How to select a training provider: invest in your people

The most valuable resource of any firm is the people who work within it. An
accountancy qualification from a professional body is something to be proud of
and considerable effort is required to ensure that this hard-won qualification
is maintained and developed to meet the ever-changing needs of clients and
personal aspirations.

Firms therefore need to give considerable thought to the continuing
professional development of their staff to ensure that technically,
professionally and personally they are capable of fulfilling their roles and
helping the firm to move forward, whilst improving their own career prospects..

The onus should be on firms to create a culture in which CPD is an integral
part of their business development strategy and therefore to define the needs of
every individual and create appropriate programmes to develop their skills and
maximise their potential.

Practices can choose from a wide variety of training methods to ensure that
they meet the CPD guidelines laid down by the various professional bodies. The
mix will include structured CPD (training derived from course attendance,
meetings and seminars or wherever participants receive some form of formalised
professional training) and unstructured CPD (informal study, reading, research
or lecture preparation).

Assessing training requirements should not be left to the individual. It
should be part of the firm’s human resources function to consider personal
career development paths and needs. It is particularly important that both
partners, and prospective partners, are equipped with the necessary skills to
manage the business successfully.

For all but the very largest firms, the majority of their structured training
requirements will need to be bought in. The various professional bodies provide
a wide range of technical as well as management and development courses as do a
number of commercial organisations such as CCH, Mercia, SWAT etc. In addition,
there are specialist consultancies who can gear programmes to the specific needs
of the firm and its staff.

The comprehensive course providers usually have a range of ticketing options,
from one-off purchases to ‘season tickets’ which can be mixed and matched
depending on the firm’s requirements.
These providers will often run schemes for groups of firms in regions, networks
of firms as well as individual firms. Discussions with them will help identify
the right purchase options.

Key skills in the CPD mix

  • Technical update (audit, accountancy, tax, tax specialisations etc.)
  • Specialist skills (corporate finance, insolvency, forensic etc.)
  • Practice management and practice development
  • Sector skills (law, medical, media etc.)
  • General business interest
  • Individual personal development (soft skills and management skills)

CPD TRAINING Providers: what to look for

  • Technical updates, technical developments
  • Practice management and development
  • CD Rom or online courses
  • IT skills
  • In-house programmes (adapted for the firm, cost savings)
  • Convenient timing and location

1 Everyone in the firm is involved in business (the business
of accountancy) and all require skills to manage, whether it be people,
situations, assignments or clients or develop marketing, networking, finding new
business, closing new sales etc.

2 Few of the organisations specialising in technical courses
for accountants also provide a comprehensive choice of general business
management courses, possibly only on some soft skills.

3 More specialised courses in sales and marketing or people
management will require a different provider. For smaller practices with limited
budgets, there are a number of ways in which their training requirements can be
met in a very cost effective fashion (see below).

Schemes/ Forums/ Programmes

Shared training schemes: These are mainly operated by subscription
based networks such as the UK200 Group and CharterGroup, enabling firms to
obtain training at a lower cost by sharing with others. Provides good value for
money as
well as flexibility and allows firms to budget effectively with fixed monthly
payments. These networks may also offer technical support via their training
groups, thereby enabling a second opinion on complex issues.

Institute district society courses and forums: Local areas may
incorporate a number of courses for members in their diary of events, primarily
on technical topics. Joining a forum group where local practitioners get
together and members have the opportunity of discussing common problems
experienced in practice and how they should be overcome.

Bespoke courses/management development programmes: Delivered
in-house these can be particularly useful for firms where a number of people
require training on a topic or subject outside the scope of the usual training
providers and can be tailored to suit the needs of the both the individuals and
the firm (such as client development, personnel management etc). Development of
people is so important that to ensure that CPD programmes are tailored to the
needs of the firm, its partners and staff, every practice should have an
‘education partner’ who is specifically tasked with responsibility for training.

Andrew Jenner is a director of Kato Consultancy

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