Exploring the Best Strategies for Managing a Team During the Audit
As year-end is coming our way at lightning speed, the time to start planning for the audit is now. As we know, the audit is often the most stressful time of year for the accounting team and usually requires long hours and challenging work. While there is a long list of technical duties and processes that need to be completed, none of it is possible without people to perform the work.
With the goal in mind of helping you to have a low-stress audit this year, we have compiled several strategies for managing your team through the process.
Take the time to ensure your checklists and process documentation is up to date
Whether you have seasoned staff or new team members that will be going through this process for the first year, it is important everyone has the tools they need to be successful. Seasoned staff benefits because although they may have been through this before, many of the tasks and processes are only performed once a year. New team members need this documentation to improve the efficiency and accuracy of the work they are performing for the first time. Managers see a reduction in the number of questions from team members and spend less time reviewing work.
Close management software comes in big here by centralizing checklists and documentation so staff knows exactly what they need to do, consistently.
Hold an audit-planning meeting with the entire team
Encourage all members to provide ideas and feedback. Don’t shy away from feedback about activities or processes that are not working. Use the expertise of the group to find solutions.
Create a list of audit-related tasks and activities with assigned due dates. This planning tool will allow your team to easily see the interdependencies between team member tasks. The due dates assist with planning and add accountability.
Schedule regular status update meetings — but be smart about it
Companies using close management software often report that tools like FloQast limit the need to schedule regular status update meetings, but when it comes to year-end and audit prep, it’s “better safe than sorry.” While managers still have visibility of all outstanding items and roadblocks, regular meetings allow leaders time to check in on everyone’s progress.
The following are helpful strategies for making these meetings as effective and productive as possible:
- Encourage team members to be open about roadblocks or issues they see coming.
- Use this time to strategize on questions that come up. This technique can be much more efficient than 30 emails going back and forth.
- In order to make the meetings valuable and efficient, create an agenda with time allotments for each item.
- Consider appointing someone as the meeting facilitator whose main duty is to keep the agenda moving and on schedule. (This is a good idea for ALL meetings.)
- Take the time to check in with your team members individually to see how they are doing and if there is anything they need from you. This is a good practice to get into the habit of, even outside of the audit.
- Buy them dinner! Seriously, scrounging around in your desk drawer for a two-year-old granola bar when you have to unexpectedly stay late at work does nothing for morale. Loosen the purse strings a bit and show your appreciation by ordering in dinner on the nights the team works late. A good meal gives everyone a second wind.
- Finally, hold an after-action meeting within a couple of weeks post-audit. A helpful tool to facilitate this meeting is called the “Four Helpful Lists”. Start with four columns on the whiteboard labeled: Working, Not Working, Missing, and Confusing. Starting with the “working” column, ask team members to list things they felt went well with the audit process. Repeat this process for each heading. This info should be used to create a plan for future improvements. You may be surprised at how enlightening this process is.
With a little early planning, lots of input from your team, and use of our strategies, you can make the upcoming audit the smoothest one yet. Make sure you know how close management software can directly impact the audit by performing a hard close each month, closing the books faster and more accurately.