CPAs, small, mid-size and regional accounting and tax firms have been inclined towards hiring offshore staff. It’s primarily due to the advantages like 75% savings in employee cost, no compliance, flexible hiring options, etc. However, most of the time, after hiring offshore staff for accounting or tax (or for any other position), firms ride high on expectations. Often, they think offshore staffing is a magic wand which will make all the problems go away. It’s a solution which shows results quickly but is even more effective in the long-term. But, the critical aspect is to have realistic expectations.
Even the Big 4 and large firms have a huge offshore workforce. On top of it, they keep on adding more year on year. Their success can be attributed to the fact that hiring offshore staff has eliminated the challenge of staffing. But, if you ask how they made it work better, the answer lies in increasing efficiency and investing time in training. The key here is utilizing Standard Operating Procedures or SOPs to reduce ambiguity about how work should be done. Since the focus is on performing more and more routine tasks efficiently, instead of letting your employees keep guessing what they should do, the optimal path is to provide them with guidelines to follow. Moreover, these SOPs have been constant for local and offshore staff alike.
A standard operating procedure (SOP) is a set of step-by-step instructions to help workers understand and carry out routine operations. It aims to achieve efficiency, quality output and uniformity of performance, while reducing miscommunication and failure to comply with industry regulations.
Perception about SOPs
Sole practitioners and small accounting and tax firms often consider SOPs a luxury. Some have created them but are seldom using them. I have often heard people say, “I’ve told the staff what they should do,” or “aren’t they already trained?”. When you have to repeatedly remind people what they have to do, or you think your employees are trained, but they’re still not doing things correctly, there’s a problem. And the first step in resolving it is creating an SOP.
Here are some key benefits of having SOPs in place:
Quality & Consistency:
As a baseline SOPs improve quality of work and timeliness of delivery by defining a ‘way’ of doing things. It reduces ambiguity and gives every staff member the required clarity of how things need to be done. It’s the first milestone for a firm in becoming agile and process driven. It reduces errors and duplication of work.
Training & knowledge transfer:
The learning curve or training time of any new staff coming onboard is considerably reduced at firms that have a well-documented SOP. It often acts as a reference source that will get the new employees to pick up the work quicker, saving time in training and knowledge transfer.
For your goals that require expansion of services, your readymade SOPs just make your proven work processes portable. New offshore staff can uphold your reputation by using the SOPs to replicate the services that your firm provides.
Simplify Performance Management:
Employees who work in compliance with SOPs know exactly what is expected of them, and they plan their work schedules to meet their goals with efficiency.
Protection from Knowledge Loss:
Documentation of job processes survives employee attrition due to retirement and resignation, and allow your company to carry on as usual. It’s hard to replace experienced, skilled workers, but comprehensive well-written SOPs ensure that your valuable business processes stay with your business.
What should an SOP look like?
While the concept of creating SOPs may seem straight forward, many organizations face a lot of difficulty with it. Better practice SOPs should include work steps and narration for each step in the process. Importantly, SOPs must be clear and concise, so staff can complete the tasks efficiently, effectively and with minimal questions.
New hires make ideal testing grounds for the effectiveness of SOPs. If the documented steps enable the new employee to complete the task mostly on their own, the procedures are sound. SOPs should always be a living document, updated over time as a core part of an organization’s knowledge base. If any steps are unclear, confusing or no longer in use, the SOP should be updated.
Before delegating the work to your offshore staff (who may come from a provider like Entigrity), it is essential to discuss SOPs for the various operations, which includes sharing accounting documents, processing them, reporting, legal boundaries, confidentiality agreements, etc.
Well-structured SOPs become quite essential for accounting firms, especially those who are planning to hire offshore staff. That’s because standard operating procedures will define the minute details and responsibilities, helps everyone including the accounting firm, the offshore staff provider as well as the staff stay fully organized, operate in a well-defined manner and ensure that assigned tasks can be completed on time without much back and forth.
Entigrity™ is a trusted offshore staffing partner to over 500+ accountants, CPAs and tax firms across the US and Canada. Our flexible and transparent hiring model gives helps firms of all sizes to hire staff for accounting, bookkeeping, tax preparation or any other task for 75% less cost. As a firm ‘run by accountants, for the accountants’, Entigrity captures the hiring needs of accounting firms most precisely, providing staff that works directly under your control and management, still you are left with least to worry about compliance, payroll taxes, overheads or any other benefits.