We caught up with XPAC member and founder of the global bookkeeping firm, Bean Ninjas, Meryl Johnston to talk about building and connecting a global team as they head into the busiest season for accountants.
What recruitment steps did you take to ensure you found the right team members to work around the world?
Bean Ninjas has a remote team of 12 staff based in 6 different countries We work, we travel, and we attract modern like-minded clients with similar values. So it was important to maintain that culture when looking out for new staff.
When we’re recruiting remote team members, we’re looking for people who are organised, self-disciplined and internally motivated. They also need to be experienced enough in their career to complete their work to a high standard without requiring much guidance.
Working remotely can be challenging and we’ve found that if staff have other interests like surfing or dancing, or other responsibilities like a family, they’re better able to switch off from work. This is important to avoid things like burn-out.
How did you ensure candidates would be the right ft?
We’ve had great success with potential employees either reading or hearing about Bean Ninjas, deciding they’d like to work here, and approaching us. These team members are already quite familiar with our values and want to be part of our long-term team.
Our marketing strategy is not only about attracting potential clients, but also potential team members. Where possible, we like to try out candidates with some part-time or casual work before committing to a full-time role. We’ve done this with a number of team members successfully
What’s the best thing about having team members all over the world?
We can attract the best people in the world, regardless of where they live. If we were hiring only in a particular country or region, we’d have a much smaller talent pool to recruit from. That could result in hiring people who aren’t the right fit or whose values don’t align with ours.
Our staff can work from any location and any hours they choose. This means the parents in our team can be there for the school pick-up and drop-off and our surfers can surf mid-week when the surf is pumping and catch up on work in the evenings and weekends. We are striving to help our team members achieve their lifestyle goals, not just their career goals.
We believe that if we can provide a flexible workplace with fun and supportive team members and interesting work, our team will want to stay with us for the long term.
How do you keep the team on track in the busy EOFY season?
I think that having a successful EOFY comes down to good planning and setting expectations in advance. We ask team members to schedule holidays either before EOFY so they are refreshed for the beginning of the busy period or after the EOFY business, so that they have something to look forward to.
We also begin talking about the Australian EOFY in March so that staff have time to prepare and to set expectations with their families about the approaching busy period. This year two of our key Australian team members are having a two-day EOFY planning session in Cairns. Taking time out of day-to-day operations should help them focus on EOFY preparation.
Lastly, we are realistic about what internal projects we can achieve during EOFY and either aim to complete them before 30 June or put them on hold until after September.
How did you build team culture remotely?
I’ve found we have to work much harder to build team culture in a remote environment. We don’t have the impromptu conversations that happen when you pass someone’s desk or hear other team members discussing something.
Some of the things we do to help build team culture include:
- having channels in Slack where we share pictures, videos and talk about our families or what we did on the weekend
- using video rather than just audio for team calls
- having a detailed employee onboarding process which includes one-on-one welcome calls with all of our existing team regular video updates for the team. I do a monthly team update and our head of sales does a weekly update for the whole team.
One of our internal managers has taken it upon himself to organise birthday gifts for everyone. The team members all chips in and we get something fun for the person. It makes everyone feel part of things and that they are cared about.
There is research to show that people who feel connected to their team are more likely to stay for longer and produce more. But at a personal level, I want to enjoy my work and the people I work with. My team know I’ll go the extra mile for them, and it feels amazing to know that they’re there to support me too.
To read more on how Meryl Johnston runs a remote team check out her Bean Ninjas blog.