Brenda Wedge, Principal & Senior Consultant on why a professionally diverse team can work wonders
When you are building a team, whether for a one-time volunteer project or for your newly founded company, one of the first questions to ask is, “Do I want a homogeneous team or a heterogeneous team?” There are plenty of examples of both out there and both can work. Homogeneous teams have the benefit of having similar experiences and thought processes, so when tasks demand a high level of expertise in one area the group can hunker down and, in a sense, speak a unified language. Heterogeneous teams boast diversity and a greater ability to take on multiple roles, which works especially well when the tasks at hand are varied.
At MRSB Consulting Services we made the decision years ago to build a heterogeneous professional team, with a diversity of skills and backgrounds. Our consultants have varied qualifications (MBA, CPA, PMP, BEng, Program Evaluation and Social Sciences) and backgrounds, such as experience working in the private sector, with provincial and federal governments and with educational institutions.
We’re quite happy with our arrangement and very rarely feel ill equipped to handle a client’s request. So today I’m sharing a few good reasons to consider making your professional team a diverse one, especially if your client base isn’t ‘one size fits all’:
1. It diversifies your service offerings
A key factor in deciding to build a professionally diverse team was an examination of our clients’ needs and the skills needed to provide them with solutions in a variety of areas. A diverse team gives you the ability to perform a range of services and to provide those services to a more diverse customer base. We’ve worked with entrepreneurs, fishermen, farmers, retail store owners, immigrants and government branches – obviously a team with one type of expertise would have difficulty addressing the wide array of questions and needs posed by our clientele.
2. It promotes better problem solving and creativity
Diverse teams can also broaden your perspective when looking for solutions to problems. When a client has a unique request or we just need to find a better way of organizing our online filing system, two mindsets or approaches are often better than one.
Our array of backgrounds and skills promotes creativity and enables our team to generate new ideas. In the same vein, the diversity within our office promotes an internal learning network where team members can learn from each other’s experiences and backgrounds.
3. It boosts productivity
Having a professionally diverse team can increase productivity by allowing team members to focus on their personal strengths and approach other team members to perform tasks they don’t enjoy or where they perceive their weakness to be. Not everyone likes heavy research, just as not everyone will enjoy graphic design or planning after-work events. I sometimes think, ‘How different would our weekly meetings and brainstorming sessions be if all of us were educated in exactly the same way?’ In this sense, diversification creates a win-win situation because the client gets a better product and the employee is happier doing what they enjoy.
If you are looking for a dynamic, effective team that fosters creativity and innovative thinking, consider expanding it to include individuals with diverse skill sets and backgrounds. We are never sorry we did!
Reflections on the 2015 tax season from Administrative Assistant Shannon Milligan and HR Manager Kathryn Mills
Working extra hours on numerous projects, other work piling up around you, taking work home - all of these tax season symptoms can cause stress. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as the overload is of a temporary nature. The challenge for accountants and tax advisors in particular, is knowing that this overload will last until the filing deadline!
But there are two motivating factors that keep people pushing and doing their best during the tax season, and any any busy time for that matter. One is the external realm of our clients, their needs and our desire to do what it takes, within our capabilities, to meet their expectations and provide an excellent level of service. In this sense, we stay engaged because it is a committment each of us has made with valued clientele.
The second motivator is our internal world of the office, where our sense of team spirit keeps us having fun together, communicating in an open way and treating every person in the office with appreciation and respect.
All this being said, there are definitely some extra perks that make tax time bearable for everyone and, dare we say it, even make parts of it enjoyable.
1. Management of workload: The partners and managers at MRSB try to reasonably balance individual workloads, so that no one person feels overwhelmed. Everyone works by the same clock and with similar end goals in mind.
2. Health eating: Through the busy season healthy snacks are provided daily for the entire team. Lunch is also provided on many Saturdays through the month of April. A team fuelled on fruit and veggies will arguably perform better throughout the long day than one forced to eat a take-out lunch because they're too busy. (Admittedly, we do indulge in some chips and unhealthy fare on Fridays!).
3. Stress busting activities: The administrative team manages a few fun events, like staff BINGO, in April to provide stress release. We also host 'Shani's Pub' each Friday after hours, when we can sip a beverage and have a wind-down laugh with colleagues.
4. Good communication: Updates between individuals, divisions or the entire group is a constant, either via group emails or one-on-one check-ins. No manager is ever too busy to pay a visit, and partners operate on an open door policy at all times.
5. Flexible hours: Even though staff are expected to work a scheduled book of extra hours during tax season, flexible work arrangements are available in the event of storm or sickness.
6. Thanks and celebration: Most importantly, sincere appreciation is extended on a regular basis. The partners show their thanks of a job well done in subtle, yet effective ways. A free coffee here and there, or just a pat on the back are common occurences. The whole team also celebrates our big milestones, either at the office with cake or offsite with drinks and music. The end-of-season tax party is something the team looks forward to, and reminisces about, each year.
So there you have it - a few ways your team can keep their collective chin up, even in the busiest of times!
MRSB Group is proud to have been ranked the #1 Best Place to Work in Atlantic Canada in 2014 by Progress Media.