize the risk of hacking and viruses.

 

With the implementation of a few controls, you may be able to prevent fraud from occurring, or at least stop it before it causes greater financial loss.

 

Tax quotables

An income tax form is like a laundry list - either way you lose your shirt. - Fred Allen

 

Death and taxes and childbirth! There’s never any convenient time for any of them! - Margaret Mitchell

 

I am thankful for the taxes I pay because it means that I'm employed. - Nancie J. Carmody

 

 

"Smart, talented, ambitious professionals need apply!"

How to recruit ideal talent in today's competitive market, from the MRSB Consulting Services team

Ask any young person in the midst of his or her job search and they will likely tell you, "It's a tough time to find work!" This is undoubtedly true, but just as relevant is the challenge faced by employers looking for that special someone to join their team. It might seem contradictory, but the numbers show that many Canadian companies are having a heck of a time recruiting top talent.

So how does one get ahead when searching for Mr. or Ms. Ideal Employee? Well, part of it is to make prospective ones feel as warm and fuzzy about your product or service, management and culture as you do. The potential for promotion and great leadership are now seen less as incentives and more as expected standards. According to a 2013 article from The Globe and Mail, what the under 30-something crowd is looking for is (at least partly) defined by a few qualities: work-life balance, the company's reputation in the greater community and the quality of workplace environment. There are multiple ways you can highlight these positive attributes within your business, upping your chances of a dream employee brightening your doorway.

Work-life balance

This is obviously a big one. Today’s office jockey, no matter how much they strive to make each work day count, demands that their home life not only exist but that their employer recognize ("celebrate" might be too far out even in 2014) it as a crucial part of what makes him so productive in the first place. 

As stated by Indeed.com’s director of recruiting in a recent Forbes article, “Work-life balance feeds passion for the workplace and contributes to a better overall work environment and morale…In turn, [employees] are happier, more committed, more productive and therefore will likely stay with the company for a longer period of time.”

What exactly makes for this perfect parity between office and out-of-office-reply? Successful ‘big’ companies who obtain and retain a skilled and dedicated workforce implement perks like flexible work hours (up to and including unlimited vacation time!), the ability to telecommute, on-site or nearby childcare and assistance programs for family-related issues.

Is your business on board with most – or any – of these initiatives? If not, draft a list of balance-enhancing tactics that might work and discuss them with your partners, staff or a consultant to figure out which ones have wings.

Community reputation

In this lightning-fast world of nonstop Internet access, social media engagement and Joe Consumer's ability to shout his praises or air his grievances in a completely confidential, free and round-the-clock manner, it’s no wonder that most businesses develop a name for themselves that is largely out of the control of even its most devoted media personnel. A 2013 survey given by CR Magazine to over 1,000 employed and unemployed Americans found that a majority would refuse to take a job with a company that had a bad reputation. Of the employed people polled, over half said that a 50 -100 per cent increase in salary would make up for the bad publicity. This raises the question as to why you would choose to drastically boost salaries in favor of ensuring your business is seen in a glowing light by consumers. Seems like a no brainer on this end.

And while poor customer reviews are one thing, what can just as easily kill a company’s prospects for top recruits today is a lack of social responsibility, or community-mindedness. A 2007 study by Scotiabank found that 70 per cent of Canadians would consider changing jobs if their employer failed to operate in a socially responsible way (HRM Online, 2013). As noted by Forbes, corporate social responsibility (CSR) often acts as a “lever” for drawing in and engaging employees. “As consumers are ever more concerned with where products come from, employees now want more from their employer than a paycheque. They want a sense of pride and fulfillment from their work, a purpose and importantly a [company] whose values match their own,” writes consultant Jeanne Meister. 

Just as a significant boost in pay might make up for a company’s poor social reputation, job seekers seem increasingly willing to take a pay cut in exchange for a position that gives them a sense of purpose and the potential to make an impact. How can the average employer show candidates that theirs is the office where this can happen? It may be argued that the modern definition of CSR involves a whole lot more than risk-aversion. Today’s businesses are doing things like embracing environmental initiatives through ‘green’ and paperless workplaces, donating significant money and staff time to charities, fundraising and community-minded events, and partnering with like-minded neighbors to brainstorm new ways of giving back. And let’s not forget – today’s socially conscious company has no qualms about shouting their activities from the rooftops (a.k.a. Twitter and LinkedIn).

The right work environment

When it comes down to it, the most important factor for most people in deciding whether to stay or to go is how their job makes them feel, each and every day they come in to work. The old adage, "you catch more flies with honey" applies to individuals and management teams alike, and the wrong message to employees can mean faster turnaround rates and more time and money spent on recruitment for you.

Pride comes with ownership. In the office and at a desk this means feeling a real sense of responsibility for what one does and for how one contributes to his or her employer’s goals. According to James Heskett, Earl Sasser and Joe Wheeler, authors of The Ownership Quotient (2008), there are five “culture-building actions” companies should take to enhance corporate culture and hence, employee engagement:

  1. Develop strong leadership: Ensure the business remains focused on goals, values and its vision.
  2. Invest in culture: Celebrate team achievements and reward individual accomplishment.
  3. Get your workforce on board: Ask employees to evaluate and express opinions about the decisions of their leaders.
  4. Sanction bad customer/client behavior: Managers should make the decision to stop working with those whose demands are impossible to satisfy.
  5. Keep on changing: Review and redefine your core values and behaviors regularly.

 

Apart from ownership, there are plenty of other important, culture-boosting tactics to sustain that ‘full belly’ feeling among employees:

  • Appreciation and recognition in the form of rewards for good performance, funded staff events and a good old fashioned slap on the back now and then
  • Career development opportunities and a strategic method for performance reviews and promotion
  • Keeping up with the Joneses in terms of implementing innovative technologies (not for the sake of appearing cool but to enhance your workers’ efficiency and pleasure at doing their day-to-day tasks)
  • On a similar note, providing open, flexible workspaces that allow for sitting and standing, computer screens and white boards, collaboration and alone time and of course, sufficient lighting and comfortable temperatures
  • Open communication between all staff at all levels. This might include team building exercises, monthly lunches between entry level staff and upper management, or town hall meetings where everyone is encouraged to bring an idea or a question to the group
  • Encouraging employees to raise their professional profiles via paid training sessions, subsidized education or in-house mentorship

 

If all this advice failed to give you something to think about for your next recruitment campaign, you’re probably doing a lot right already! If, instead, this article caused you a moment of panic, feel free to contact Business Manager Kathryn Mills to find out how we can help you address your recruitment needs. Not to toot our own horn, but we think we have the right idea when it comes to recruiting team members who are happy to be here and who, even outside the office walls, tell people that we’re doing good things. And hey, taking pride in your team is the first step toward encouraging a culture of excellence at your workplace, right? Happy hunting!

 

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