Tax season for any accounting firm is crunch time, which means increased potential for disengagement and burnout.
In this article, we spoke with HR leaders at two leading CPA firms, Aprio and Frazier & Deeter, to learn how they keep their team connected during stressful times.
“During tax season we get a lot of feedback that workload is heavy and employees are stressed,” said Emily Ruder, People & Culture Specialist at Aprio, LLP said.
Aprio is a premier CPA and advisory firm with consistent high employee engagement, and Cooleaf has worked with them for years for organizing programing and incentives.
“We do our best to remind employees of our resources for reducing stress,” Emily said. Aprio schedules a few 15-minute game or break sessions open for team members to connect, have fun, and encourage a little break. It’s a good way to build team culture, even during the busiest of times.
Frazier and Deeter is an award winning CPA firm with an enthusiastic team. They started using Cooleaf during the start of the pandemic and found that asynchronous ways to engage their team on one platform has made a huge difference in morale and retention.
“It’s been an interesting year for all accounting firms,” said Hannah Posthauer, Frazier & Deeter’s People and Culture Senior.
“We hear over and over that people love the culture and the people in Freezer & Deeter and connecting with them. And that’s why they’re staying,” she said.
Employee engagement, especially during high stress times like tax season for an accounting firm, is your opportunity to support your team members when they especially need it.
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CPA Firms and the Importance of Employee Retention
The busy season might have increased the stress levels, but a lot of the stress and pressure was already exacerbated due to the pandemic.
According to Fast Company, burnout has exponentially increased as the start of lockdown coincided with the filing season. Fast Company writes:
“Remember, when COVID hit in March 2020, it was the middle of tax season,” says Michael Platt, managing principal of INSIDE Public Accounting, which provides practice resources for the accounting profession. “Generally, February 1 to April 15 has about 10 weeks of pretty high-pressure work. You know it’s coming, and you know it’s got an end. But when 10 weeks turns into 10 months, it takes its toll. There was higher than normal turnover after April 2021. I certainly expect by April of 22, there will be a spike in turnover again.”
With the IRS pushing back filing deadlines to help taxpayers and business owners, new tax laws, not to mention additional small business assistance and general public burnout, many people are turning to accounting firms for help.
As many accounting professionals put in long hours this time of year, don’t forget to look out for opportunities to support and engage your team. It keeps your people motivated, increases productivity, and supports the quality of work.
“We want to put our people first,” Emily from Aprio said. “We have 31 core fundamentals that encompass different values and practices for the way that we communicate with clients and each other.”
And Aprio keeps those values top of mind by continuing to engage their team, even at their busiest time of year.
Read on to learn about some ideas!
Publicly Recognize Hard Work
Remember to recognize good work when you see it.
“We always remind employees about how important it is to recognize each other,” Emily from Aprio said. “And everyone loves seeing the recognitions come through on Cooleaf.”
Employee recognition is a powerful tool that can boost engagement and motivate coworkers.
With employee recognition platforms like Cooleaf, employees and managers can issue recognitions and express gratitude for help or collaboration.
Plus public recognition is a great way for managers to show their support and appreciation for their direct reports’ hard work. It’s also encourages more people to recognize further and keep the support going.
Support a Hybrid or Flexible Work Environment
Offering flexibility during this time can help take some of the pressure off and support employees’ work-life balance too.
Employees can enjoy the benefits of remote work from the lack of commute and the flexible schedule, all while feeling empowered to manage their day-to-day.
While Zoom, Slack, and recurring stand-ups are a good way to stay in touch during the workday, additional tech like employee engagement software or more can help create an equitable experience for all team members.
Cooleaf works with Frazier and Deeter to create employee programming that keeps people connected on a deeper level, while also dispersing news and recognition to their whole team easily. “Cooleaf is a really big part of [our hybrid set up] right now. Even our remote workers are getting the same experience as our employees in our home office, so it’s been a great move for our employee engagement.”
While communication is important, also be sure to look into new technology to help with security. Along with bookkeeping automation, look into VPNs to ensure proper cybersecurity for when your team’s handling personal income tax documents. It’ll enable your firm to work from home safely.
Many teams aren’t new to remote work by this time and are able to handle the day-to-day responsibilities while balancing tax filing deadlines, so set your regulations for remote work and keep that avenue open as an option.
Proactively Promote Health and Wellness
Stress can be hard to manage, especially for a tax professional working towards that filing deadline, so be sure to have your human resources team offer additional resources, mentorship, or even healthy snacks around the office.
Hosting a team yoga, meditation, or even cardio classes can give an employee the push they need to put their health first and practice stress management.
As an alternative, you can host virtual health and wellness events like step challenges or provide access to comped online workouts.
Platforms like Cooleaf make it easy for individuals to participate asynchronously. “You can go in at your own time and engage as much or as little as you want,” said Hannah from Frazier and Deeter. “And it was huge [positive] shift for our engagement.”
Offer Activities or Happy Hours
While your team might be head down in focus, it’s important to remember that encouraging team members to let off some steam, get together, and connect outside of work matters is still important. It’s also refueling.
“Building personal relationships and establishing connections is important to the team,” said Emily from Aprio. “Stress relief and making connections are probably the biggest reason our employees want to connect.”
To encourage employees to connect while also promoting their core values, Aprio hosts one online challenge a month through Cooleaf.
“This keeps our company culture at the front of everyones mind and gives them a fun and rewards-motivated way to interact and give input on our values,” she said.
Final Tip: Put People First
When it comes to engagement, especially for any CPA firm during the busy season, it’s important to remember to just support your people and put their needs first.
Taking a page from Aprio, don’t forget to encourage recognition from the top or offer prizes to help participation. But also communicate with your team.
“Be transparent about things going on on the back end and behind the scenes also really help people feel in the loop and connected,” Emily said.
“Don’t rethink the wheel and don’t overthink it. The little things and little interactions do add up and make a difference.”
Want more ideas for engaging your people? Cooleaf can help you create a holistic employee experience. Drop a line here!