The best workplace cultures are built on more than nice-to-have perks like free Friday lunches and a dog-friendly office. A key component of a great culture is how a firm’s day-to-day work gets done and how goals are accomplished. However, this is a cultural component that is often left out of conversations about what makes a company a great place to work.
Great advisors understand that empowering staff to perform at their best and most effective means providing the right tools and resources. This lays the groundwork for an employee-centric culture. Great workflows and technology are foundational for creating awesome work experiences for a firm's team. The right processes and tools can boost both productivity and morale, while also making work enjoyable. This can motivate staff to go the extra mile for clients. Put your employees first, and they'll happily take care your clients. This, ultimately, is the hallmark of a great firm culture.
LiveCA, a cloud accounting firm + Xero Platinum Partner, joined us for a deep dive session on tactical hiring strategies and building an awesome culture.
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The Virtual Challenge
Cloud accounting allows firms and their staff to break convention and choose how to work. Many practices have taken advantage of cloud-based tech to forego a brick and mortar office and are, instead, operating virtually. Their clients can be located anywhere in the world and staff can work with them from any location, like their home office, to deliver a service on an anytime/anywhere basis.
This freedom brings many benefits, more time for family and a commute-free day are great examples – but a virtual workplace can also bring some challenges. Team members that are rarely, or never, in an office environment can feel disconnected from what’s happening within the firm and from colleagues. They may not feel as hooked into a culture as in-office staff.
There are ways to set up your internal systems and operations to create a happy and healthy work environment for all team members, no matter where they are located. Below are three ways in which advisors can leverage technology to create a culture that their staff love – both in and outside of an office.
Four Ways to Create an Employee-centric Culture
1. Enable Easy Collaboration Online
The same tech that makes cloud accounting possible can also help create a great collaborative culture for all staff. There are a variety of tech solutions that help keep virtual staff connected.
A popular app is Slack. Slack enables all team members, whether in the office or not, to collaborate and communicate. It’s like a virtual office. Staff can engage with each other online – not just to exchange work messages but to trade stories and chat just like they would in the office around the proverbial water cooler.
For more formal or long-form meetings, many firms use Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting or Zoom. These tools allow all staff to share in the informal back and forth that enhances comarderie and culture.
2. Optimize and Automate Your Workflow to Remove Roadblocks
Great culture emerges from an environment in which a firm’s work feels efficient; this happens when staff feel and see that their work is making a difference in their clients’ businesses. Nothing kills culture or team morale quicker than getting bogged down in low-value tasks. Old school tasks, like chasing clients for paper documents, can wear employees down.
To solve or avoid this problem entirely, start by examining your firm’s workflow. Seek to eliminate the steps that waste time for your team and clients. Optimize by replacing low-value admin tasks with apps that automate time-sucking steps. Examples of apps from the cloud ecosystem that can free up time include:
TSheets for scheduling and payroll
Bill.com for invoice processing
Hubdoc for automating source document collection
Sharefile for document storage
Automating a workflow frees staff to focus on their clients, rather than procedural headaches. That gives culture a chance to bloom. It also helps reduce the number of roadblocks your team will need to navigate.
As a manager, one of your key jobs is to remove roadblocks. If not addressed, roadblocks can spoil experiences for staff and clients. Too much frustration over how work is completed can upset even the best environment. Struggling to deliver great client experiences can degrade a team's morale and erodes an exciting work environment.
Your staff will be most effective if you standardize on one tech stack. Being able to master one set of software reduces the frustration that comes from having to leap from app to app. As they gain experience, they will get faster and more effective at using your apps. Mastery of the stack will equip staff with the ability to create awesome client experiences more often.
3. Help the Team be as Effective as Possible
Firms with awesome workplace cultures have also implemented thorough onboarding processes to make new hires feel welcome and to get them ramped up in their role quickly and effectively. These programs are educational, and they train new team members on how a firm works with clients and its cultural values.
However, a team member's education shouldn't end with their onboarding program.
Professionals are most engaged when they are working at the highest level of their capability. They want to be challenged. So, it's important to invest in individual development. Build an employee-centric culture by focusing on each team member's professional growth. Create clear paths for employee advancement, and provide the tools to get there. Provide training that is tailored to each team member's career goals, and this will keep them motivated and future-focussed. This fosters a culture in which everyone feels like they can grow with the firm.
Top strategies for using development to create a great culture include:
Create a talent pool development plan
Invest at least 3% of revenue in training and development
Share your vision for each staff member’s future role with the firm
Culture emerges from the expectations you set and from interactions between staff. To create an awesome culture for your staff make sure to put in place the right tools. Find the tech and workflow solutions that encourage:
Get the above right and those apps will create a culture your staff will love.
LiveCA, a Xero Platinum Partner, shared tactical strategies for making great hiring decisions and building an employee-first culture. It's a must-watch for advisors scaling their team this year.