Beginner's Guide

Keeping Staff Engaged During Tax Season

Chris O’Day,, ALL CPAs

Tax season for many accounting marketers is akin to winter for the squirrels. You gathered up ‘nuts’ you can work on: website updates, creating marketing collateral, redesigning newsletters, and other activities to keep you occupied while others at the firm are too busy and too stressed to give you much time.

This is great for productivity; the few distractions allow you to get important tasks done. However, once tax season is over and you have your marketing initiatives ready to roll, everyone jet sets off for vacation and you are left waiting to get their attention again.

But what if you never lose their attention? What if you play a small role in making their tax season a bit brighter and they stay engaged with the marketing department all throughout February, March, and half of April? You will not stop their post-tax season vacations, but you will have a more engaged firm, that’s ready to work with you when they return refreshed.

Below are some ideas on how you can keep your staff engaged during tax season, so you do not have to reintroduce yourself at the post-tax season party:

Friday Internal Newsletters with Staff Spotlights
During tax season accountants are extremely limited for time. Instead of trying to get in front of them, one option to stay top of mind is to send out a weekly internal staff newsletter on Fridays that can be consumed on their time.   

The newsletter should be something they look forward to opening. It can include staff news, upcoming staff events like bowling nights, happy hours, firm contests, marketing tips, and even fun accounting memes (think Baby Yoda). If your firm orders dinners for the staff, you can include a menu of the upcoming meals.

One aspect of the newsletter you may want to include is staff spotlights. These are brief profiles of people in the firm, where you get to learn more about their background and lives outside of the office. You can profile everyone from interns to partners and include it in the newsletter. Staff get a kick out of learning aspects of their coworkers’ life like, “Hey Paul I didn’t know you raised chickens! I grew up on a farm.” Also, they will remember that you took an interest in them and will be more willing to work with you on a tax blog come May.  

Tax Season Contests
Small contests can do wonders to lighten the mood at your firm during tax season. Simple things like having staff guess how many jelly beans are in a jar for the chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card can be what breaks up their day and adds levity. Other popular contest ideas include crazy sock day, guess your coworker’s pet (have staff bring in pictures of their pet and set it up on a bulletin board), college sweatshirt day, and March Madness brackets.

A few times during tax season, especially after important deadlines, you will want to turn the fun dial up and have more involved contests. Here you can have one-hour events and do things like Oreo stacking, Mario Kart Tournaments, and even Office Olympics with events like synchronized chair dancing, skittle auditing, and recycled paper basketball.

Staff look forward to these events and it gives them a chance to recharge and laugh. However, to keep partners happy, make sure to limit these events to one hour maximum, and space them out throughout the tax season.

In addition to keeping your staff engaged, these events will give you plenty of firm culture content for your social media and recruiting material (check out my firm’s Instagram highlights @allcpas for more examples).

Surprise Coffee Runs
The most popular thing to hit my firm, since doing away with the abacus, was when we introduced “surprise coffee” runs last tax season. About once a week, an email would go out to the entire staff that we would be doing a Starbucks run and they could order one beverage of their choice.

Staff were thrilled and asked again and again for us to repeat the process. When we tried to regulate the day & time of ordering, they came back and stated that they preferred the surprise announcement and it added more excitement.

Now depending on your firm size, this may be a logistical nightmare. You may want to limit it to certain teams/offices. When we started, I was ordering for 40+ people online and it was the first time I can remember being frustrated with fellow millennials (they would give extremely complicated orders or try to order off the secret menu that is not available online). I advise stressing to your staff to keep orders simple and also contact the store before ordering to make sure they can handle a large order. 

The coffee run planning process can be cumbersome, but you will never feel more appreciated then when you present your excel-spreadsheet-stressed-out coworkers with cold brew lattes with just a dash of almond milk mixed in (it’s the little things that keep people going). 

These are just a few ideas on how you can keep your staff engaged during tax season. Remember, the more you help to make their lives easier during tax season, the more they will be willing to work with you on marketing initiatives come spring. Try just a few of these ideas and I promise you will not have to wear a nametag at the after tax season party.