Tax & Accounting Blog

The Most Wanted List—It’s Not Just for Law Enforcement

Accounting Firms, Professional Development November 21, 2013

At the recent SYNERGY 2013 Users’ Conference in Miami, I discussed with several firms the all-too common struggle of identifying their most important training needs. Our conversations were so informative that I thought I’d use this article to share a couple of key highlights with everyone.

One of the most challenging aspects of deciding on a focus for internal staff training is getting a clear picture of where your staff struggles the most. If you can tie training elements directly to staff members’ needs, the effectiveness of training sessions – and the attitudes toward attending them – will certainly improve.

However, two elements must be present in any work situation to determine true training needs:

  1. A culture in which asking questions is accepted and welcomed, without fear of retribution.
  2. A path to follow where those questions can be asked and the answers clearly identified.

It takes an uncompromising look in the mirror to handle the first element. Many partners/owners feel that an open, questioning culture is already in place at their firm. But once they’ve taken that tough look in the mirror, they realize the lack of questions means one of two things: 1) they don’t have that type of culture, or 2) they have the smartest staff alive.

Some planning and organization is required to accomplish the second element. Here’s one idea for giving your staff a path to follow, reinforcing the message that your culture readily accepts questions:

Create the Most Wanted List

The Most Wanted List is an easily accessible location where any staff member can post a question about products or processes – something they don’t know, something that they feel could be done faster or better. The list can be posted anywhere that works well for your firm – on the white board in your lunch room, on a flip chart in your meeting room, on your company’s Intranet.

The asker of the question places a bounty on the answer. The bounty can be anything from a candy bar, to lunch out, to tickets for an upcoming sports event – whatever the asker feels would motivate another staff member to discover the answer. Other staff can agree with the question and increase the bounty.

When a staff member posts the correct answer, they claim the bounty. The question is then moved to a “Captured” list along with the resolution, creating an easily referenced repository for the information.

By making the Most Wanted List visible and adding a fun/competitive element, you’ll reinforce the message that questions are welcomed. You’ll also create a culture that encourages everyone to share information. Plus, as you see trends emerge from the Most Wanted List, you can gear future training to areas of true need, as identified by your staff members.

I hope you have fun – while increasing your staff’s knowledge – by sharing the Most Wanted List idea with your entire firm!