In recent coaching calls with some of my clients who are pioneering optional Saturdays this busy season, we’ve bumped up against many reasons firm leaders are struggling.  In our conversations, firm leaders remain steadfast to make the changes to shift their firm from “old-school” to “cool” – and non-mandatory Saturdays is one of these shifts – as my partner Jennifer Wilson identified in her blog “Are Mandatory Saturdays A Thing Of The Past?”.    What firm leaders are discovering as they make this change is that moving to optional Saturdays requires new habits, actions, and communications.  Success in this endeavor also requires strong commitment not to quit with the first hiccup – or a heavy dose of persistence.

 “Success is almost totally dependent upon drive and persistence. The extra energy required to make another effort or try another approach is the secret of winning.”  ~Denis Waitley

Success in implementing non-mandatory Saturdays requires the consistent application of best practices to engage your people and have them win – and ultimately you and your firm win.  These “people engagement” practices will help you have a successful busy season that is not predicated on “face time,” and will allow you to create a culture where your team members have the flexibility to balance their schedule and personal commitments while achieving the results expected of them at work and in serving their clients. 

I thought it would be a good reminder as we enter the second half of February when workload, deadlines and client demands are heating up to review these best practices so you can identify which one (or more) you may have stopped doing (or not consistently be doing).  Then, you can put that practice back in place so at the end of April you can say that you were successful in implementing non-mandatory Saturdays.  Then, you will be poised to tackle the next change you’re committed to make to drive your firm forward!

Consider these following employee engagement best practices and identify which to focus on first:

  • Communicate– a key change management strategy is to share with your team:
    • What your commitment is (i.e. non-mandatory Saturdays)
    • What you see will be different because of this change (i.e. flexibility and ability to manage personal work preferences)
    • What will remain the same (i.e. revenue and charge hour goals, commitment to excellent client service, and meeting or exceeding timelines and budgets)
    • What it will take to get there (i.e. clearly identifying and communicating expectations – see below).
    • You’ll need to communicate these points often because people forget – as did some of the firm leaders I’m working with.
  • Set and manage expectations – and do so at least weekly!  It is imperative when you are shifting from a culture that values face-time to a results-based culture that you identify and communicate the results that you expect and report the status weekly. For example, consider setting expectations for number of returns expected e-filed daily (even compared to the prior year), revenue generated per person, charge hours, and other metrics important to your firm.  This is the only way for people to know how they are doing – and to know that the expectations that you have set are important and have implications when they are not met.  It is also important to ensure you have a process for resetting expectations when conflicting priorities arise or circumstances occur that will not allow for the original commitment to be met.  This is especially critical given the interdependencies between your team members and the work that they are doing.  Don’t forget to manage expectations and reset them with your clients when appropriate, too!
  • Keep your commitments – employ a “Do as I do” approach and ensure that all team members – especially your leadership team – are meeting commitments related to turnaround times, by-when dates, resetting expectations, firm processes, and client communications.  Your people want to be part of a winning team and one of the fastest demotivators is allowing non-compliance with firm expectations by your leadership team.
  • Acknowledge and reward results – take the time to celebrate successes, even small ones at the very beginning of any change that you’re implementing.  It could be as simple as acknowledging everyone for having their time in weekly or for keeping commitments in agreed upon timelines.  You might acknowledge individuals for their unique accomplishments or new habits that they undertake, too.
  • Collaborate – seek input from your team about how it is going from their perspective and what ideas they have to make improvements or address challenges that are sure to arise.  Include team members in your client scheduling and be upfront about those client engagements that may require Saturday time so team members can plan accordingly. This also allows the leadership team to ensure that engagements that will require Saturday time are spread across team members where possible. This kind of collaboration will promote creativity in generating solutions and greater ownership in taking the agreed upon actions.

Those firms who have consistently implemented these “people engagement” ideas are reporting early success and are ahead of deadlines, hitting target charge hours and total hours, and meeting (or exceeding) client expectations so far this busy season. Communication is improved, too, with clearer expectations for all team members, proactive status updates and balanced workload and schedules.

If your firm is currently embracing a Saturday-optional busy season this year, share your successes with us or the challenges you’ve encountered and what actions you’ve taken to overcome them so others can benefit!