Posted by Cheri O'Neil on Monday, December 14, 2015 - 09:45
Whether you’re a manager who wants to recruit and retain the very best finance team, an employee who values career advancement, or a knowledge-thirsty job-seeker, job training and development should be high on your to-do list.
Of more than 2,500 finance and accounting professionals polled in a recent Robert Half Finance & Accounting survey, 64 percent said the chance to gain new skills is a critical consideration when making a career move. Fifty percent also reported they are very concerned about keeping their skills current in the next few years.
Most supervisors, employees and candidates recognize the importance of professional development in the accounting and finance field, but not everyone knows the best methods to achieve it. First, we’ll take a look at six ways managers can offer on-the-job training. Then we’ll investigate six ways employees and job-seekers can find training on their own.
You’ve probably heard the joke that has two managers talking about training 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?”
Company training isn’t as widespread in the corporate world as it should be, even though it’s a great way for organizations to build morale, strengthen teams, teach skills and establish company culture. As Robert Half and the AICPA’s The People Puzzle: Building and Retaining a Talented Accounting and Finance Team shows, training also motivates employees and contributes to their job satisfaction, making them want to build a career with a company versus using the job as a stepping stone to something better, likely somewhere else.
Here are six ways managers can offer on-the-job training, using findings from The People Puzzle:
1. On-site workshops
Holding workshops in the office is the most popular training option for employees from ages 18 to 34. Thirty-three percent of workers in that bracket prefer it to other training methods. And 37 percent of employees at very large companies also favor these workshops.
This professional development option is often the most affordable, as well, because you can simply bring in an expert and hold a brown-bag session. In addition, it ensures that your entire staff receives the same information and training. But to inspire learning, you need to find a presenter who leads an interactive, engaging session, rather than simply lecturing at your staff.
2. Off-site conferences
Interest in traveling for professional development opportunities apparently increases with age, with 29 percent of employees from 55 to 64 preferring this method above all others. Off-site conferences are also particularly popular with workers at small companies looking to get out and expand their networks, with 29 percent preferring this to other training methods.
Of course, your budget dictates how many employees you can send off-site — and how frequently. So one way to maximize conference benefits is to have the attendees who are able to participate in conferences 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. Webinars and virtual conferences
Virtual professional development methods, including “Skyping in,” are most popular with employees from 35 to 44. This is a great option for reducing travel expenses and providing training in any location. However, the required technology may intimidate some employees. And some companies’ servers don’t have enough bandwidth to use this training most effectively.
4. Online courses
These courses are most popular with employees at larger organizations. Their biggest benefit is flexibility, because online courses usually allow employees to learn on their own schedule. And they’re useful for developing hard skills, such as learning a new analytics program. However, online courses aren’t ideal for improving soft skills, such as the skills needed for improved customer service.
Mentorship programs offer a particularly effective way of training new 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 a newcomer integrate quickly into your firm and become a productive member of the staff.
6. Industry publications
Reading industry publications offers an excellent way for finance and accounting employees to keep up to date in their field. But it’s a self-motivated, independent form of learning. So your staff will have to be motivated to take charge of what they ultimately learn — and should be encouraged to find out which publications are most relevant to their work 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 staff for their preferences, be sure to include an open-ended question calling for their own ideas. You never know what might come up.
Not all company training programs provide the targeted training you need as an employee. And, of course, they do nothing for people in the job market. Recognize that you may need to take some steps of your own to access the right training. Here are some often-overlooked training options that you may be able to find in your current workplace — or on your own.
1. Mingling with mentors
There is great anecdotal and statistical evidence that having a mentor gives you a leg up in the workplace. If your company doesn’t have a structured mentoring program, ask your manager to pair you with a more senior employee, or look for your own mentor inside the company.
If you’re a job-seeker, try to find a mentor in your community who can help you better understand the business dynamics and advancement opportunities in the finance and accounting industry.
When you’re already part of the workforce, e-learning is an easy way to fit courses offered by universities or professional organizations into your busy schedule. It allows you to listen to lectures, chat with classmates, submit coursework and meet with instructors online from the convenience of your office or your home.
Robert Half offers more than 8,000 courses that count toward continuing professional education (CPE) and professional education program (PEP) credits.
3. Massive Open Online Courses
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are courses made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people. Visit MoocList.com to find thousands of finance courses, some of which allow you to earn certifications. You’ll see everything from GMAT Test Prep and basic accounting courses to more specialized offerings such as financial engineering and risk management.
Webinars are a great way to learn from industry leaders. There’s usually a fee to attend a webinar, which has an audio and video component, but you typically have access to an archived version of the presentation after the live session.
Robert Half offers a variety of free webinars, some of which qualifying attendees can earn Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits for. If you don’t have the time to attend a conference or enroll in a university class, webinars allow you to hear from top speakers and keep up with the latest industry trends.
5. On-the-Job Training
On-the-job training for finance jobs comes in many forms, ranging from formal programs to informal cross-training opportunities. Some companies host brown bag seminars where employees learn from one another during the lunch hour. Ask your manager to set up on-the-job training opportunities for you or propose your own ideas.
6. Advanced degrees, certification
Obtaining advanced degrees or certifications is a great way to advance your career. Not all accounting and finance jobs require professional certification. However, being a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or holding a Master of Business Administration (MBA) shows employers that you take professional development seriously. Often your certification can be the selling point that makes your resume stand out or showcases to your boss that you’re serious about moving ahead.
Be sure to inform your boss if you are pursing courses or working on your certifications. And don’t be afraid to ask whether you can leave early to attend classes or take a break during the workday to participate in a webinar or e-learning opportunity. Just be sure to point out that you will continue to perform your current tasks at your usual level of excellence.
After all, a good manager will see the value in accommodating the company’s greatest asset: top-performing employees who are eager to boost their skills.
Specialized recruiters are an invaluable resource, whether you’re just starting or advancing in your career, or if you’re an employer with hiring needs.