4 strategies to foster innovation

4 strategies to foster innovation

Being a part of an innovative workplace is a massive deal for millennials. In fact, according to one survey, it’s the single most important factor driving their employment decisions. 

If you want your accounting firm to be an attractive place to work at and also have long-term success, you must be bold and willing to evolve. Young accountants don’t consider innovation in their workplace as something that is “nice-to-have”—it's a must-have. If your firm hasn't changed the way it's done things in a decade, the best of these accountants—those you should be demanding—won’t be interested.

Why wouldn’t a millennial expect a culture of innovation pulsing throughout their organization? It keeps us motivated, positive, and confident we’re in the right place.

Chris Galt, BlueRock

Becoming an innovative accounting firm is not something that happens naturally, but it doesn't have to be hard. Here are four ways your accounting firm can foster innovation, one for each of the workplace characteristics outlined in Accounting for the generational shift: self-development, flexibility, technology and impact.

Switch up their roles

Considering the rising trend of the full-stack employees, it is safe to assume your staff (or at least those you want to keep) are eager to increase their knowledge and develop within your firm beyond crunching numbers. Think outside the square in how you are helping them to learn and grow. Education is key, but it needn't always be in a formal context.

Encourage your staff to dabble in tasks that may not be part of their job descriptions. If you have a tax accountant who is interested in social media—let them run the practice twitter account. Or perhaps you have an intern who is a bit of a people person—bring them along to a client meeting. 

This tactic can also be used to strengthen weaknesses. If a quieter staff member isn't comfortable chatting to clients, you could encourage them to work the phones in reception occasionally to help build their confidence.

As long as their regular work doesn't suffer, this strategy keeps staff interested and widens their skill set. It also has the added benefit of opening your firm up to new possibilities. Fresh eyes may see new ways of doing something, rather than "the way it's always been done." 

Give the power to choose

The digital world has changed the relationship between work and personal life. Increasingly, they bleed into one another, and it is no longer your job to try and set these boundaries for your staff. Make it clear to them that they have a say in when, where, and how they work. Your focus should be on the quality of outcomes delivered, not their number of hours or where they work.

Any flexibility offerings your firm can provide (in consultation with your staff) should be viewed by all as mutually beneficial strategies, rather than perks or staff benefits. While staff may enjoy a better work-life balance or no wasted time spent commuting, the firm will notice lower staff turnover and an increased ability to scale. Make a habit to consider any proposed arrangement as a genuine possibility. None of your staff should ever be afraid that you will dismiss an idea or request without considering it first.

Get your staff to research what they want to use

Task your staff with identifying, researching, and selecting the apps and systems they want to use to better perform their role. Each month you could try asking a staff member or a department to "pitch" an app they think you should all be using. As manager, you still have the final say, but by empowering your staff in this way you are encouraging them to always be on the lookout for new ways technology can increase their efficiency and quality of work. 

This strategy is only effective if you keep your end of the bargain and are prepared to invest in those identified solutions that will add value to your firm. 

Reward the most innovative

Innovation is about trying new things; and nothing encourages innovation more than rewarding the initiative and creativity shown by your staff. This can be as simple as acknowledging someone at your next staff meeting, giving an afternoon off when things quieten down or taking them out for lunch.

The goal here is to really let your staff know that their efforts are appreciated. The more comfortable they feel the more brazen they will become with their attempts and the sooner you will find your firm at the forefront of change.

There is no quick way to foster innovation, but implementing these strategies will sow the seeds. In time, you will develop into a firm where staff instinctively think outside the box and be leaders of change, rather than waiting for it to come from management alone.

The benefits of becoming focused on fostering change and innovation cannot be overstated. Your practice will see gains in every area as staff push the limits of what is possible. And as millennials become the dominant generation in the workforce, it will only become more imperative that your firm oozes innovation in everything it does.


If you’d like to learn how millennials are changing the face of the accounting industry, what this means for your firm, and how you can capitalize on it, download Accounting for the generational shift for free.