If one of the reasons you decided to open (or are thinking about opening) your own tax preparation business is because you’ve had miserable experiences working for others, ask yourself this very important question: What are you doing not to repeat those same mistakes with your employees? Especially during tax season. What are the top 5 ways to keep your employees motivated through the busy tax season?
Being fed up with being treated badly by an employer (or employers) is a top reason why many entrepreneurs decide to work for themselves. But then, too many of them go on to repeat the same common mistakes other employers make as their business grows.
Why is it that so many people seem to get it wrong when it comes to motivating and retaining employees? For one thing, your encouragement has to be genuine. If your office atmosphere is dull, dreary, or even abusive, throwing a pizza party or some gift cards at your employees is throwing a bandage on the problem. It won’t actually heal anything.
On the other hand, if you provide the right balance of leadership, a focused work environment, and fun, you’ll have a positive, productive atmosphere that people enjoy working in.
What’s more – if your employees feel happy and fulfilled, they are more likely to provide superior service to your clients in your tax prep business. Finding the right way to motivate and retain your employees really is a win for you, a win for them, and a win for your clients.
So, how can you actually have a top-notch staff, show them you care, and keep them motivated year after year?
Recognize their needs
Remember that your employees are not there just because they love you so much (although hopefully that’s part of it). Your associates need jobs. They also have lives outside of work that need attention. If you’re able to support them in accomplishing what they need to get done outside work, they’ll be better able to focus on work at the office.
Nowadays, flexibility at work is key for many people, whether it’s because they want to fit in more exercise, they have hobbies they’re passionate about, or they have families to take care of. Whatever you can do to help recognize the needs of your employees, the more likely you are to retain them. Why? Because finding a positive work environment that gives someone the freedom and flexibility to both be productive at work and have a life outside work is hard to do. Can you offer flexible hours? Let people work from home by setting up a cloud-based virtual office? What’s the secret sauce for helping them be more productive at work and at home?
Now, that doesn’t mean let associates come and go as they please. You have work to get done and clients to answer to. If an employee misses too much time from work or frequently comes in unfit to work, they’re not holding up their end of the bargain. You’ll have to figure out what’s going on and find a solution – keeping in mind that the solution may be as easy as letting someone come in 30 minutes earlier and leave 30 minutes earlier. Or, perhaps someone can make up time from home after hours.
The main point is, if you recognize your employees’ needs, more often than not, they’ll be more productive and focused when they are working and you will score major loyalty points.
Provide ongoing training and education
As people, we are wired to take in information and to keep learning. Anyone who cares about their career also recognizes the need to get ongoing training and education in their field – especially a rapidly evolving industry, such as tax preparation.
What are you doing to make sure your employees are prepared for each tax season and are growing as tax preparation professionals? Whether you sign up for conferences and webinars or provide training yourself, make sure they have access to resources and opportunities to grow their skill sets. (Remember to include training in customer service and technical skills, too!)
BONUS: Doing any kind of training as a group can be a great team-building exercise, too! You’ll win on both a professional and an interpersonal level!
Reward hard work with bonuses and fun
There are so many ways to make your work environment fun, show employees you really appreciate their hard work, and reward them with a little something extra.
- Give bonuses based on individual, team, or overall office performance so they know that the better the company does, the better they’ll do, too.
- Hold fun contests with prizes for top performers and top learners. The contests can be work-related or not (think: office Olympics, friendly sports competitions, or board game playoffs).
- Bring in food. Whether you have snacks around or you provide lunch or dinner during a busy day, keeping everyone fueled can go a long way. Provide healthy options and make sure to consider people’s food allergies and preferences (such as vegetarianism and veganism). After all, no one likes to be left out, and there are so many easy options that can make everyone happy.
When you’re thinking about what kinds of bonuses and incentives your people will like, consider the whole picture. Money is great – but money is soon spent and forgotten. However, gift cards to the movies, dinner, or other experiences will create memories that last longer than cash. Doing something together as an office to celebrate the end of tax season or winning a big client account lets you all make memories together and sends a signal to your associates that they really are an integral part of the business.
Everyone likes to be “in the know.” Make sure you keep your employees in the know of big changes, help you need, and how the business is doing overall. Likewise, encourage your employees to communicate with you when they are struggling, have questions, or can take on more work.
Be a servant leader
In chapter 18 of “Motivating & Retaining Employees,” of Guide to Start and Grow Your Successful Tax Business, I talk about “servant leadership.”
Servant leadership specifically means being a leader by serving the needs of your associates. If you give them the tools and support they need to be successful, they’ll serve your clients better and work to make your business successful.
You’re also modeling the behavior you expect from your employees. When you serve your employees, your clients and your community at large, you’re enriching the lives of the individuals you serve, as well as building better organizations and a stronger community.
It’s very much a “give to get” type of model – the idea that the energy you put out there in the world is the energy you get back. What does servant leadership look like?
- Put integrity and ethics first.
- Show empathy and genuine concern for others.
- Communicate openly.
- Demonstrate mutual trust and respect for each other, for clients and for the community.
- Lead a purposeful life.
From the philosophical to more hands-on approaches, these are the top ways we’ve found to keep your employees motivated through the busy tax season. When the going gets tough (and it always does at some point), keep a sense of humor, remember your priorities, be there for each other, and order a pizza. You all will get through this tax preparation season together.