Systems - Part Two

HR Systems-why they matter even for the smallest practice.

In Part One we looked at basic but essential systems for planning and budgets which are key drivers in improving gross profit margins. Here we look at HR and people systems- without the resource of people to do the work a practice will fail! Many sole and smaller practices believe HR systems are for the larger firm. This is not true. With an ever increasing competitive market for good quality recruitment candidates now is the time to check whether your own systems are up to standard and in line with what your competitors are doing.

These simple and inexpensive systems will help attract the best candidates as well and ensure you keep the existing staff you have. Don’t fall into the trap of being so focused on winning new clients and daily work production that you lose sight of what you should be doing to develop and support your employees. Make sure you know what they think of your firm and are the best advocates for wanting to work there.

Use your work planner and business plan to see when and at what level you need to recruit. Let all staff know of recruitment plans- they may even know someone. Write a very clear and detailed job description to share with recruitment consultants. Have a clear checklist of questions for an interview to ensure every candidate has the same interview experience. Many people have a completely different interview depending on the time or day of the week they were seen! Whether a candidate is suitable or not you want to make sure they leave with a fantastic impression of your firm.

Offer letters should include an induction booklet detailing what they will be doing for the first month and who will mentor them.

Prepare for new joiners and allocate them a mentor. Make yourself free to welcome them and book a time every week for the first month or so to formally check in with them and see how they are settling in. Everyone, especially new recruits, needs regular feedback.

I have visited many practices where new recruits say they turned up on their first day and no one knew who they were, where they were to sit, no phone or PC set up and no one to show them around or who to go to with any questions. No surprise when they leave within 3 months

Training and development
Team members want to see their skills developing and are more likely to stay with your firm if you provide training. Hold 6 monthly career development reviews and document discussions. Listen more and talk less! Let your team member talk about what they want to achieve and decide how you can facilitate this. Document discussions so you can measure progress and follow up every 6 months.

What processes do you have in place to give regular feedback on jobs? This is the number one reason why people leaving- not receiving enough feedback on jobs and not feeling valued.

Share your business plan with the team and highlight each member’s role in that plan – this allows your team to feel part of the plan and ‘buy in’ to your vision. They feel valued and can see how they will develop with the firm.

Hold brief weekly meetings to update everyone on business won and lost and have a ‘team member of the month’ award voted for by the team itself.

How do you know what your team really thinks of you and why you should care!
Happy staff means better client service and work production rates. This means greater profitability for the firm ultimately. Also, happy staff will be the best advocates for your firm and boost its reputation.

Do you have a team feedback form which is collected weekly and acted upon? This can be organised by someone other than a partner, takes 15 mins per week and will save you costly recruitment fees as you can address any problems as soon as they arise. It also helps you know what is really going on within the firm.

Conduct Team feedback surveys where each team member gives confidential feedback even on the partners. This is best delivered by someone who doesn’t work within the firm and is a very powerful practice management tool to help you achieve your business goals. It does however, take a brave partner to do this and commit to following up on recommendations made. Firms who follow this process report the fastest rates of growth and profitability. It is also something that once completed on your own firm you can offer the service to clients in a business advisory capacity.

Remuneration and reward packages
Pay and bonus schemes are a constant topic of scrutiny within the profession. The best practices will offer a ‘menu’ of potential pay and rewards and allow the individual to pick what meets their needs best. For some people time or flexible hours will be more valuable than money. Listen to the needs of the individual and try and meet what works best for them.

Ask your team if they prefer time off or financial reward for hitting monthly billing target or around Christmas Time.

Many progressive firms give an additional day’s paid leave so a team member doesn’t work on their birthday and/or an additional ‘Christmas shopping day.’ Sick days tend to be very low at firms who offer these additional rewards.

Treat your staff as you would clients- they are equally important. Walk into your office as if you were a member of the team and ask yourself ‘would I want to work her?’ What can you do to make the working environment better; improve variety of refreshments on offer, biscuits, fruit bowls etc. These are inexpensive things that make a big impact.

Most importantly lead by example- as a leader you can’t walk into the office looking stressed or grumpy. This doesn’t inspire confidence or motivate people! Behave in front of your team as you would with a client.

None of the strategies outlined above are difficult or costly to put in place but are very powerful in changing the culture within a firm. The key to success is implementing one thing at a time.

In Part two we will look at HR and People systems which we sometimes think is just for the large firms.

December 2016 Copyright - Finola McManus, Practice Perfect

Helping accountancy firms to make their clients successful


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