Best Practices

Creating the Right Culture and Environment at Your Accounting Firm

A culture of transparency is key to creating a healthy and productive work environment. Here's how to create one in your accounting firm.

If you take a peek behind the curtain at any successful business, you’ll see that its team members trust their employer and vice versa. Having this level of trust is especially important for accounting and bookkeeping firms. A workplace built on trust is usually a healthier working environment for team members, leading to increased loyalty and improved performance.

You and I both know that equals better service delivery for clients. The only downside? Creating a sense of trust in the workplace is no easy task.

I believe that one of the best ways to increase trust in your workplace is by creating a culture of transparency. But what is a culture of transparency, and how do you achieve it?

What is a culture of transparency?

A culture of transparency is built on open communication. A workspace that prioritises transparency doesn’t shy away from honest communication that goes in both directions. In addition to making client information readily available throughout the organisation, employers are open about business performance and team members feel comfortable being authentic with their superiors. This allows for better communication, information sharing and improved performance.

To help you reap the benefits a culture of transparency can bring to your accounting firm, we will go over the exact steps you need to take to create one. Before we get into that, we must understand why creating a culture of transparency is so important.

The value of transparency

Transparency is important in any relationship, which includes professional relationships. In the context of an accounting firm, the end result is that it offers the firm credibility. As we’ve touched on, transparency leads to trust, and if your team members are happy in their roles, and feel valued and trusted to do the best work they can do, your clients will pick up on that. More credibility will then help the firm attract more clients, which will help with the growth of the business.

Complete transparency at the workplace is also highly advantageous as it creates a positive work environment. By making critical information readily available, encouraging honest feedback and trusting employees in their decision-making, the need for micromanagement is reduced, allowing for smoother workflows and higher levels of productivity.

That said, it can be tough to build a culture of transparency in the workplace, especially when your accounting firm is relatively new. Let’s look at the first steps you can take to revitalise your firm’s culture.

How to create a culture of transparency

Creating a culture of transparency can take months, if not years. That’s because it only works when everyone at the firm is on the same page. However, it’s possible with the right mindset, and the benefits are definitely worth the effort.

Here are five tips for creating a culture of transparency in the workplace.

Host weekly meetings

One of the pillars of transparency is open communication. In an accountancy firm, that means open two-way communication between managers and team members. One of the best ways to get everyone on the team to share their thoughts and ideas is by hosting weekly meetings.

A weekly meeting helps team members be heard, deliver messages, and report on progress. On top of that, it gives managers an opportunity to make sure everyone understands the firm’s goals and the steps the team is taking to achieve the goals they’re responsible for.

When leading a team, it is your responsibility to set a good example. A great way to do that is by being honest about mistakes and how you’ve learned from them and encouraging your team to do the same. Introducing weekly meetings in which progress on client accounts is discussed breaks down walls between colleagues. This means the entire team is aware of the progress being made across the firm, as well as what other members of the team are working on. This provides an opportunity for errors or setbacks to be discussed and resolved and for learnings to be taken on across the board. 

Regular meetings also get teams comfortable with communicating with each other openly. This is a great way to instil a culture of transparency while also keeping everyone aligned under the same goals.

Invite feedback via surveys

Employer-to-team member feedback is built into most firms’ policies. Whether you have annual 360 reviews or weekly 1-to-1s in which managers provide feedback to their teams, you likely ensure there are regular opportunities for team members to have their performance monitored and fed back on.

Those team members should have the same opportunity to give feedback to their employer. A positive work environment can be instrumental in driving success, and that’s impossible to achieve if your team members don’t feel heard. 

It’s important for organisations to understand what their team members need and want. This can be tough in any work environment as some team members won’t feel comfortable being completely honest when giving feedback, which can prevent them from sharing their criticisms or concerns. However, getting this honest — if uncomfortable — feedback is critical to your firm’s growth. Allowing team members to give feedback anonymously with the guarantee that there will be no kickback for being truthful supports a culture of transparency.

A great way to invite team members to provide feedback is by asking them to fill out anonymous surveys. With anonymous surveys or feedback forms, it will be easier for accounting firms:

  • Hear the voices of team members who may not be comfortable speaking up in front of others
  • Get key insights on ways to optimise and improve the workplace
  • Grow and develop in a way that supports the happiness of their team
  • Promote creative and critical thinking
  • Help their team members feel understood, appreciated and valued

To take this a step further, create a report based on the feedback gathered and share this with your workforce.

Use workflow management tools

To deliver consistently high-quality, error-free work to your clients, your team needs to be singing from the same hymn sheet. Luckily, the introduction of digital workplace tools has massively improved communication, workflow consistency and the efficiency of client management in accounting firms. For example, tools designed for invoicing can lead to greater efficiency and practice management software allows for a more streamlined workflow and consistent work.

The latter also allows managers and other team members to view task progress and ensure they’re on track to hit key deadlines.

Practice management tools, such as Pixie, offer workflow and admin management capabilities that provide your team with all the information they need to service clients effectively, keep track of progress and create a sense of transparency in the workplace.

Break down silos

Breaking down silos is a common theme in many workplaces. This simply means breaking down the barriers that exist between different teams and divisions in the organisation, caused by a hesitancy to share information. When barriers prevent individuals from being able to complete their work due to missing information or delays, this can have a negative impact on the firm’s productivity and client satisfaction.

Using cloud-based systems to store client documentation and keeping track of to-dos via Pixie breaks down these barriers by ensuring key information is accessible to everyone at all times.

Provide a rationale for decisions

Providing your team members with greater control and autonomy, as well as ensuring they understand the rationale behind key business decisions, are fundamental to developing good relationships between them and team leaders. This is why sharing the rationale behind critical business decisions made with your team is important. This can include keeping the team informed about new clients that are being onboarded and the direction you’re taking the firm in. Put simply, providing a rationale for them increases transparency in the company. 

Better yet, involve them in the decision-making process. This can help them feel a sense of ownership and empowerment. Trust must be built into its foundations for an accounting firm to have a truly transparent culture.

How your team and clients benefit from a transparent work environment

Creating a culture of transparency benefits both your team and clients. From a happier and more motivated team to smoother processes and improved performance, there are countless benefits. These include:

  • Reduced stress for team members
  • Improved productivity
  • Better quality work
  • Increased credibility when engaging with clients
  • A revenue boost

All in all, this means a better level of service for your clients, which is one of any firm’s top priorities. When clients see that the firm is transparent in its operations, they will be more at ease working with your firm, knowing that they can trust and receive a high level from everyone on the team.

Now it’s time to put this advice into practice. That’s where Pixie can help. Our software is tailored to support firms like yours, creating a central place for team, task and client management that promotes a culture of transparency.

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