Beyond licensure CPE requirements and individual career development, the sponsoring firm should pay attention to ways it can further maximize those training dollars.
The biggest shortcoming I see among CPA firms is to arrange, schedule and pay for a CPE experience and then not expect the trainee(s) to be debriefed following the training and – further – to not challenge the trainee to “apply” the training in some practical way to contribute to the betterment of the firm.
Firms should consider a recommended process for training, such as:
- Match both hard and soft skills training to the career path of the individual.
- Hold a pre-training meeting with the trainee before each training event to discuss his or her expectations and the firm’s expectations, to encourage note-taking during the training and to plan to debrief others after the training.
- Hold a post-training meeting with the trainee immediately following each event to discuss how the training applies to personal career development, as well as to identify any aspects of the training that can be leveraged throughout the firm. Specifically, discuss with the trainee the three ideas they want to remember, put into action or change, both on a personal and on a firm level.
- Consider placing the trainee in a “training” role so they can re-teach what was learned to others in the firm. This approach may also qualify for in-house CPE credit for participants.
- Set measureable goals to be accomplished as a result of the training. Revisit progress quarterly.
I’m excited by the requests I receive for guidance on training from learning directors at CPAmerica member firms.
Good tax and audit training is available in many shapes and sizes from a variety of professional vendors and state societies dedicated to quality. But meaningful soft skills training can be much more difficult to find and is a frequently lost benefit to the firm if a follow up process is not implemented.
One cost effective source of soft skills training today is the CPA Leadership Institute webinar lineup.
The schedule for 2012 has more than 150 webinar selections, plus another 100+ recordings from 2011. Both live and recorded, the programs are very inexpensive CPE opportunities geared for CPA professionals.
My advice to firms is to utilize webinars as a small group experience, not as individual assignments. Soon after the webinar (or live training), the group meets to talk about what this means to them and how what was learned applies to the firm.
Another approach to soft skills development is to challenge creative application of business principles.
A number of best-selling books currently on the market offer recommendations to become more profitable, adapt to change, retain clients, lead or manage people, etc. A great strategy is to form a group within the firm in which each group member reads a different business best seller. Each is then responsible for summarizing the key points learned and go one step further – to specifically apply what was learned to ”my career and my CPA firm.”
Rita Keller’s April e-newsletter suggests we need more rebels in the profession … more CPAs who question the status quo, refuse to pursue same old approaches and constantly recommend new ways to face old problems. A firm’s CPE investments and post-training processes can capitalize on the knowledge power of the rebels by continuously encouraging the application of training toward efficiencies and problem-solving to benefit the firm.
Kathy McDonald is the Director of Concierge Services at CPAmerica International. She guides firms through tough practice management questions with her 25 years of knowledge of the accounting profession or by partnering with the appropriate resources.
Does your firm have tough questions it needs answered? Contact Kathy McDonald to see how you can become a CPAmerica member.