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?”
A survey by Robert Half Finance & Accounting shows that companies offer training in a variety of areas to finance staff, including technology skills, accounting and finance skills, leadership/management and soft skills, such as writing, negotiation and presentation. See the infographic below.
Some financial executives are willing to hire people without college degrees in functional areas such as payroll and accounts payable and accounts receivable, another survey shows. And 63 percent of them said they'd offer tuition reimbursement or professional development to those new hires.
Most leaders recognize the need to provide accounting job training and education support as a recruitment and retention strategy, as well as a key component in succession planning — both for the success of their employees and for their companies. However, not everyone knows the best ways to achieve it. Here are six methods, 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.
Looking to add to your accounting and finance team? Use Robert Half’s candidate finder.
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. Support education efforts
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 financial certifications.
College coursework can be expensive, but a way to build loyalty and help employees sharpen their skill sets is to reimburse them for tuition. Our survey shows large companies (1,000 or more employees) are almost twice as likely as small firms (20 to 49 employees) to provide tuition reimbursement or pay for professional development.
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.