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Use team-building to retain talent and keep fun in the firm

Will Hill, MBA  Product Manager — Tax Professionals Advisory, Thomson Reuters

Will Hill, MBA  Product Manager — Tax Professionals Advisory, Thomson Reuters

Allowing some time for fun builds trust and camaraderie among your employees and can keep your staff turnover rate lower by improving overall morale. It might seem like a small thing, but allowing employees some time to decompress by creating fun team-building opportunities improves the firm culture and keeps it healthy.

In the episode of the Thomson Reuters podcast, Pulse of the Practice, Fun in the Firm, we discuss ways to build culture by leaving room for fun despite the grind of accounting work, especially during busy season.

Fun may not be the first word you think of as synonymous with working in an accounting firm. Regardless of stereotype or impression, if you’re doing your job well, you are also going to find ways to have fun. That experience can help keep your firm stay engaged in the work and with the clients. Making the environment a little fun is going to ultimately keep your firm focused on innovation and team-building. The creative side seems to flow better with employees when they’re more relaxed and having a good time with what they do.

Keep a cultural component of fun in the firm

It’s up to leaders of a firm to make sure there’s some cultural components of fun in the firm. The tax business as a whole can be a stressful grind sometimes, but creating space for a bit of fun team-building in your firm can make all the difference to build trust and make your team stronger. As a tax and accounting firm, you are going to deal with difficult, high-pressured work sometimes, which can cause the level of stress to rise. It’s imperative that you have stress relief outlets in some form to help avoid staff burnout. There are going to be many times when you’re dealing with client issues and solving problems and the work can be challenging, but if your employees love what they do and they feel camaraderie with their co-workers, it can make all the difference in the strength of your team-building efforts.

You’ve got to be willing to laugh sometimes when it’s appropriate. We all have stories of clients, or situations and even simple acts like telling stories on Friday afternoon in the breakroom, or celebrating birthdays monthly, can lighten the stress. It’s that sitting around the campfire thought process that staff enjoys and is a perfect way to promote team-building. People enjoy that camaraderie, the feeling that they’re in this together. Having the opportunity to vent a little bit leaves an overall feeling of support among the ranks of employees.

A transparent culture of openness is important to the firm

One of the common factors to team-building in the firm is allowing for an element of transparency and creating a culture of openness. When you talk about culture as it relates to the nature of the principles of your firm, one can tell from the outside when a firm has a transparent culture of sharing and openness that also leaves room for a little fun.

Often firms tend to take on the culture of the main principals in the firm, and if someone’s detached and not really involved, or pretty serious all the time, there’s going to be that kind of culture throughout the firm.

Openness allows the firm to share information more freely, so employees don’t feel alone or like they are working in a vacuum with no support. Even something simple, whether it be weekly or monthly team meetings, or offering different group events, can help you successfully support your firm’s team-building efforts, and that can cascade into your staff wanting to come to work every day with a positive attitude.

Allowing for fun also increases communication between the team members. If you take the time to build bonds when the stakes are low, you can cash in on that when the stakes are high. When it’s busy season, if you haven’t taken the time to work team-building into the firm, by then there is no time to build trust. You’ve got to use the trust you’ve built when the stakes are low and when the work isn’t as busy so that when things are higher pressure, everyone is willing to pitch in.

Keeping trust in the firm

When you’ve built trust within your firm by promoting team-building, it makes those not so fun tasks, like if you have to let someone go, more bearable. Having to let an employee go is probably the least fun part of the job as a firm manager or owner. But if you have created an open culture, you can handle it better for the entire team, as that is not something to take lightly.

Whenever there are staff changes, there are a variety of issues that can come up and the biggest concern is just about the perception of your staff, the remaining staff, and what they think. When your firm has to deal with an issue, like someone leaving, as an example, you just hope that you have built enough collateral in your firm culture that the employees trust your judgment. Hopefully, you have taken the time to build a strong team that can withstand the stress.

If your staff is engaged in the work, there has to be an enjoyment factor for engagement to stick with the team and for it to have a business impact, not just a social impact. Fun in a tax practice starts at the head, but you’ve got to be able to have enough collateral to work with so that your staff trusts you as well as each other.

Use team-building to retain top talent

The work enjoyment factor is one of the things you can build into your firm, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money. Some firms offer trips and other group team-building events. That’s great, but sometimes it’s the simple things that really add the most enjoyment to what people have to look forward to in coming to work.

Through talking to firms we get a lot of questions about compensation and what do people pay in order to keep good employees. But money alone is not the main reason why someone stays or goes with a firm. It’s one of the reasons, but it might be fundamentally third on the list. There are a couple other factors that come before salary, and one of the main ones is if they feel like they’re adding value to the firm. Do they feel like they’re in a safe place where they can grow? You have to be able to have that kind of team-building bond and culture with your staff to retain top talent.

Keeping your staff happy is not just about pay, you can definitely overpay people and they’ll still be miserable. Of course pay has an impact, but as far as retaining staff, you’ve got to take money out the equation. Pay them well, but if they are ever considering working somewhere else, if you have built a fun, flexible, and positive culture, at least you know another firm can’t buy them out.

As we talk about having a little bit of fun in the firm, the main point is to make sure that the culture of your firm is impactful toward a positive business result by creating strong team-building to support the longevity of your staff. With less staff turnover, you can create a stronger firm and more depth in client relationships, ultimately influencing your success.

Listen to the “Fun in the Firm” episode of the Pulse of the Practice podcast on your preferred platform: GoogleAppleSpotify, or Stitcher.

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