It’s August, which means your team may be returning from some well-deserved time off. Whether they sport a sunburn, Disney swag or try impress each other with stories of weekend water parks with their kids (my life), it’s time to get back to work.
There’s a lot to do; in addition to getting ready to finalize extensions, you can work on tax return estimates, your firm’s operations strategy for the rest of the year and other housekeeping tasks.
What’s the best way to refocus your staff? Throwing a not-fully-recovered team back into the fire is not a good idea. Think of all the accountants you know who are burnt out because their managers never learned the baseball strategy of a “pitch count,” a strategy used to monitor the amount of pitches a pitcher is allowed in a game to ensure they are healthy for the playoffs. I see staff being the same as pitchers, especially tax accountants; keep them on a pitch count or you risk injury and they won’t make it to the “big game” – tax season.
To ease your team back in, I don’t recommend engaging them at the end of summer. Instead, work with them softly during the summer through regular communications. For example, after a few tax seasons, I realized changing our full-blown weekly staff meeting to bi-weekly/monthly soft calls was a better way to keep them engaged and aware.
Our firm is 90 percent remote, and we don’t require anyone to work in the office to take these calls, so we use Skype. In addition, you don’t have to be seen on the video chat; you can be at the beach and take the call. These 30-minute touch-base calls are important for two reasons. First, they remind the team of the seriousness of their job. Second, they give team members who are likely missing each other a chance to catch up and show vacation pics.
We also schedule firm-wide bi-weekly training sessions to cover standard processes and procedures. Specifically, we focus on the areas that were weak in the first and second quarters. These are our longest meetings, but once again, they keep the team aware of improvement points while giving them the summer to regroup from busy season.
Being a “Firm of the Future” means you need to master your internal customers: your employees. Some may be satisfied by monetary compensation, while others want delicate management and work-life balance. There is no one-shot-cures-all to get your team engaged or keep them motivated post summer. They need rest, understanding, appreciation and consistency from the firm to understand when they have thrown too many pitches and when they deserve an off season.
Practice managers should consider setting up a summer schedule of routines and meetings to keep their team engaged and improve processes. Think about this next spring when you get your staff’s vacation requests!
Editor’s note: Read “Best Practices for Putting Together Winning Teams” by Jeff Wilson II, CPA/PFS, on the Tax Pro Center.