Silos can occur in any organization—and CPA firms are no exception. At Tucson, Ariz., firm GMLCPA, however, employees are encouraged to share their knowledge with one another through cross-training.
CEO and founder Gabrielle Luoma, CPA, CGMA, cross-trains her staff so they understand both their own and their co-workers' roles.
At the 10-employee firm, each staff member is asked to choose an area of expertise ("Usually, the plan is for everyone to have their 'thing' that they love to do," Luoma said), so that any member of the firm has a specific co-worker to turn to when they "need to understand something like the law, the workflow, or even client knowledge," she said.
Luoma has hired for specific experience, such as accounts payable and receivable, and tax preparation, but also encourages employees to educate themselves in areas in which they're interested or in which more coverage is needed.
The majority of the firm's cross-training focuses on vital tasks, such as payroll, billing, and invoicing.
The concept has proved especially helpful when larger projects come up. For example, a new client will now meet with a team rather than an individual. The team splits up areas of expertise rather than one person taking on all responsibilities.
Cross-training also proves helpful during times of compressed workload. If a team member's workload is too heavy for him or her to help, say, onboard a new client, "one of us can fill in and take the lead until things loosen up," Luoma said.
Changing to this team-centered approach has led to each team member feeling empowered and having a sense of pride in their work and has created a ripple effect.
"The more they learn, they know they become more valuable, not just to the team but to our clients," Luoma said. "The more valuable we are, the more we can charge. They own that part of the value."
Meet six more employers that have radically rethought the ways they relate to their CPAs:
- A flat hierarchy with no job titles and no partners aids recruiting for an S.C. firm.
- Letting employees set their own hours pays dividends for a Honolulu firm’s retention.
- A $1,000 vacation stipend spurs an Arizona firm’s staff to unplug—and recharge.
- Training all managers in coaching creates a culture of listening at a California firm.
- Weekly reviews of firm financials at a Denver-area firm helps employees feel ownership.
- A team-oriented culture keeps morale high at SoulCycle.