Author: Thomas Kiley & Bethanne Chapman | Date: February 23, 2023
Between law changes, court cases, new regulations, standards updates, turnover, mergers, and constant updates to practice management systems, accounting firms may have a greater demand for ongoing training than almost any other profession. With so much riding on the training that a firm provides to its professionals, how can learning and development (L&D) teams make the best use of their finite time and resources? The answer lies in striking an effective balance between developing programs in-house and relying on quality outside support from professional trainers.
To achieve the right balance, L&D teams can begin by classifying required training into the following two broad categories:
- Firm-specific topics that focus on in-house processes and benefit from the expertise of internal resources who are well-versed in the systems.
- Core training, including technical updates, such as tax laws and auditing and accounting standards, that can be presented more effectively by professional teachers who focus full-time on updating materials and delivering an engaging training experience.
In-House Training on In-House Functions
Some areas that lend themselves to the development of effective in-house training programs include:
- Internal policies, processes, and procedures
- Industry-specific or niche services training
- Internal merger-related training
On these more firm-specific topics, few people outside of the firm have the insights necessary to provide the subject matter expertise for developing effective training programs. Therefore, L&D teams should prioritize use of the firm’s professionals, who operate within the firm’s system every day, to develop content which involves understanding the mechanics of the firm’s processes and the nuances of its culture.
Outsource Support for Core Training
Outsourcing support for a firm’s core training needs, including annual technical updates and professional development, often provides a huge relief for L&D leaders and client-serving subject matter specialists alike, freeing capacity to focus on the firm-specific programs more effectively developed and delivered in-house.
For these core training needs, dedicated training developers can devote months of effort, spread among a group of technical experts with specialized knowledge, to develop comprehensive, engaging training programs that empower client-serving professionals. A knowledgeable training consultant focused on the accounting profession can reliably provide services that meet the needs of staff, seniors, and even early-career managers on topics like:
- Annual technical updates in accounting, auditing, and tax, including state and local changes
- Staff-level training, including core technical and professional development topics
More advanced training programs for experienced managers and partners can also provide higher-level technical content and new ideas on practice development strategies.
At times, a hybrid partnership with a training consultant may provide a solution that balances the need for firm expertise with the limited resources available in-house. In these hybrid arrangements, outside support can assist by:
- Partnering with a firm specialist to reduce the amount of time that person spends creating the presentation.
- Bolstering participant engagement and instructional design through the creation of PowerPoint slides, visual aids and mental models or through the addition of dynamic learning activities.
- Providing licensed materials for use in in-house training programs.
- Providing training on presentation skills to upskill the firm’s in-house presenters.
There are a wide variety of ways that a training consultant can help the L&D team at an accounting firm improve the quality of the educational experience that they provide for their client-serving professionals.
Training Budgets v. Opportunity Costs
Firms usually have no problem seeing the line item expenses for their training budget, but they often fail to see the opportunity cost of the missed revenue they incur when they task client-serving professionals with developing in-house training.
Time is a major consideration that is often overlooked. Few firms can spare their top managers and partners for the amount of time it takes to develop and implement top-notch training programs. The revenue lost by tasking these specialists with unbillable time often far outweighs the cost of bringing in an outside trainer.
When leaders compare the estimates for outsourced training programs from a consultant like 20-20 Services to the potential revenue lost when subject matter specialists have to develop and present training programs, they often discover that they come out ahead on net revenue while also delivering a superior training experience to their employees.