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How to Skill Up Your Accounting Department

Skills Training for Accountants

Who is your ideal accounting department job candidate? For many organizations, the answer includes things like a four-year degree, several years of industry experience and a skill set that matches your job description to a tee. The problem is, that ideal candidate is increasingly difficult to find and hire. Deloitte’s second quarter 2018 CFO survey found talent levels and quality top the list of internal concerns for CFOs. And the tight labor market for skilled accounting talent shows no signs of easing up any time soon. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the demand for accountants will rise 10% through 2026, faster than the average growth rate for all occupations. Internal programs for accountant skills training are required.

In this environment, attraction and retention strategies are essential, but they can only get you so far. To get the talent you need now and in the future, you need to build it yourself by upskilling your accounting department. Here’s how to make that happen.

Align training with individuals

A common mistake many organizations make is to treat learning programs as a one-size-fits-all exercise where everyone receives the same instruction. But that mentality wastes time and resources teaching certain individuals skills they’ve already mastered while neglecting others they actually need. Instead, you should align training with individuals.

This starts with a skills assessment to identify what your staff wants to learn and the skills they need to develop. Then you can tailor training to target specific skills gaps, where it will be most effective.

Cultivate a coaching culture

Many organizations have formal mentorship programs aimed at creating mutually beneficial relationships over the long term. But accounting departments should also work to create a coaching culture. In departments with a strong coaching culture, a lot of learning happens on the job, between managers and their direct reports, and in the moment. Managers see themselves first and foremost as coaches offering on-the-go guidance and feedback rather than reviewing triumphs and fails at quarterly or annual reviews. This type of hands-on, in-the-moment coaching can help drive immediate improvements and teach employees how to handle specific aspects of their jobs

Provide bite-sized training opportunities

Full training days can give employees a wealth of valuable information, but often little of that information is retained long term. They’re also challenging to manage for busy accounting department employees with demanding workloads. Instead, look for ways to offer training in bite-sized chunks. You might provide a monthly two-hour workshop or bi-weekly “lunch and learn” sessions covering different skills. Encourage employees to work on action items between meetings to reinforce what they’re learning.

Make online learning interactive

Technology allows employees to access online learning where people can learn at their own pace when it fits their schedule. However, some online learning programs are more effective than others. Stay away from training that does little more than move printed materials to an online format. Employees are unlikely to stay engaged when all they’re doing is reading slides.

Instead, look for online training that is interactive or incorporates a face-to-face component. This helps make people more accountable and helps employees retain information better.

Trainee becomes the teacher

Provide employees a chance to teach what they’re learning to others. Research shows that explaining a concept to someone else is the best way to learn it yourself. As a bonus, giving employees teaching roles makes learning part of the way employees work together rather than someone human resources makes them do.

Upskilling employees takes time and money, but the costs of replacing a valuable employee far outweighs your investment. Your accounting department needs the right people on board to go above and beyond. Help them develop the skills they need to maximize performance. This will ensure your training and development program meets not only the needs of your organization but also drives the performance and job satisfaction of your employees.

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Accounting Principals

We're Accounting Principals--a leader in finance and accounting staffing. In fact, since 2010, we've been part of Adecco Group, a Global 500 company and leader in staffing services around the world. But this isn't staffing as usual. We take quite a different approach than most staffing agencies. A people-focused approach. We believe in forming real relationships with both our clients and our candidates. We want to understand the needs on both sides.