Small and mid-sized accounting firms are increasingly grappling with the need to do more with less, often putting staff at risk of burnout and weighing down productivity. But what if you could boost your firm’s efficiency and morale at the same time? Here are three ways you can do just that—all while creating a strong foundation for future success.
- Capitalize on automation
It’s no secret that technology is rapidly changing how all of us work. In an information-driven society, technology impacts virtually every aspect of business today.
For accounting firms, automation is perhaps the single most effective and immediate way to achieve greater efficiency, particularly when it comes to eliminating the manual tasks associated with accounts payable/receivable, payroll, tax compliance, and financial reporting.
According to Thomson Reuters Institute 2023 Tax Professionals Report, it appears most firms are capitalizing on automation for at least some of their tax workflow processes. Overall, one-third (33%) of firms automate up to 25% of their tax workflows, about one-quarter automate between 26% and 50% of their tax workflows, and almost another one-third (29%) automate more than half or all of their workflows. Only 11% of mid-size and large firms say they use no automation whatsoever, and only 20% of firms with fewer than three people rely entirely on manual processes.
In addition to reducing manual tasks, automation opens the door to direct collaboration with clients, including the ability to share data and documents directly via private accounts, automatically extract data from client source documents, or easily transfer account balances from integrated business tax preparation software.
Automation also enables staff to review problem areas using sophisticated diagnostics—before it’s too late to fix them. No more manually detecting blank fields or numbers that don’t add up. By comparing a tax return with last year’s documents, automation can flag and catch errors ahead of time.
Perhaps most importantly, automation enables your staff to shift their focus from non-billable and low-value activities to proactive, strategic work. The result is increased productivity for your firm and more rewarding work for your staff—and that’s a win-win.
- Offer opportunities for professional development
When you fortify your staff’s daily work with professional development opportunities, the boost in morale is palpable. Accounting professionals are understandably exhausted after busy season, however, there is a tremendous opportunity to reflect, reset, and energize your staff with a fresh perspective infused with professional development.
Consider developing a personalized learning plan for each staff member at your firm. As part of this process, take into account each staff member’s professional development desires. Ask what CPE courses or seminars they want to attend, what skills they would like to develop, and if there are any specialized industry areas that they would like to focus on.
To align with your firm’s overall strategy, assess both the individual’s professional development needs relevant to their responsibilities and the firm’s particular needs when it comes to staying technically current in a special accounting area or expanding into a new service area.
Further, it can be very impactful to offer the younger generation the ability to build niche or specialty practices, interact one-on-one with clients, and help small businesses grow. These are compelling benefits that tie directly into a larger sense of purpose in their daily work.
- Invest in relationships and wellbeing
From improving work-life balance to fostering more meaningful connections, your staff’s mental health and wellbeing is a critical indicator in terms of overall productivity and morale.
Focus on the ways in which you can strengthen working relationships and cultivate deeper relationships with your staff. By involving them in decision-making, you can boost their energy and engagement. If your firm is on the smaller side, lean into the opportunity for closer connections and more personalized support.
From a work-life balance standpoint, flexible working schedules and adequate time off are now the status quo. To make working from home just as effective as working from the office, consider tapping into cloud-based accounting software. However, if we’ve learned one thing over the past few years, it’s that in-person connections are extremely valuable, so be sure to strike a meaningful balance. In addition, offering something as simple as a mental health day after busy season can symbolize your support for staff and give them an opportunity to return to work recharged.
In addition, be sure to recognize your staff members for a job well done. Team building, award recognition, and incentives can reinforce your commitment to staff and boost morale and engagement overall. Gym memberships, tuition reimbursement, and community outreach initiatives are also great ways to increase staff satisfaction.
At the end of the day, all employees want high-value work, a supportive work environment, and the tools they need to grow. From incorporating technology to offering training opportunities to supporting work-life balance, investing in mental health and wellness benefits not only your individual staff members, but the entire firm.
A strong foundation for success
By igniting productivity and morale, your firm will be prepared to tackle any challenge that may lie ahead.