Published On Oct 25, 2017  
in  Leadership & Development and PECO Culture

How many “boring accountant” jokes have you heard?  Probably quite a few.  The common perception that accountants are dry and tedious probably stems from the fact that we spend a lot of time behind our desks dealing with facts and figures that many people find mind-numbing.  But we are so much more - and accounting life doesn’t have to be boring!  As Chief Accounting Officer for Phillips Edison & Company, leading a team of more than 70 accountants, I’ve made it my mission to break the “boring accounting” mold and find ways to build a community and make the work environment enjoyable.
So how do we do this?  I’ve found that the best place to start is with the associates.  Phillips Edison regularly performs engagement surveys in order to assess associate satisfaction with their jobs and the company.  After each survey, the teams receive their results and are given tools and resources to act on them.  My team takes these very seriously and we work hard to implement suggestions and address areas of concern.  We also try to do our own, accounting team surveys twice a year, asking questions that dive deeper into department-specific needs.  Between these surveys and our informal lines of communication, we have been able to cultivate a wealth of ideas geared toward promoting the fun, innovative and collaborative culture we want for the accounting team.  Here are some of our favorites:
Quarterly Events:
We try to do something fun every quarter – just because.  Our team celebrates March Madness in the spring and holds a chili cook-off in the fall.  On the first day of summer, the accounting management team hands out ice cream sandwiches to the department.  During the holidays, we have a Christmas party and team members can choose to participate from a variety of activities, including an ornament exchange, cookie exchange, secret Santa, and white elephant gift exchange.  These things get us out from behind the desk, giving us time to get to know each other and have a little, simple fun.
Training Opportunities:
We have taken a community approach to learning – using it as a tool to welcome new associates and a way to bring our diverse group together.  We have tenured associates train new hires to make the training more personal and help people feel welcomed into the team.  In addition, everyone in the group participates in training sessions facilitated by accounting team members and specifically designed to help learners understand the responsibilities of the various sub-departments within our team.  We learn together, from each other.  It’s about community. 
Team Building:
We also do things geared toward traditional “team building”.  Last fall the accounting group held a 6-week Step Challenge.  It was extremely well-received.  Eight teams participated and each week the winning team was treated to lunch.  The grand prize included Phillips Edison branded pullovers and a fun group trip to the local escape room.  Last summer we held “Accounting Day” which consisted of a general business update in the morning, a lunch cookout at a local park and culminated with murder mystery group event.  We work as a team and play as a team.
Mini-Fun Moments
We also do a lot of smaller things that are meant to provide subtle recognition with a smile.  My direct reports and I plan these unique and simple “events” at least once a month or so.  We hand out cookies or make and deliver pancakes to all of the team members.  On the Cincinnati Reds’ opening day we delivered boxes of cracker jacks with a thank you for “making our department a hit”.  These things are about showing appreciation and interacting in a meaningful and intentional way with the entire team on a regular basis.
These are just a few of the many things we have implemented within Phillips Edison’s accounting department.  We try to have different people lead activities to give them opportunities they may not otherwise have to be creative, interact with their peers and have fun.  Most of the “events” cost very little but, we hope, add up and produce big results.  They boost morale by getting us out of our offices, give us a chance to get to know each other and make the office a more welcoming environment.  As accountants say, “every penny counts”.  In this case, every effort counts and all of these little efforts add up to a not-so-boring, tight-knit, highly-functioning accounting team