Reducing the Cost of Compliance: Up-Skilling Staff for Better Processing
This is one of a series of articles published by Business Fitness on the steps to reducing the cost of a compliance job. For more articles on this topic, head to the compliance category.
Although compliance work has traditionally been seen as an area for ‘accountants only’, this perception is beginning to be replaced with the view that all team members are able to learn, participate in and produce accurate reconciliations and file reviews, regardless of their traditional role within the accounting practice.
Forward-thinking firms are employing bookkeepers to conduct pre-commencement reviews on compliance jobs, carry out reconciliations and perform the bulk of the data processing involved in compliance jobs. Similarly, they’re considering how to train their administrative staff members on processing and reconciling compliance jobs.
The major benefit of employing bookkeepers and up-skilling administrative staff in this way is that it frees up trained accountants (with higher charge out rates) to focus on doing the actual accounting work for the client, such as ensuring that all tax treatments are correct and looking for any areas in which the client may benefit (that is, working more in the style of a CFO).
Up-skilling bookkeeping and administrative team members to participate in compliance work should involve training on how to communicate directly and effectively with the practice’s clients to follow up on outstanding information or unresolved queries. This may involve training on best practice correspondence and the right way to handle phone calls.
Accounting practices should have in place standard procedures and templates that support the kinds of activities that team members are being trained in. Not only will having standard procedures and templates ensure work is executed consistently across the practice, it will also save time (as nobody is in any doubt as to what the correct course of action or next step is) and, depending on the quality of the templates, reduce the risk of non-compliance.
Finally, an important part of the up-skilling process is strong communication. There should be a ‘handover’ meeting at the beginning of each job, during which time the more senior accounting team members who have met with or taken instructions from the client share with the junior team members any specific instructions or details relevant to the job. Such meetings facilitate strong communication, allowing team members to raise issues, ask questions and clarify any areas of uncertainty.
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