The Great Rejuvenation Part 3 - How to combat 'Busy'

At Everperform we see firms who are managing their people, time and resources well, and others who are falling behind. Here are 5 things that we have learnt that best firms navigate well which can help you combat ‘Busy’ now, and in the months to come.

Tom Boyd
Wellbeing & Growth Leader

When we ask an advisor how they are, we typically hear one of these responses. The first is ‘Good’. The second is ‘Busy’. But what are they busy doing, why is the industry so time-poor and what can be done to remedy it? For many firms, the perspective is that they are too busy for change, the problem is, they are only getting busier and with the risk of major labor shifts on the horizon, is delaying the change going to result in it being any easier? 

At Everperform we measure people, how they think and feel, but also where they spend their time, how they are performing, whether they are growing and are they improving. This can then be benchmarked across their team or firm, and across our index which is an aggregate of all our clients. We see firms who are managing their people, time and resources well, and others who are falling behind. Here are 5 things that we have learnt that best firms navigate well which can help you combat ‘Busy’ now, and in the months to come. 

1. Stop. Determine where you are actually spending your time. 

Data analytics is not an exciting topic (well, it is to us), but it is integral to know where your people are spending their time, how productive they are, and whether they are growing their time in the areas that you would like them to, like advisory services. Additionally, are they improving the quality and efficiency of their work? Answering all these questions can help understand all the areas in your business accurately and be able to plan to improve. 

When it comes to answering these questions, the discrepancy across firms that Everperform works with is significant. 

In a recent analysis of over 15 million data points across 5 firms and 5 years of historical data, we found the differences as to where firm leaders spend their time is massive. Across the 5 firms, the discrepancy of Leader’s Productivity ranged from 28% all the way up to 58%. Those two firms when compared for Non-Billable Time also had huge differences, one firm had a Non-Billable of 59%, compared to another who only had 23%.

The pandemic has meant (some) people are working more, yet it doesn’t mean that they have been more productive. There is a difference between being ‘Busy’ and accomplishing things, and a lingering challenge from the pandemic is reinvigorating the workforce to accomplish things more efficiently, and motivating your people to perform better starts with having a clear view of where they are at now, so you can focus your effort on improving in the right areas (and prevent you from wasting even more time on the wrong areas). 

2. Enable people to work at their best, wherever they are. Don’t dictate the how. 

Zoom calls have been the bane of the last two years, they are inefficient, tiresome and extremely disruptive to achieving a state of flow and being able to accomplish deep work. With that in mind, many employers are eager to get people back to the office, things are smoother, more manageable and oversight as to the status of your team is far easier to achieve. But there are many employees who are reluctant to return. Childcare and health risks are amongst the most common concerns, and it begs the question. ‘What is the best working model?’

What we see from the Everperform Performance Hub is that Flow, one of our subjective Productivity categories has been on the decline since April dropping 3.23% which is the difference between the highest the score has ever rated on April 14 2021, and the lowest it has ever been on September 15 2021.

Flow is the sense that you are being efficient and effective, that you have your balance of work right, as to be conducive to being productive. A good example of a question we may ask would be ‘I have a good balance between meetings, client, team and solo work this week. Intuitively, you may think that it would improve with offices reopening, however the index says otherwise, after the September low point we saw a brief recovery until October, but once again it has begun to slide towards an all time low. 

So what does this mean?

Well, it indicates that the work environment that our clients are in is not enabling sustained peak performance. And with all of the discussion around hybrid work environments, one option to consider is allocating office time by the type of work, as opposed to the rigidity of simply allocating days. For instance, some work is best done in person, team meetings, strategic planning, management meetings may be best accomplished in person, circumnavigating the communication issues that the virtual office presents. Yet, task oriented work, things that require less distraction, little interaction with teammates and needs a high level of concentration may be best done at home for some employees, or work for others who have distractions at home.

Remember, the goal is not to get back into the office. The goal is to make the business run the best it can, and give your people the best opportunity to do that by being open minded and having open discussions and ongoing feedback. 

3. Manage client demands with boundaries.

The biggest challenge for many of our clients is managing their client expectations, relationships and demands. Time and time again we hear the story of clients wanting work done yesterday, having little regard for their advisor as a person and often the smallest clients being the most painful to deal with. One Everperform client consistently said how busy they had been, how late they had been working and in the same breath mentioned that he often spoke to one client in particular for hours every week, not only talking professionally but counselling them through personal challenges. 

‘Look I just love helping people, it's in my nature’. 

It’s a common sentiment, Advisors generally do love helping people.

But at what cost?

An Advisor is rarely trained to be a counsellor, and the consistent interactions like this can be extraordinarily draining, time consuming and detrimental to the business. Unsurprisingly, Capacity hit an all-time low on September 6 2021, and has barely edged up since. 

So what can be done?

The fact of the matter is, you don't need every client you have. Setting clear expectations with regards to the type of client you want most is incredibly important, and it's not only the commercial opportunity, but the type of person you're dealing with. Power Tynan, a firm out of Toowoomba assessed their clients, and made a distinct point to focus on improving the product offering to their best clients and in doing so increased their job value by 12%. 

Not all clients are made equal, and so they shouldn’t be given the same value. Charge for the work you do, do your best work for your best clients, and let the bad clients go. And if you do have clients that need professional support, don’t take that burden upon yourself, point them in the right direction to get the support they need. 

4. Measure the quality of your time, not just the quantity.

Every individual is uniquely different, and it's important to ongoingly measure your people to assess where each person is at. Even moreso, different roles have different challenges and opportunities. When we analyzed the Everperform Performance Hub role-by-role, we found some incredible insights. 

When you compare an average Bookkeeper's Wellbeing (65.02%) or a Manager (65.11) to a Partner (73.06%) you see a distinct difference. 

When it comes to Productivity, Directors (72.08%) perform vastly better than most, for instance a Senior Manager sits at (64.27%). 

A specific real life example was from a recent Wellbeing session we ran with an Everperform client, they had been improving their Wellbeing and Energy scores consistently over a 90 day period by focusing on taking care of it. Yet, they were constantly ‘Busy’ and were rating a Capacity score of a lowly 57.14% at the Director level, which is 13% lower than the Index has ever had Capacity score. So we dug a little deeper into the data, and we found that there was more than a 12% discrepancy between the Directors and their Managers who sat around the index average at 69.23%. A common insight that we hear from many of our clients is that they feel the need to shelter their people, take the burden at the executive level on their own and work themselves into the ground. Yet, in doing so, they fail to shelter their team at all and often become more irritable, more insular and do less leadership and more work. 

Another consideration is that the constant theme of ‘Busy’ is leading to a sense of urgency in completing work. Though that may sound like a good thing, Jason Robinson from Future Advisory said that instead of speeding up the process it is causing work to be rushed, leading to more errors, more checks required and more time spent. So whilst the speed of the initial task is quicker, the actual job time has increased as well, with more eyes being run over work to ensure its integrity. To combat that, he changed his entire language towards staff.

‘We want smooth and sustainable work, not rushing all the time.’ 

5. Realising that inefficient and outdated processes are driving people away.

Performance Review time can be a particularly painful process for many of our clients, but it's also one of the most important conversations Advisors have with their firm every year. So when it comes to the time of year of aggregating performance data from an array of different spreadsheets, or a number of different programs and platforms we often hear that it takes upwards of 2 hours of work per employee. In essence, more time is spent collating the data, than is spent talking to the actual person, which is a simple way to drive the leader’s workload up and potentially pushing them away from the firm.

With the Everperform platform, everything is right in front of you, at your disposal, as soon as you need it. You can track how someone has thought and felt, how they have performed with regards to targets vs actuals, their strengths and weaknesses and how they have been tracking with regards to their growth. Simultaneously, you can give and receive feedback, have team rating vs individual rating and customise everything to fit your existing framework. 

If you take it a step further, you can manage your people’s performance ongoingly, shrinking the management time down even further. Instead of the review being a session of discovery, you already have a set agenda, and can focus on what the employee needs to know as opposed to spending the session trying to find out exactly what that is.

‘Busy’, used simply as a word or an emotion, is too difficult to solve, and it doesn’t serve to analyse this shared industry problem that is on everyone’s mind as the year comes to a close. But there are things that can be done to remedy it, and avoiding the opportunity to improve because you are too ‘Busy’ for change, comes at a cost to your people and your business as well. 

The Great Rejuvenation Webinar: Join Everperform CEO Daniel Spitty, Wellbeing Growth Leader Tom Boyd and special guest Jason Robinson (Director, Future Advisory) to discuss the most important parts of ‘The Great Resignation’. What is it? What are firms doing to avoid it? How do we turn the challenge into an opportunity?

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Everperform Series : The Great Rejuvenation

At the crux of one of the great challenges being presented to the accounting and advisory industry is all surrounding one thing. Time. Where to spend it, and how to improve what we accomplish with it. Are people busy doing the most important things?