New technologies are disproportionately adopted by junior staff compared to their senior colleagues. This trend is evident in the adoption of online accounting, where energetic thirty-something accountants have become the face of changing accounting industry.
Single ledger accounting with its potential to provide real-time advice suits these individuals, and their personality and skills are tailored to developing and fostering client relationships.
This client-focused model, with constant, positive interactions, is likely to be perceived as higher value by clients compared to a compliance-focused model that includes a few meetings each year. The additional positive client interactions can be delivered by junior staff while allowing employees to develop professionally and benefiting your practice.
Reduce Risk by Sticking to the Right Topics
As with any professional services industry, consulting entails certain risks. These risks increase with a lack of experience, but it doesn’t mean junior staff should be sheltered from clients until they have worked for a minimum number of years.
Creating controlled environments where junior staff can gain client facing time will allow a practice to develop well rounded employees who can manage teams and improve the quality of customer service.
Unfortunately there aren’t many areas in compliance focused accounting that can be trusted to a graduate without supervision. However, there a few areas in online accounting where the technological aptitude of junior staff plays to their advantage and where risks of damaging a client relationship or misadvising clients are lower.
Support. Since online accounting is relatively novel, many clients who switch their accounting programs need a certain level of support. Diverting all software related questions that come to your practice to a software developer’s support staff may seem like a financially sound decision, but it robs your junior staff of the opportunity to develop and robs your practice of a chance to have a positive client interaction.
Apart from a few rare occasions, a certified advisor should be capable of answering most day-to-day questions. Certification courses are often free, easily accessible online and require a graduate level of accounting. Letting your clients know that your practice has a centralised support service for general software and accounting questions can be an excellent investment in developing your staff.
Selecting apps. A few “add-on” applications that connect to your online accounting software are also easy to learn and implement while providing great value to your clients. Examples include Receipt Bank, Satago and Quote Roller. The key is selecting the apps that focus on a single straightforward process. Complex implementations that take hours to complete are probably too risky for a graduate to advise on without supervised training and internal procedures.
It is important to draw lines on what advice your junior staff can give. Every so often a complex tax question will come through your support system, or a client will ask about the implications of fringe benefits tax during accounting system training. It is also a positive learning experience for a junior accountant to recognise that a particular topic is beyond their level experience, and that they need to work with a senior accountant to address it.
The core skill that should be taught to junior staff is the ability to understand that it is ok to say that they do not know the answer and that they need to refer to a specialist.