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A crash course on people experience for accounting firms

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Not sure what people experience is or what it’s all about? Not to worry – we give you the scoop in this article.

At the heart of every accounting firm or accounting department, are people. People are an organization’s greatest asset, able to make or break its success.

And the backbone of that success is an effective people experience (PX).

Developing and maintaining a great people experience can be challenging. We all know no two people are the same, and that certainly applies in the workplace. Employees have different work styles, motivations, and personalities. That’s why we’ve written this article: to help you better understand PX and help you start building a great people experience at your firm and hit your business goals as a result.

What is people experience?

Isn’t people experience (or PX) just a fancier name for “human resources?” It’s not. Richard Smallcombe, Chief People Officer at TOA Global, explains why.

“TOA’s PX function is accountable for all the traditional HR activities that you’d expect in a fast-moving, big organization – recruitment, talent, workforce planning, compensation, learning and development, etc.,” he says. “But that’s where the comparisons to HR end – the key difference for TOA’s PX is how we approach our people and culture.”

And that’s something any accounting firm can take into considering when it comes to their people experience. TOA Global, for example, does it “by flipping our organization upside down – we put our people and clients at the top and then design our business around them,” Richard says.

“Next, our values set the foundation for everything we do: Be Awesome, Keep it Real. Dream Big, Do More, Bring the Wow. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that, right?” Richard advises thinking of PX this way: “We’ve all experienced customer service that left us feeling amazed, impressed, and wanting to tell a friend. That’s the work of the PX function – to create that ‘Wow!’ factor at every stage of the people experience, from the moment someone applies to work with you, to their onboarding, to creating a career, and bringing their whole self to work.”

“I have always believed that the way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers, and that people flourish when they are praised,” said Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group.

Why is people experience important?

A good people experience is important because it translates into happy, motivated and engaged employees. And when employees feel valued and supported, that translates into happy clients.

“Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, summed it up perfectly: ‘Happy employees equal happy customers,’” says Richard.

“It’s why we are so passionate about our people, values and culture,” he adds. “One of TOA’s values is to Be Awesome – our people make awesome things happen for our clients and their customers every day.” When it comes to your own firm, you might want to think about what it is that keeps your employees on board and your clients coming back, and foster that.

What are essential people experience skills?

Good leaders have several skills and traits in common, including empathy, communication, and problem solving. The ability to put yourself in another person’s position so you can understand their motivation, concerns and where they’re coming from can go a long way to getting to the root of an issue and coming up with the right solution.

After all, when you understand people, you can manage them.

Richard has a few more people experience skills to add to the list.

“The most impressive leaders and PX team members I’ve worked with have some things in common:

  • Unrelenting people and customer mindset – looking at the world through the eyes of both team members and clients
  • Grit – it’s more than just being resilient. It’s being willing to do what others won’t do, to take things on because they are hard and staying the course when things aren’t going as planned.
  • Constantly curious – asking why, challenging the status quo and always being in a state of discovery
  • Saying ‘no’ – having the courage to say ‘no’ when your (or the company’s) values or integrity are at stake.”
When your staff is happy, there’s a greater likelihood your clients will be happy, too.


People experience encompasses traditional human resources functions such as talent, recruitment, workforce planning, salary and benefits, and professional development. What makes a great PX is a “Wow” factor that surrounds those functions, and that are often based on an organization’s values.

A great PX can help attract and retain both staff and clients, so it’s important to get it right. If you’re the owner of an accounting firm, you can start implementing a great people experience by adopting a team member and client mindset. Add in some grit, curiosity and the courage to say ‘no,’ and you’ll be well on your way to building a solid people experience at your firm.

Like Richard mentioned, TOA Global puts its people and clients at the top, meaning team members are set up and supported in the best possible environment to ensure clients’ success.

One way team members help clients succeed is by completing their day-to-day administrative and compliance tasks so they can focus on business development and delivering great advice to their clients. If you’d like the same for your firm, sign up to receive a free outsourcing strategy and plan.