[IMGCAP(1)]Ah, the emotions of tax season: the rising sense of intensity and excitement followed by the descent into exhaustion.
While the season represents some of the key compliance areas that are the center of the industry, it also introduces the stress level that drives some into early retirement. You may have once felt like a champion of endurance for tackling tedious process items and working droning hours, but it soon wears thin as you long to return to some sense of normalcy.
To help achieve a more ideal state during this time of year, it's fairly common for firms to hold a debrief after tax season. Here, firms identify the factors that caused the most pain and also pitch process and tool improvement ideas to implement for next season. While a debrief is a good idea in theory, there may be potential issues with the timing. For example, if you experience extreme fatigue at the end of tax season, it's possible to lose clarity on the true sources of pain and struggle to identify ideas for resolution. People may even begin to doubt their pain points and wonder if what they experienced was "just them".
So let's get public with the pain while it's happening! Don't wait until later—dispel the "just me" myth directly and unite with your colleagues by publicly writing your pain points on a break room poster board or an online posting board for the firm. Make sure the information is organized for maximum usefulness: you can provide the place for detailing the pain, the cost of the pain (time, customer experience, direct costs, etc.), the impact scope (a few clients or many), and a place for agreement by other staff. If you wish to experiment with solutions during tax season, you could also create a place to provide that information and comment on the value of each solution.
Stating pain as it happens provides a few different benefits to the firm:
People who have solutions can provide them quickly
Testing for process improvements can occur while there is a current workload to be tested
Truer context to the pain and the details
Finally, by employing a standardized format, your debrief meeting will be successful with more accurate content. The staff knows the details they need to contribute, and by pre-stating the cost of the pain and the scope, firms can collectively be more objective about which pain points should receive the most attention.
Here's to a pain-free tax season!
Will Hill is lead of content strategy in the Training and Consulting Services department of the Tax & Accounting business of Thomson Reuters.
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