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How to develop staff in accounting and finance

Author: ICAEW

Published: 04 May 2021

With an average employee turnover cost of £11,000, according to Croner *, it comes as no surprise that it pays to develop your staff. Happier staff thrive, generate increased productivity for business, and improve client relations. The question is, how do we do it? This article will outline three ways in which you can develop staff in the workplace.

Professional development ideas for accountants

Knowing where to start can often be difficult, especially in a firm with varying capabilities and skill sets. Begin by conducting a SWOT analysis of your team so you can clearly identify what courses may or may not be relevant to your business and how you might want to execute them. For example, if soft skills are a key area that you would like to develop to improve problem-solving and reduce dependency on leaders, you may wish to deliver in-house training sessions.

1. Technical training

With an ever-increasing range of tools and cloud accounting software available, technical skills are an area of interest when searching for a training program for accounting staff. This technical training often takes the form of CPD courses such as the ACA qualification, our world-leading chartered accountancy qualification. Not only does this qualification aim to achieve career development but also encompasses all areas of business and finance whilst also enabling you to future-proof your business through a wealth of resources covering industry software. Whilst offering employees an opportunity to increase their income potential, this will also help retain good staff by investing in their development.

2. Non-technical training

It’s well known that more and more is being expected of junior accountants, including vital non-technical skills. Overlooking these essential softer skills in a sacrifice to develop technical and technology-specific skills is common in accounting and finance but these ‘soft’ skills can ultimately add great value through bringing improved team collaboration, client rapport, and problem-solving to your organisation. These are gaps that can easily be bridged with training on confidence and networking as well as team-building workshops.

3. Leading vs managing

A topic that involves you and the power and influence positive leadership can bring. Whilst being an active manager in your business getting involved in day-to-day tasks might earn the respect of your team, the feeling of being micromanaged can often inhibit workforce growth. Allowing your employees to make independent, educated decisions and providing a supportive environment to learn from mistakes can empower your staff by instilling a sense of value and expand their ability. Dedicated leadership programmes, such as Developing Leadership in Practice, can also demonstrate how to develop employee skills. What do you think, could you loosen the reins for one day?

When planning training and development opportunities, it’s always worthwhile noting the learning styles of your team as individuals learn differently. For example, some of your team may learn better through ‘doing’ whilst others might through ‘seeing’ or ‘listening’. 

Last but not by no means least, as with any investment, it is crucial to measure your activities to ensure a good ROI is achieved. This can be achieved by setting SMART goals and re-directing efforts if need be.

Why train and develop employees?

If you’re not yet convinced, let’s take a look at the reasons why you should develop your employees. A lack of career development opportunities can result in a workforce feeling undervalued and unappreciated. Not only can this lower morale and affect the efficiency of your business, it can also result in staff resigning from posts where they are unable to envision a future. Developed staff, on the other hand, feel more confident and are increasingly engaged in their work.

In addition, trained staff are comparable to a pot of savings which undoubtedly can be used to avoid the cost of acquiring skilled staff into the business. Stretching staff capabilities also proves as a successful method to protect a business from staff dependency that can grind businesses to a halt in the case of absence or when staff leave. A study from the ASTD suggests companies that actively assist in the development of their staff boast 24% higher profit margins. 

Discover how your organisation can attract, train and retain the best accountancy talent, and how to become authorised to offer ACA training by visiting our dedicated Employer pages.

* Croner article (15 November 2018), 'How much does employee turnover cost your business?'