Remember when our idea of a “mobile phone” meant attaching a 12-foot coiled cord to a landline?
Internal office communications have evolved from memos and meetings, to phone calls and email, to instant messaging and video chat.
Depending on when you entered the firm you probably have a preferred prioritization of how you individually communicate best. But in many cases, a firm’s communication prioritization is built around the “cultural norm” promoted by its leaders.
COVID-19 upset the communication “apple cart.”
When COVID-19 forced firm members to work remotely it upset the communication “apple cart.”
Normal lunchroom chats and spontaneous office conversations simply disappeared. The visual cues many of us picked up while walking down the hallway went with them, too.
Observing an “eye roll” during a meeting in the conference room, or lunching with a client, were suddenly lost and replaced with two-dimensional conversations…leaving some firm personnel feeling disoriented and isolated.
With remote work projected to continue to be the “new normal” for both firms and their clients (at least part-time) for the foreseeable future, it’s a good time to address any communications gaps head-on.
Whichever collaboration method your firm chooses—make sure personnel know how to use it.
Prioritize virtual solutions that work optimally in this new reality by offering collaboration solution training for both firm personnel and clients.
A collaboration training curriculum may include:
- Video and/or audio calling
- File sharing
- Integrating existing contact lists
- Email and calendaring
- Scheduling interactions
Collaboration solutions that incorporate most (if not all) of these capabilities include applications such as:
- Google Meet/Chat
- Microsoft Teams
While Slack was strong in corporate America prior to the pandemic, and Zoom jumped to the forefront afterward, we believe firms will settle on Microsoft Teams due to its integration with Microsoft 365 (Office), which the majority of accounting firms have already transitioned to.
Firms will benefit greatly by taking the time to mandate training to optimize communication tools along with the digital data/infrastructure and workflow tool training efforts.
What can firms do to ensure communication and collaboration continue to be optimized?
We recommend firms take action by first designating a communication and/or collaboration champion who’s responsible for optimizing the use of their firm’s selected communication tools.
Instruct your firm’s champion to query firm personnel, attend training to develop their own expertise, and continually provide best practices and learning opportunities firmwide.
Because in this new environment, updating your firm’s communication skills is just as important as updating technology and applications.
The reality is: Remote work will be a significant part of your accounting firm’s future.
We don’t see face-to-face, telephone or email communications disappearing, but we do see firms increasingly utilizing collaborative tools as the most comprehensive and efficient solution.
The sooner that the firm promulgates “firmwide” communication standard—the more effective they will be.
Get more remote work tips for your firm.
Roman H. Kepczyk, CPA.CITP is Right Networks Director of Firm Technology Strategy and has been a remote worker for more than two decades.
In this Remote Work series, he will share his findings and best practices to help your firm optimize and take advantage of the remote benefits that are part of your new normal.