Have you heard the joke about the two managers talking about offering accounting job training for their employees? The first asks, “Yeah, but what if we train them, and they just leave us?” The second one responds, “What if we don’t train them, and they stay?”
One of the findings in Robert Half’s Benchmarking the Accounting and Finance Function report shows the challenge of keeping up with constantly changing business demands and necessary skill sets. Executives say they need to offer accounting job training as a recruitment and retention strategy, as well as a key component in succession planning.
Most leaders recognize the importance of professional development in the accounting and finance field, both for the success of their employees and for their companies. However, not everyone knows the best methods to achieve this. Here are six ways managers can offer on-the-job training for their teams, along with some useful tips.
1. Present on-site workshops
Holding workshops in the office is an affordable training option for employees, because you can simply invite an expert and hold a brown-bag session. In addition, it ensures that your entire staff receives the same information and training, and it contributes to your company culture. But to inspire learning, you need to find a presenter who leads an interactive, engaging session, rather than simply lecturing.
2. Offer off-site conferences
Traveling for off-site training and conferences is a perk many people enjoy, and it allows them and their companies to expand their networks.
Of course, your budget dictates how many employees can participate — and how frequently. One way to maximize conference benefits is to have the attendees who participate train other employees on what they learned. This helps educate the entire group, while giving the new trainers an opportunity to expand their presentation and leadership skills.
3. Engage in webinars, virtual conferences
Virtual professional development methods, using a software application like Skype that's viewed by webcam, are a great option for reducing travel expenses and providing training in any location. In the past, the required technology of virtual training has intimidated some employees and required more server bandwidth than some companies have had, but that’s becoming less and less of a barrier.
4. Recommend or require online courses
The biggest benefit of online courses is flexibility, because they usually allow people to sign on and view them on their own schedules. They are useful for developing hard skills, such as learning a new analytics, tax or bookkeeping program, and they can lead to a college degree or career certifications. However, online courses aren’t ideal for improving soft skills, such as those needed for improved customer service.
5. Set up a mentoring program
Mentorship programs offer a particularly effective way of training a new accountant or entry-level employees, while simultaneously giving more experienced employees a chance to take on a leadership role. The one-on-one nature of the relationship that’s cultivated can help newcomers integrate quickly into your firm, feel more confident about their jobs, and become a productive member of the staff.
6. Encourage memberships, publications
From the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) to the Financial Executives International (FEI) and Accounting & Financial Women's Alliance (AFWA), there are numerous professional associations for accounting professionals. When a CPA or other accounting and finance professionals join these groups, they enjoy invaluable benefits, including professional development and continuing education opportunities.
Industry publications also offer an excellent way for professionals to keep up to date in their field, whether they work in public or private accounting. Because this is a self-motivated, independent form of learning, your staff members will have to be motivated to take charge of what they ultimately learn — and should be encouraged to search for publications that are most relevant to their employment and their goals.
Of course, you’ll want to weigh these options with your own company and employees in mind. If you choose to survey your employees for their preferences, be sure to include an open-ended question calling for their ideas.
A good manager should see the value in accommodating the company’s greatest asset: top-performing employees who are eager to boost their skills and build their careers with your company.
Editor's note: This post was updated recently to reflect current information.