As the accounting landscape continues to evolve, accountants need to focus more on the value they provide to their clients and less on their billable hours. So when it comes to monitoring team productivity, timesheets are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. What’s more important is to make sure your team are spending their days as effectively as possible in ways that your clients will value.
Eliminate, delegate, automate
Every professional has certain tasks that crop up a lot and always seem to dominate the work day when they do. Imagine how much more productive you and your colleagues would be if you could get them off your plate permanently.
Here’s a good place to start. Over the course of a month, get each member of your team to keep a record outlining their daily activities and how long they spent on each one. At the end of the month, you’ll be able to see if there are any low-value tasks that each team member is regularly spending too much time on.
For each team member, consider if any of their tasks don’t benefit your business enough to justify the time they take. Would it be worth eliminating some of these tasks altogether?
Next, are there any activities the team member could delegate to someone else, or even outsource? As well as freeing up some more of their time, this could be a way to help grow and develop your more junior team members with their own professional development.
Lastly, consider whether you’re using technology as effectively as you could across the business. Are there any tasks that your team members perform manually that could instead be automated using accounting software or a project management app?
Remember, it’s not just your employees who should eliminate, delegate, automate. You should also try to free up some of your own time each week so you can concentrate on business strategy and development, rather than purely operational tasks.
Short-term output versus long-term value
If your business is focused solely on output, your team will assume that simply getting the job done is good enough. But with client needs, regulatory requirements and business practices changing at such a rapid pace, your team need to continually keep their skills and knowledge up to date. Otherwise, your business’s productivity and growth could suffer in the long run.
Striking the right balance between productivity and professional development is essential to attracting and retaining high performing individuals. And that means allocating time to allow for regular training and education.
Start by asking each team member to identify their learning goals — and how achieving those goals will support the business. Then, agree on a regular development program together that could be focused on experience, exposure or education. Each team member should be accountable for their development plan, being busy is not an excuse.
It’s also worth providing your team plenty of opportunities to share their learnings across the business. As well as strengthening your firm’s skill base, this can help to better motivate the broader team — and boost performance all round.
Five ways to measure productivity
If you want to get a better handle on your team’s productivity, there are plenty of measures you can try out. Every business is different, so it comes down to choosing which one is the best fit for your firm.
1. Benchmarks. For standard, regular tasks like completing BAS or tax returns, use past averages to work out how many each team member should complete in a normal week. This will give you a quick snapshot of how they’re performing against this benchmark.
2. Milestones. By breaking down larger projects into individual tasks, you can set small, trackable goals for each team member. You can then measure their performance by their ability to reach each milestone by the given deadline, rather than by the hours they’ve logged.
3. Profit. Consider your firm’s annual profit against what you spend on salaries, and compare the results from one year to the next. This can be more useful than time-based measures, especially as your team should spend more time on those projects that will provide greater value to the business over the long term.
4. Feedback. With the 360 degree feedback method, each team member’s productivity is periodically evaluated by every colleague they work with on a daily basis. The purpose is to improve business processes, not shame individuals, so each participant should first be trained in how to give impartial, balanced performance feedback.
5. Check-ins. To keep your team focused and motivated, consider regular check ins for an update on what they’ve achieved (and what they haven’t). This builds accountability and ownership – but be sure you avoid the temptation to micromanage.