As an accounting firm coach, mentor and consultant I get to see inside a lot of accounting firms. I get to see a lot of stuff that works and a lot that does not. In the area of learning and development, or training as some may call it, I’ve concluded that there are three types of learning and development activities that are embedded in successful firms. It is part of their culture to run these. Those three types of activity are:
- Technical training
- Non-technical training
- “How we do things around here” training
Now this may not sound all that profound but let me explain in more detail why you should pay attention to all three.
Many firms do this pretty well and some think this is the only type of training needed. That is very wrong but more about that later.
Principle 1: Your technical training matches and underpins the products and services you deliver to your clients.
Pretty much every firm delivers tax services to tax training is a given. But if you are delivering valuations, audit, etc etc then you will need training to support those areas.
Principle 2: Your technical training is regular, structured and interactive – at least monthly but in many cases more often.
I still sometimes encounter accountants who think that attending the NTAA / CPAA / CAANZ annual tax update is all that is needed. I strongly disagree with this. Tax regulation does not stand still and you are at risk of giving bad advice if you do not keep up. That is bad for your clients, bad for you and bad for the profession. Get someone from Tax Banter to deliver updates to you and your team or attend their “public” sessions. They are the best in the business at delivering tax training.
Principle 3: Your technical training includes client case studies.
This does three things. First it brings to life technical issues and makes them more real, more easily relatable. Second, it involves your people in sharing stories about clients they have worked on and situations they have encountered. Third it helps you identify opportunities to assist other clients in similar circumstances or with similar issues or opportunities.
It is a well established fact, (but often ignored) that the more senior you get in a firm the more important the non-technical skills become. These skills include supervising / managing / leading other people, business development, delivering presentations, client service and relationship management, interviewing and recruitment, negotiation, time and priority management and may other things I’m sure you can think of to add to this list. I have a Manager Development Program which has three days (with a few weeks in between each day) of hands on training in key non-technical areas. Contact me if that is of interest.
Principle 4: Non-technical training is tailored for each level in the firm and made personal. There is a plan for each person for the development of their non-technical skills as they progress within the firm.
“How we do things around here” training
This is about the policies, procedures, systems that are an integral part of the operation of your firm. This is the training that most firms forget about or do very little of. I believe the value of this training type is seriously undervalued. Of course, to be able to run “how we do things around here” training you actually have to have agreed on that! I see in many firms multiple ways to complete the same tasks which I think is madness. Work out the best way to do each task and make it your way. Then regularly train the team. This reinforces what is expected but also gives people the opportunity to question processes and ultimately improve them.
Principle 5: Sessions are regularly run on different processes in the firm (with a focus on client delivery processes) to reinforce “the way we do things around here”
Apply my five principles above and I believe your team will thank you and reward you with great performance.
Although I have targeted this at accounting firms the same principle apply equally to legal, architecture, engineering and other professional firms.