The difficulties accounting firms face in recruiting staff make it all the more crucial that they use the staff they have efficiently -- and that means getting partners to delegate work.

One reason that partners may not delegate is the reality that it’s still a shared task, according to an article in Harvard Business Review. Partners need to accept the role of teacher in order to delegate successfully. With two official busy seasons now in the spring and fall, BKR International offers 10 ways to plan ahead and improve the delegation process.
Magic bullet
1. It’s not a magic bullet
When it comes to delegating, partners either say no one can do what they do or that it will be more work to teach others than to do it themselves. Yes, it will take time to delegate successfully, but proponents cite the long-term benefits to firms that train and develop talent to take on more sophisticated tasks. Like retention.
2. Choose your helper carefully
Look for an accountant with three to five years of experience who is positive, open to coaching and good with deadlines. This type of person will help you ease into a delegation comfort zone. If you’re lucky, you have more than one individual like this on your team, but start slowly.
3. Get organized
Make a list of any regular, repetitive work that can be taken off your plate such as financial statement reviews. You can do these, but they take time away from client strategy such as identifying how clients can use their data to make decisions. Start delegating these tasks with a clear process, then review and coach on results.
step by step
4. Simplify direction
Give your team member multiple instructions and you will guarantee failure. Instead, one partner realized that delegation worked better if he broke the big steps into several smaller steps, such as reviewing cash, then looking at receivables in a financial statement review. Be clear on steps to be taken and provide helpful resources such as an example of a completed cash review.
calendar planner on laptop
5. Allow enough time for completion
Delegation and time pressure don’t mix. Choose tasks that happen monthly and/or have a longer timeline to accomplish. The goal is to open space in your schedule for coaching while keeping client activities moving forward.
6. Expect questions and a learning curve
You are teaching someone to handle these tasks solo. There will be mistakes. Be open to this process, knowing that your team member will soon own the task completely.
Hovering supervisor
7. Don’t hover
Avoid jumping in to correct unless it involves a point of fact or accuracy. Schedule a check-in time to review progress and stick to that appointment.
Disappearing and leaving shoes smoking
8. Don’t disappear
Your team member has other duties, but may be eager to please a manager or partner. Make sure the project fits within his or her schedule. If something goes wrong or your team member gets stuck, be accessible to support the deadline.
Employee recognition
9. Recognize good work
Successful delegation includes acknowledging your team members when they deliver successfully. You may not expect kudos for something you’ve done for years, but this is new for them. It will boost their interest in accepting more new projects.
10. Introduce team members to clients
Clients who know more than one team member in an accounting firm are easier to retain. Team members who have direct access to clients cite this as a competitive differentiator among professional service firms. As you delegate duties to team members, praise them in front of clients and build that relationship for the future.