Your young staff are at the beginning of their career, and despite coming into your accounting firm with education under their belts, they aren’t expecting their learning to stop.
Their ideal workplace not only makes opportunities for learning available but actively encourages and pushes staff to develop. They expect for the majority of their learning to happen as they work, and they’re not wrong—some studies say as much as 90% of learning happens on the job.
For your firm, the benefits of your staff continually improving are clear. The most successful firms are built on outstanding accountants, but accountants don’t become outstanding without hard work and education.
It’s more important than ever that your firm provides learning opportunities to your staff. Here are seven ways you can empower them to grow and develop in your accounting firm.
Let them off the leash
If you’re watching your staff too closely, you can’t expect them to develop their own style. Clarify the overall objective of a task but then let go and show you trust them to complete it in their own way. They might not accomplish everything exactly as you would, but they will get the job done with their own flair. And most importantly, they will learn along the way.
Throw them in the deep end
Some people thrive when trusted with added responsibility. They gain confidence and find themselves using skills they didn’t even know they had. Identify which of your staff will benefit from this and put them in charge. You might ask them to lead a staff meeting, act as project manager for a particular job, or be the Change Champion when you introduce a new system into the team.
Look beyond accounting
There are many essential skills accountants learn that are specific to this profession. But just as numerous are the non-technical skills they need to do their job. For these, seek inspiration from other industries. Skills such as presenting, customer service or up-selling are common throughout the professional world. Bring people in from other industries to teach these non-technical skills to the team, and encourage individual staff to network with people in jobs that are a far cry from accounting.
75% of millennials say they want to have mentors and think they are critical to their success. Give them this opportunity by introducing your own mentoring program, linking staff together within the four walls of your firm. Not only will this give your team the one-on-one coaching they desire, but your team will also be strengthened as staff get to know those who they may not associate with otherwise. Watch this video to learn more about setting up a mentoring program in your firm.
They learn about both professional life from someone they don’t work with and also have an opportunity to chat about anything they may like. It may not even be work related.
Provide a learning budget
Not everyone wants to learn the same thing or learn it in the same way. Give your staff the power to shape their own learning by allocating them their own learning budget. Each staff member can choose where they spend this money, providing it meets the criteria of relevant professional development. This ensures that your staff are learning what they want to learn, and also encourages them to put considerable thought into how they learn it.
Embrace small talk
An individual’s boss in the early stage of their career is one of the biggest influences they will have in the professional life. Don’t take this responsibility lightly. Get to know your staff on a personal level, keep your office door open wherever possible, and take the time for small talk. This will help them feel comfortable talking to you and confident that they can come to you with problems, questions and when seeking advice.
Let them solve the problem themselves
Sometimes it’s important to step back and watch your staff fend for themselves, even if this leads to failure. Many of your staff will be naturally risk-adverse, and if they work in an environment where they know their boss will correct them before they even have the chance to act, they will always look for approval. When it’s not going to be detrimental for your accounting firm, let them figure out on their own that they're wrong, and then let them find a better solution. This will help them put much more thought into their work rather than simply doing, and also create a more innovative mindset.
You will find these strategies won’t require much effort to maintain. Instead, they will become organic and a culture of learning and self-development will flow throughout your team. Your staff will grow rapidly, producing results they are pleased with and that considerably improve your firm. Empower your team should really be a no-brainer for any accounting firm serious about growth and success.
To compare the challenges your firm is facing acquiring, training and retaining staff with accounting practices from around the world, download The talent challenge: insights from Karbon’s 2017 talent survey.