Training and the finance team

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Training and development of your staff is essential. It’s not up for debate. In most cases businesses succeed or fail based on the quality of their people over and above business plans, products, ideas or markets. While some people may see finance as a back office function, and therefore removed from the success of the business, companies that immerse finance teams into the decision making will usually flourish more. For this reason, upskilling your finance team is a no-brainer.

While CPD is important in any profession, accountancy is a sector where keeping abreast of developments is absolutely crucial. Aside from constant changes in legislation, the digital revolution, in particular, is impacting the skills required of professionals working in finance teams, and training and coaching is vital to ensure that they are future-fit.

A recent survey of CGMA designation holders and CIMA students by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (ICPA) found that nearly nine in ten (88%) CIMA students are planning to learn new skills to enhance their progression, with accounting information systems, strategy, and business planning the top three areas for improvement. CGMA designation holders, by contrast, wish to focus their learning on strategy, driving performance, and business planning.

The same report also finds that there has been a shift in how people want to build their skills. Of those wanting a skills upgrade, there is a rise in demand for informal, on-the-job learning — from 50% in 2016 to 68% in the 2018 survey. There is also an increased demand for online courses — up from 22% to 37% over the past two years.

At a time when knowledge quickly becomes obsolete, today’s experts must be able to meet the demands of an ever-changing environment. The rise of AI and RPA means that the remit of an in-house accountant is steadily shifting – tedious and repetitive administration is being replaced with the need to implement and manage systems. It is also shining a spotlight on innately human skills such as communication and creativity.  

Against this backdrop and the role of the accountant metamorphosing, continual CPD is a must. Today’s professionals must learn to capitalise on the increase in data available to adopt a more advisory role, proactively offering value-added services based on live information, such as strategy and planning as well as business partnering to drive corporate growth.  

Ambitious individuals generally take a level of responsibility for their own upskilling, but good employers facilitate the professional development of their teams to not only ensure that they have up-to-date expertise in-house, but also to make sure that employees remain engaged and productive.      

Upskilling should be responsive to both business needs and an individual’s strengths. Of course, long-term strategic workforce plans should always be considered when deciding where to concentrate resources, but it’s also wise to consider where employees’ passions lie and areas they show an aptitude in, whether that be ERP systems or FP&A.      

To CEOs who argue, “what if we spend all that money training our finance staff and they leave?” the response from the FD should be, “what if we don’t, and they stay?”

Aside from technical expertise, managers are increasingly seeing the value of upskilling teams in softer skills. Contrary to long-held stereotypes, today’s in-house finance professionals must have the ability, and gravitas, to engage with others both inside and outside of the organisation. Investing in developing and nurturing these skills among qualified accountants will certainly pay dividends as these individuals progress within the business.

According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), companies that offer comprehensive training programs have 218% higher income per employee than companies without formalised training. What’s more, these companies also enjoy a 24% higher profit margin than those who spend less on training – figures which are certainly not to be sniffed at.

As accountancy moves from a purely technical role to a more consultative one, managers must develop skills beyond the capabilities of machines. Taking this approach will boost engagement, productivity and profitability. 

About Adrian O'Connor

Adrian O' Connor

Adrian is the Founding Partner and main shareholder in GAN, and has overall responsibility for the strategy, management and direction of the business.

Having been in recruitment for more years than he cares to remember, Adrian comes with a wealth of knowledge of the industry and retains a genuine excitement for the sector. It was this knowledge of what works (and what doesn’t) and the love of the sector that led Adrian, with David, to get out and launch a recruitment firm, in a recession, from scratch.

Now the initial terror has subsided and the business is becoming ever more successful, Adrian is helping the team grow, up-skill, and deliver, partnering with clients to drive recruitment strategy and working with the board on the evolution of the company.

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