Automation, AI and cloud computing are causing accountants’ roles to evolve more rapidly than ever. Job descriptions are specifying the need for data analytics, strategic and advisory skills to keep up with client needs and expectations.
New accounting firms are already sourcing the right people to make their firm a success. However, starting afresh with a new team isn’t the most cost-effective way to ensure your firm is future-proof. Upskilling is.
Upskilling is the process of teaching employees new skills that will be needed now or in the near future. By focusing on continual professional development, firm leaders can ensure that their employees are prepared for an increasingly fluid and fast-paced market driven by digitalisation.
Continue reading to learn more about the accounting skills gap and how you can upskill your accounting team.
Upskilling offers a host of benefits for both employees and the business as a whole, including:
- Employee satisfaction and retention. By giving your employees clear professional goals, you boost their morale because you open the door to further opportunities within the organisation. Professional advancement is key to employee retention.
- Diversification of service offering. As your team grows professionally, you can begin expanding your service offering to adapt to new demands.
- Increased client satisfaction. Upskilling your employees means they will be better able to serve clients, both now and in the future.
- Change management. Instilling a culture of active learning will help your accounting firm be more responsive and prepared for whatever may crop up in the future. Employees that are used to learning will find it easier to adapt to changes.
Step 1: Analyse Your Employees’ Skills
Before you can begin to upskill your team, you need to find out what skills your employees are missing. In other words, you need to determine your firm’s skills gap.
A learning needs analysis will help you answer the following questions:
- Who needs a learning pathway?
- What is it that they need to learn?
- How are you going to create effective learning courses for them?
- What impact is it going to have on your business and their development?
- Where does this fit into your budget?
Start by looking through current job descriptions to determine what skills are in demand. Then, have an open conversation with each member of your team to get a better understanding of their skill level and proficiency in the accounting skills you have determined as desirable.
Remember, skills extend beyond technical training. Soft skills are just as important, particularly in an age where robots are doing the maths while humans are building relationships.
Step 2: Choose Your Employee Training Methods
Now that you know what you need to improve in your team, it’s critical that you find the best way of passing that knowledge on to them. There are several different approaches to training that you can use depending on the skill you’re targeting:
- Training sessions. Call in the help of an external expert to provide in-person or online training to your employees.
- Mentoring. This involves a senior member of staff who is experienced in the necessary skills partnering with a junior who requires upskilling.
- In-house training. Harness the expertise of an in-house specialist to provide training and nurture other employees’ learning. This is a cost-effective way to facilitate the transfer of knowledge.
- Online courses. There are several online learning resources you can take advantage of to enhance your CPD programme, for instance, Udemy and Coursera.
When deciding on how you will offer your team training, it’s important to establish when employees can take part in the training. For example, can they complete the course during working hours?
By setting aside 1 hour per week of learning (within working hours), you can incentivise every employee to take advantage of upskilling opportunities.
Step 3: Transform Theoretical Knowledge into Real-life Practice
Language teachers can often be heard saying the phrase ‘if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it’. The same goes for any skill. If you aren’t given the chance to use it in real-life, chances are you won’t commit it to memory.
Once your employees have started to learn new accounting skills, you must find a way to put them into action. For example, if your employees are learning data analytics, give them the chance to practise this skill with a real client and real data.
When creating practical learning sessions, it’s crucial to be patient and understanding so that employees can learn in a positive, encouraging environment. If you place too much pressure on them, it could dissuade them from trying again in the future.
Step 4: Review Learning Needs Regularly
As the name suggests, continual professional development is all about constant improvement.
Consider creating a tailored professional development plan for your team to ensure that they know what the next steps of their learning journey will be. If your employee is starting with a beginner course, make sure they follow up with intermediate and expert courses later. Then, re-evaluate their skill set to find other areas of improvement.
Upskilling is not about completing as many courses as possible. It’s about building confidence and proficiency, which takes time and a clearly defined learning journey.
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