Hiring, Managing, and Thriving with a Remote Staff

Gusto Editors

What is the most effective way for accounting firms to hire and manage remote staff

Using remote employees and freelancers is a critical part of maintaining a full staff at your firm. Currently, there are more knowledge economy jobs than there are qualified workers, and the unemployment rate for knowledge economy workers is low. This means that you can’t afford to exclusively hire people living in the same city as your firm — you need remote staff, and you need to know how to hire and manage that staff. 

Gusto, partnering with CPA Academy, presented an excellent webinar on December 21, 2020, about labor market trends and the best ways to hire and manage remote staff.

The webinar featured Jeff Phillips, the CEO of Padgett Business Services and the co-founder of Accountantfly. To learn about what the modern accounting firm looks like, you can check out Part One of the webinar here. 

In this article, Jeff Phillips will teach you all about how you can hire and manage remote workers, the importance of onboarding and investing in your remote employees, and many helpful tips for increasing your remote staff’s productivity. You’re going to learn all about getting the most out of your remote employees, so let’s dive in! 

How to hire remote workers 

Very few workers in the knowledge economy are unemployed. There are more knowledge economy jobs than there are available workers, which means that you need to convince qualified applicants to join your firm:

“For probably another decade, [we] are going to be in an employees’ market. It’s going to be a tough slog, and the firms … got to sell. And that means explaining why your firm is unique, why work in your size of firm, why your work is interesting, what your culture is like, [and] what you stand for.”

Jeff Phillips

Jeff advised that interviewers spend the first ten minutes of every interview pitching their company to pique the applicant’s interest.  

You can also hire a seasoned copywriter from a freelance site, such as Upwork.com, to interview you and your team about what makes your firm special and write an effective job listing that you can post on job board sites, such as Monster.com and Indeed.com. Jeff’s company, Padgett Business Services, is also a great way for your firm to find exceptional candidates. They hire seasonal and full-time remote employees for accounting firms. 

Another essential way that you can find great applicants is through your current employees. If you have a strong team that you trust, you can count on them to refer you to great candidates. Jeff also advised that you create a detailed database of potential candidates so that you can quickly fill an open position: 

“Accumulate all the candidates that you meet, your alumni, those who retire, the people that were good interviewees who maybe declined you, or they didn’t make the offer, but they were close. Get them in a database and on an email list so that you can begin to build your own talent cloud and reach out to them as you have jobs open up.”

Jeff Phillips

Your firm needs to have the ability to fill a position quickly so that you can continue growing and fulfill all of your client’s needs.

Man sitting outside on patio furniture with legs crossed with laptop on his lap

Another key part of hiring is evaluating candidates. Jeff relayed three essential questions that you need to answer about every candidate:

“Does the candidate get it? Does the candidate want it? And does the candidate have the capacity to do the job, do they have technical skill sets?”

Jeff Phillips

Jeff advised that you have candidates walk you through their technical skills via Zoom because applicants are often dishonest about their technical skills on their resumes. It’s also important to ask candidates what unique skills they can bring to the team. Jeff also stressed the importance of taking the time to check candidate references and order background checks.  

Finding the right candidate can be an incredibly challenging task because there are so few available applicants in the accounting field, but by implementing Jeff’s suggestions, you’ll find the right remote candidate to grow your firm and thrive. 

Onboarding and managing your remote staff

Once you’ve found the right employee or freelancer for your firm, you need to effectively onboard them. Jeff pointed out how firms often focus much more attention on onboarding clients than they do employees and freelancers. He observed that investing money and energy into your workers will create a greater return on investment:

“Let’s say the average client to a new accounting firm is worth $6,000 a year. … If you’re hiring somebody that’s full-time and remote, and they don’t live in the same state as you do. And let’s say they’re an accounting manager, you’re getting them for $75,000. That investment of expense … is like ten times or more what the value of a new client would be. So your point of view is [to] treat these new hires as an asset, as a plant, a seed that you are growing and that you’re going to nurture them and give them a great experience when they start with your company.”

Jeff Phillips

Properly onboarding your remote staff is important for their future with your firm. Onboarding and keeping up with your staff is also an essential part of employee retention: 

“The top three reasons why people leave jobs in the first six months … is they don’t have a clear path for success. Like they don’t know what they’re doing, so there’s no clarity. They weren’t trained. And the third reason is that there was no friendly face just being nice to them when they started the job. So, address these things by making them feel a part of your very special team.”

Jeff Phillips

Properly onboarding your new team members and making them feel like an essential part of your firm is crucial for retaining employees. This is especially important because there are so few unemployed attorneys and many available jobs for knowledge economy workers. 

After properly onboarding your employees and making them feel part of your team, it’s also important to give them the right amount of professional space when managing them remotely. 

“Staffing is not complete, and you cannot thrive with remote accountants [until] you have a system of managing your team. … Your management philosophy and thriving with this remote term … [should be] trust more, communicate that trust, address individual needs for work-life balance and flexibility. … Manage by results.”

Jeff Phillips

Rather than micromanaging your team, trust in their ability to accomplish your firm’s goals. Address individual needs and provide your employees with the necessary tools to increase their productivity.

Tips for remote employee productivity

There are so many potential distractions and technological limitations that can come with working remotely. So what can you do for your remote employees to maximize their productivity?

“They need to have a professional place where they can succeed for you and that you feel confident that they’re going to succeed. And so they need a dedicated office … where they can close the door. That is best. I highly encourage you as a remote employer to purchase some of these things for your team members. It’s a total perk. It’s fun to have new office furniture or equipment at home, and it’s a signal. .. It’s an onboarding investment. It’s a retention investment.”

Jeff Phillips

Investing in productivity tools for your remote employees is a great way to increase their productivity and increase the likelihood of them staying with your firm. Perhaps the most important part of increasing your remote employee’s workflow is investing in better wifi: 

Woman sitting in front of desktop computer writing notes on a note page to the side of her

“They need good internet. … I think part of the perks working at your firm could be upgrading your team who are working from home … to the highest bandwidth possible. It’s a minor investment. It’s probably going to cost you a hundred bucks a month, but I don’t want your team members on a call with your client or with you or the team, and they’re glitchy, and you can’t hear them.”

Jeff Phillips

Upgrading your employee’s bandwidth will increase their productivity and prevent internet-based technical issues when conferencing with clients and your team. 

Other essential ways to increase your team’s productivity are using cloud-based tools to collaborate, such as Google Docs and Microsoft Teams, and having project management software, such as Karbon. Jeff also stressed the importance of implementing automation into your workflow: 

“Remote work is only going to work if all of your software is accessible via the cloud and you’re automating your work with technology. … We’re not going to be doing data entry for very much longer. So always look for ways you can automate your work, and this is one reason we partner with companies like Gusto because they have done all of that work for you at a low affordable price.”

Jeff Phillips

Automating menial tasks is essential for not wasting time and money. Gusto offers tools for creating a seamless automated workflow for payroll, insurance, HR, time tracking, and so much more. 

Increasing your remote team’s productivity is a crucial step in growing your firm and serving your clients. Investing in your employees’ home office, automating menial tasks, and creating convenient workflows via cloud-based document sharing will give your firm the edge over the competition. 

Learn more about hiring and managing your remote staff

Advertising your firm to draw in qualified accountants and properly onboarding your new remote hires are crucial to success. There are far more knowledge economy jobs than qualified workers, so you need to do your due diligence in retaining your employees through onboarding and investing in their home office space. It’s also important for your firm and your employee’s well-being to create a system of trust based on results rather than micromanaging your staff. Utilizing cloud-based document sites, management softwares, and automating menial tasks will increase your firm’s productivity and ability to communicate effectively. 

Here at Gusto, we offer various helpful tools for small businesses and accountants to get ahead in their work. By covering services such as payroll, HR, insurance, hiring, onboarding, and time tracking, we remove logistical burdens from businesses so that they can focus on what they do best: serving their clients. If you’re ready for your firm to thrive in 2021 and beyond, check out our product page here

Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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