As vaccination programs pick up speed around the world, we all hope that we’re seeing the beginning of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and the requirement of working from home. The last year certainly changed the standard operating procedures at most accounting firms. Obviously, the business model will not return to the “old normal” after the pandemic.
So, how can firms get ready for a future that includes more flexibility around working from home, schedules, and geographic locations?
Jim Boomer is the CEO of Boomer Consulting, a firm providing strategic visioning and best practices to “guide CPA firms to sustainable success and future readiness.” Jim joined Audit Talks Live to talk about how firms can reboot talent for future success and what the pandemic means for the future of the profession. Specifically, he shared thoughts about five critical areas of firm success:
These five areas intersected in interesting ways throughout the pandemic. Especially as firms pivoted to working from home, they needed to develop new talent processes and leverage integrated cloud solutions. Jim shared a lot during this session, so listen to the complete podcast to obtain the valuable leadership advice he shares with his client firms. We’ll cover just a few points in this article.
Working from home growth mindset
To start with, Jim recommends firm leadership to continue to maintain a growth mindset. Although the past year came with a lot of economic uncertainty, leaders should not adopt an emergency or scarcity mindset. Keep your eye to the future.
Firms should continue to hire top professionals when needs and opportunity arise. Additionally, firms need to expand their view of succession planning. Not only should you plan for who will step into top leadership roles, but also plan the “next person up” at all levels and functional areas in the firm.
Support the firm with intelligent automation
Forward-thinking firms are leaning into intelligent automation to automate tedious, repetitive, lower-value work. Technology frees professionals to engage with more challenging work and deliver actionable insights to clients. Further, firms need to employ good collaboration tools to support a distributed workforce.
It’s important to realize that remote work and a distributed workforce are trends that won’t go away after the pandemic. So, plan to improve and refine your firm’s use of cloud technology to automate workflows, streamline communication, organize documents, and manage the team.
Get creative about employee engagement
In order to retain your staff, you need to concentrate on improving engagement. Connect with your team in meaningful ways beyond the day-to-day production of work. At first, it was hard switching to working from home and lacking in-person interaction among teams. Later, as everyone became familiar with video Zoom meetings, firms began engaging teams in new ways. For example, many firms hosted virtual cocktail hours. To be sure, that’s a fun way to socialize, however, Jim suggests firms dig deeper to become more creative with engagement. One Boomer Consulting client amplified their cocktail hour by hiring a mixologist and drop-shipping signature cocktail ingredients to employees. Another firm challenged its team with a virtual escape room exercise. Firms could even have take-out food delivered to enable the team to eat a meal together.
Other key factors in engagement include consistent communication and feedback. Being intentional about keeping up a regular cadence of check ins with each professional can significantly impact productivity and morale. People experienced a lot of change and stress in a short window of time during the pandemic. Ease anxiety over change management by providing lots of feedback and as much advanced notice about future changes as possible.
Driving engagement top down is not enough; firms also need to strengthen team connections. Boomer Consulting introduced a “break room buddies” program to assign groups of two to take regular 30-minute or one-hour virtual breaks together. The groupings rotate month to month. This encourages professionals to get to know each other better on a more personal level.
Get more best practices to ready your team for the future
As you can see, Boomer Consulting has many ideas about how firms can not only adapt to the post-COVID-19 future of the profession, but also thrive and outperform in it. Jim shared much more than we could capture in one article, so please listen to the podcast for more advice and best practice ideas.
Additionally, save the date for our next Audit Talks Live series, sponsored once again by Boomer Consulting. This popular, complimentary event for accounting professionals will take place June 1-2, 2021. Registration will open soon so be on the lookout.