Your Accountant’s Hidden Impact on Workplace Culture

When Linda, CEO of Greenville Insurance, asked Gary, Vice President of Melville Manufacturing, for his experience with their accounting firm, she was surprised that his response was based on more than tax and accounting expertise. Gary shared how his accounting firm has also had a significant impact on Melville’s culture. He went on to describe how they assisted with hiring their new bookkeeper, created a control system to correct exposure to fraud and developed a compensation system that was in line with industry best practices.

Gary’s shared experience exemplifies several ways that accountants help their clients evaluate and improve company culture. Accounting is more likely to conjure images of spreadsheets and tax forms than team meetings and high fives. But your accounting firm knows more about your company culture than you might imagine.

Defining Workplace Culture

Today, many headlines for hiring and retention articles reference “workplace culture”. As competition across all industry sectors is on the rise, companies are realizing that workplace culture plays a significant, although often undetected, role in the success of their business. However, it’s often overlooked as day-to-day operating needs take precedence over building a strong workplace environment.

Yet, strengthening workplace culture is not as overwhelming as it may seem. It starts with the individuals you hire, the internal controls you have in place to allow them to work efficiently and the ways in which you compensate them. Just as Gary shared with Linda, be sure your company benefits from ways your accounting firm can add value to your company culture.

Hiring

Hiring the best person for the job the first time has a major impact on company culture. When mistakes are made in hiring, company culture is negatively affected. The entire group suffers when a team member doesn’t do their job well or is terminated. For example, if a bookkeeper is hired who interviews well but is not truly skilled at their work, they may make mistakes that could create problems for other team members, taking up time in identifying and correcting errors, all causing frustration in the workplace environment.

Small business owners are charged with being the expert in their industry, running the operations and providing leadership. They are typically not the expert in the accounting arena. As with any industry, having an expert in the field on the hiring team helps to ensure a successful hire.

Your accountant can help you hire the right person first by assisting you with job descriptions, referrals and interviewing. Your accountant…

…knows the skills, talents and expertise needed for the job, and they know the right questions to ask to evaluate those skills and talents.

…can clearly and accurately communicate the job requirements and roles.

…can network on your behalf, refer people to you, and share best hiring practices.

Controls

Another way your accounting firm can help is by setting up proper control processes to prevent conflict with team members and upset the culture. These controls typically involve separation of duties and ensuring that more than one person is involved in accounting functions. Without control processes, fraud, theft and frequent errors can occur and affect not only your financial results but your culture. Control processes also divide labor, sharing the workload more evenly and leaving the team feeling like workload is fair.

Compensation

Fair and reasonable compensation impacts company culture. Companies with teams who feel fairly compensated attract better talent, have higher retention rates and are more efficient. Your accountant can help by providing industry comparisons and evaluating budgets and projections.

Company culture is also affected by auxiliary compensation like incentive plans and benefit packages. Your accountant can share best practices and help you evaluate benefit package costs and value to your team. For example, while a tuition reimbursement benefit might be appreciated by a team of younger employees wanting to continue their education, it could be a wasted expense on a team of older employees who do not intend to further their education.

Outside Perspective

Take advantage of the objective, outside perspective your accounting firm has of your company. When he or she visits, ask about their observations.

  • Because they’re not working within your office on a daily basis, your accountant will observe team interactions, office space issues like filing organization and other cultural impacts that you and your team may miss.
  • Your accountant will have information on processes based on their meetings with your internal accounting team. For example, if particular procedures are not being followed, he or she may be able to discover why and recommend a change.
  • Understanding job duties and roles within an organization create a strong company culture. Your accountant can help evaluate whether or not your accounting staff have a good understanding of their roles and duties. He or she can also make recommendations for changes that could help improve company culture, like empowering a team member to make decisions.
  • For small business owners without an executive committee or board of directors, your accountant can provide much-needed objectivity. He or she has just the right balance of outside perspective and knowledge of the firm to help guide your culture-related decisions.

After her conversation with Gary, Linda decided to ask her accounting firm to weigh in on a few workplace culture issues. She was pleased to discover that, like Melville Manufacturing, Greenville Insurance benefited from the recommendations they had on their company culture. Specifically, soon after meeting with the internal accounting team, their accountant pointed out that their bookkeeper had considerable skill and could easily be relied upon to manage some control processes. Next time you meet with your accounting firm, be sure to consider how they can help you evaluate and improve your company culture.