Training your employees - a beginner's guide

Joe Griffin
Joe Griffin

Henry Ford was a big believer in training staff: When he was once asked “what if you train them and they leave?” he replied “What if I don't train them and they stay?” 

Internal training can be daunting and time-consuming, but that doesn’t mean you should put it off. With changes in technology, and especially government obligations (like MTD in the UK), firms should be looking at regular upskilling of their workforce. 

Here’s the how and why... 

Benefits of an employee training programme 

Training has several benefits both for the colleague and for the employer. 

These include: 

Improved morale

Employees appreciate it when you invest in them and their career.

Lower staff turnover

Education and subsidies for learning are great incentives for employees to stay with a company. And surveys and studies have shown that it’s in demand. In fact, a survey by Clear Company found that “68% of employees say training and development is the company’s most important policy”.

A more competitive workforce

On the job training and career development strengthens your workforce. You hired and onboarded them because of specific strengths and qualities they bring - now you’re adding additional strings to their bows. And every company benefits when employee knowledge grows.

Better offerings for your clients

This is a big one: you want to be able to offer your clients the best service possible, with a workforce that’s fully aware of the changes in the landscape, regulations and technology. In some cases, you might also want to train your employees in how to best communicate with their clients. 

Future proofing your company 

Across most industries, much of what we learn at a college level becomes obsolete in the workplace sooner or later. Safeguard against obsolescence by keeping yourself and your employees on top of what’s happening. 

Better productivity

Technology (especially automation) means that workers can focus on what they do best, with less time spent on inefficient, mundane tasks. An educated workforce will work smarter and faster than one that is not.

Onboarding new employees

When onboarding new employees it's advisable to have a formal training program of some sort. 

Ideally, you would want your new colleague to understand company culture, what's expected of them, KPIs, methodologies, internal communications, IT systems, company values add more. 

This can be achieved by providing training sessions, materials, structured meetings or a “buddy” system (where they shadow a new colleague), or indeed, all of the above.

Options for employee training 

If you’re not sure where to start, here are some ways to categorize employer training...

Going in house – internal training

You can develop your own internal training program. The advantage of this is that it's entirely bespoke - crafted to meet your company under your employees’ specific needs. Another advantage is that you will have a wealth of material to draw on whenever somebody new comes on board. So theoretically, the workload of internal training will diminish over time.

While the downside is that it's more time consuming than looking beyond your company’s four walls.

Using outside or external training 

There's no shortage of consultants and educational institutions who are happy to provide training for accountancy firms. Well this can be costly, it can have time saving benefits as you’re outsourcing the work to a third party.

On the job training

This usually means training incrementally while the employee is working, granting them new skills as they need them or beforehand. The danger here is being too informal and unstructured, so it’s a good idea to develop an on the job plan with the HR department, with required learnings, expectations and a timeline.

Providing a bursary 

Another option is to provide a bursary for employees to train and upskill outside of work hours in a college or school that both parties agree upon and that’s financed by your company. Many employers like this option and require staff to sign a contract promising that they’ll stay within the company for a specified period of time after they finished their outside course.

Getting Started 

Start by asking what you and your firm would like and/or immediately need: Do you want to broaden your offering? Stay relevant? Optimise staff potential? Build morale? Reduce employee churn?

Employee surveys are also a good way to find gaps in knowledge, whether there’s a desire for upskilling and what they’d like to learn.  

Find out which of the following kinds of skills you would like staff to have: 

  • Hard skills - such as an industry-specific certification, technical skills and so on  
  • Soft skills - such as leadership, project management, adaptability and so on
  • A combination of both 

Next, talk to a HR or training consultant about your needs and how to implement them. 

Ideally, in the next step you should delegate someone to oversee this project, like an office manager, line manager, HR manager or specialist within the company (an MTD expert could spearhead training about MTD, for instance). 

Review your training strategy at least once a year, to measure uptake, results, effectiveness and timeliness of the training. 

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