Practice Management Culture

Shifting to virtual: 3 tips to foster and promote team collaboration

With the rise in virtual teams comes the necessity to find innovative and effective ways to encourage collaboration, says Sofia Arisheh

Author: Sofia Arisheh

Editor’s Note: This post is the fifth article in a series, Shifting to virtual: Best practices for managing a virtual workforce, focusing on human resources strategies for accounting firms that are transitioning to virtual workplaces. Links to the other posts are provided at the end of this article. 

Sofia Arisheh
Human resources expert Sofia Arisheh has worked with six of the biggest accounting firms in B.C. She is principal of Upskill Consulting, located in Langley, British Columbia.

Langley – Strong collaboration takes work and effort … it doesn’t just happen. We have seen the quickly changing landscape of our businesses and teams in the past few months amidst COVID-19, and with this comes an entirely different way of communicating and engaging with one another. This transformation has shed light on the importance of collaboration. Now that we have transitioned into this space of virtual teams, the approach to good team collaboration will undoubtedly look different and pose its fair share of challenges. 

Accountants know that our industry is in a state of continual change; COVID-19 has accelerated change. In our traditional set-up of face-to-face interactions, accountants have had to learn how to build team trust, rapport and connectivity in-person. But when accounting and audit teams work virtually, we begin to feel isolated and disconnected. This is a common downfall I have heard from many, if not all, clients in the accounting industry in the past few months. 

Why is collaboration so important?

In the CPA profession and industry, collaboration is one of the seven core enabling competencies in the Chartered Professional Accounts (CPA) competency map

“CPAs are respected and trusted, enabling them to partner with individuals and teams throughout an organization. They draw on the strengths and skills of diverse perspectives and develop and maintain valuable networks with internal and external stakeholders. These competencies enable CPAs to participate in, build and lead goal- and value-oriented teams. They support a collaborative and creative teamwork environment and maintain a cross-functional and integrative outlook. CPAs use emotional intelligence to empathize with others and to effectively manage and build relationships.” 

With collaboration at the heart of high-performing teams and our industry and professional standards, these three tips will help to foster and promote collaboration within your firms and teams. 

Tip 1: Build team rapport and trust. 

Collaboration is not possible without establishing trust. If we want our team members to openly think, brainstorm and share ideas, with a strong sense of purpose to the team, we need to start with building trust.  

  • Establish and frequently articulate the team’s purpose and goals, ensuring clarity and transparency around roles and responsibilities
  • Set a virtual kick-off session where you:
    • Introduce team members, welcoming newest additions to the team
    • Define and review roles and responsibilities, outlining each person’s contributions to the team’s purpose, goals and value
    • Establish lines of communication, providing a virtual tour of various communication tools and features
    • Create virtual communication norms and rules of engagement
    • Set recurring, regular team meetings
  • Emphasize individual and team accountability
    • Solicit feedback from team members and get them involved in decision making to continually improve the firm
      • What should we continue doing?
      • What should we stop doing?
      • What should we start doing?
    • Ask each team member to report out on their projects and deliverables, stressing the importance of accountability at an individual and team level

Tip 2: Create personal connections.

Whether onboarding or to maintain personal connectivity within and between your team members, create opportunities for your team to get to know each other. 

  • Inspire dialogue amongst your team members
    • Send out a daily or weekly conversation starter to encourage dialogue amongst team members
  • Embed team building activities into meetings

Tip 3: Bring people together.

Building team connections, synergy and rapport where team members engage in a level and depth of dialogue conducive to collaboration, innovation and building strong employee relationships is important and requires effort. 

  • Encourage casual conversations by organizing informal events for your team
  • Set up virtual … hangouts, huddles, Q&As, coffee, lunch, water cooler get-togethers
  • Organize coffee and learns or lunch and learns to not only bring the team together, but also promote continual learning and growth opportunities
  • Meet regularly through video
    • Encourage team members to turn on their videos, allowing team members to connect with one another, mimicking real life face-to-face interactions

Collaboration has been transformed. With modern technologies and the uncertain times we’re facing with the pandemic, the way our teams collaborate has changed. Face-to-face interactions are now replaced with digital means such as video conferences and meetings. Adopting new strategies to build collaborative workplaces, increasing trust, engagement, productivity and performance is critical. After all, team collaboration is the cornerstone of good business practice and accounting firm success.

Sofia Arisheh is principal of Upskill Consulting, a boutique human resources firm located in Langley, British Columbia, specializing in professional services and providing HR consulting and training to small to mid-sized accounting firms. Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash.

Read all the articles in this series (to date): 

Shifting to virtual: Best practices for managing a virtual workforce

Part One: Shifting to virtual: 3 tips for providing feedback to virtual accounting teams
Part Two: Shifting to virtual: 3 tips for onboarding new hires virtually
Part Three: Shifting to virtual: 5 tips to conduct effective virtual meetings
Part Four: Shifting to virtual: 4 tips for transitioning in-person training to virtual learning
Part Five: Shifting to virtual: 3 tips to foster and promote team collaboration

Canadian Accountant logo

(0) Comments