[IMGCAP(1)]Looking for ways to run your accounting firm more efficiently and effectively? It starts with people.

Managing employees effectively is a key success factor for every business. In accounting firms of all types and sizes, successful managers must be diligent in instructing colleagues about the need to stay in lockstep with the firm’s overarching business objectives.

It is not just about hiring the right people—it’s about implementing strategies to promote transparency throughout the organization in a way that helps those people support company-wide business objectives. This way, managers are able to guide their people—the firm’s greatest assets—to create an environment that streamlines the business, ultimately increasing productivity.

Here are four ways to manage employees that align with your firm’s business objectives.

1. Making Workloads Realistic
To gain perspective, it’s important to have an inside-out and outside-in view of an organization. Managers need to be able to see all aspects of an accounting engagement to delegate tasks accordingly. It is also important to understand the work capacity of employees in order to staff teams accordingly. If an engagement is getting bogged down in one area, it is important for the manager to step in, alleviate the pressure and seek additional resources. Here are two ways that managers can help streamline workflow, helping to deliver projects on time and budget:

a. Assurance: When employees are confident in the work that they are producing, less time is spent completing tasks because it is done correctly the first time. Staffing teams that work well together also help projects run smoothly.

b. Time Management: Make sure all employees are entering billable time accurately and promptly. When employees accurately enter time, managers are better able to identify areas that need support. Your timekeeping approach should be straightforward and made to be quick, yet with an underlying structure that guides people to correctly record worked time with the proper client and engagement.

2. Allocating Resources
Few may consider resource-management as a way to get a leg up on the competition, but managing availability and capacity of your most skilled people is an advantage for winning new business. It’s not just who’s available, but also who’s most appropriate for the work. You want the right level of competence, work capacity, experience and industry knowledge to help engagements stay on time and on budget. Your people aren’t interchangeable parts and shouldn’t be scheduled that way. Make sure that you can incorporate talent, past experience, and even personal preferences into the resource plan.

3. Motivating the Workforce
Motivated employees are critical to business success; they work harder and overcome common workplace challenges with ease. While some firms operate under team environments, others are a workplace of individuals. Regardless of the environment, to prosper in tough times it is paramount to implement strategies that improve employee performance and morale, encourage teamwork and instill a positive attitude.

This way, employees are motivated, increasing performance and furthering the bottom line. Ways that firms can motivate employees include providing incentives and offering regular feedback, which are powerful tools for improving morale, in particular:

a. Incentives such as training programs and company initiatives can be implemented to help employees share ideas and become further invested in the company. Managers need to understand that a firm should be a two-way street where employees have the opportunity to share and create ideas, further establishing a collaborative environment.

b. Feedback from management is a sure way to make employees feel appreciated, engaged and understood, whether it is positive or negative. When feedback is delivered on a regular basis, it tends to result in improved performance, further enhancing motivation. Go beyond the typical annual or quarterly formal reviews to provide more “granular” feedback at the conclusion of engagements, or even at key milestones in the work process. Use your reports not just for progress status, but as alerts to tell you it’s time for positive or constructive feedback.

4. Gaining Visibility
Successful accounting firms need visibility across the entire firm—spanning their clients, their people, their engagements, and of course their financial results. It is important to know the engagements that are ongoing, what an employee is working on, how long it should take, and if they have time available to help with other projects. Without effective visibility, it’s almost impossible to effectively manage people because you’re left with inefficient meetings, phone calls or emails, which risk seeing demoralized people overworked, underutilized, or assigned to work that just isn’t the best fit. The bottom line is, to do their job effectively all levels of employees need to access information across the organization, so the firm can be productive and prosperous.

The success of an accounting firm goes beyond the business model that is implemented by management. The way that accountants work, how they are managed, and how they communicate both with management and with each other has a huge impact on the business. By learning to manage employees effectively, you’ll ultimately learn to manage the business. And that will drive better financial results for your firm.

Claus Thorsgaard is Deltek’s EVP and general manager—professional services. He is responsible for managing sales and marketing for Deltek Vision, Deltek Maconomy and Deltek People Planner, enterprise software solutions that power the businesses of accounting firms and other professional services firms around the world.

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