Invest in Your Future by Developing Talent in Your Firm

Talent development should be at the top of the priority list of every firm today! With the “war for talent” cited as one of the most critical issues facing the accounting industry, firms are no longer able to recruit all of the talent they need from external sources. Rethinking your recruiting practices to attract experienced professionals is a given, but ensuring that the talent pipeline is equipped to address future challenges means that firms also need to work on building talent from the bottom up. I thought it would be a good time for a refresher on why investing in training is critical to your firm’s success.

Building a Training & Learning Culture

The goal of a Training & Learning Culture is to create an environment where everyone teaches, everyone learns and everyone enhances their unique abilities. Achievement of this goal starts at the top. Leaders of the firm must commit to developing a Training & Learning Culture. They must also share their ideas and values about Training & Learning, as well as your leadership approach to motivating team members and the ability to make difficult decisions. A Training & Learning Culture that’s devoted to the development of knowledge has several key benefits to your firm:

  • Develop leaders at every level of the firm: You have capable people at every level of the firm ready to step in and lead a team.
  • Attract and retain the best and brightest: Intelligent people are always on a quest for knowledge. A culture dedicated to this quest is a magnet to these individuals.
  • Increase productivity: Skilled workers are always more efficient, and efficiency has a direct impact on your firm’s financial performance.
  • Succession planning through a leader/teacher pipeline: When adding or replacing partners, you don’t have to go outside to look for candidates. You have a pool of qualified successors in your own backyard.

The idea that everybody teaches is an important one. When people are required to teach, they will inherently want to know the topic inside and out for fear of embarrassing themselves. Encouraging people to teach forces them to let down their guard and make themselves vulnerable to their peers, discovering what they don’t know. Once the guard is let down, the barrier to collaborative learning is removed and the teacher can focus not only on delivering the knowledge they possess, but also learning from the experiences and knowledge of others.

While vulnerability is often an uncomfortable position, there are several aspects of a Training & Learning Culture that provide satisfaction. By opening our minds to other people’s ideas, we learn new skills and concepts. We also have the satisfaction of watching others develop into tomorrow’s leaders before our very eyes. With a more intelligent and collaborative workforce, we will also watch the firm increase its performance.

By contrast, “At Risk Firms” (those that do not commit to a Training & Learning Culture) have several defining characteristics as well:

  • Command & Control: Intelligence is based on tenure. “I know more than you because I’ve been doing it longer.”
  • Cram Down Attitude: The firm’s leaders are set in their ways. Employees will learn and perform consistently under these conditions, or else they can find another job.
  • Hidden Information: Worried about job security, employees hold onto valuable information for fear of making themselves replaceable.
  • Gamesmanship: A culture of competition. Everyone wants to know more than the others AND prove it.
  • Leaders Learn Nothing: “I’m the leader; there is nothing I could possibly learn from these kids fresh out of school.” The leader’s knowledge gets stale and outdated over time, putting the firm at risk of falling behind.

Focus on Talent Development

Most firms tell us that talent (or people) is their number one asset, but few firms really invest enough into developing that asset. Even if your team has not voiced concerns, they are making note. A firm that continually invests in the development of talent no longer has to worry about retention and attraction. The best and brightest are naturally drawn to the firm, and your star performers won’t be tempted to stray when you are continually investing in their futures.

Culture starts at the top of the firm. Without the commitment of the CEO and firm partners, it is difficult, if not impossible, to build a Training and Learning Culture.  Partners must “talk the talk and walk the walk” to ensure the future success of the firm.

About the Author

Jim Boomer, CPA.CITP, CGMA

Jim Boomer, CPA.CITP, CGMA

Jim Boomer is CEO at Boomer Consulting, Inc.  He is also director of the Boomer Technology Circles, The Producer Circle, The CIO Advantage and an expert on managing technology within an accounting firm.  He also serves as a strategic planning and technology consultant and firm advisor to CPA firms across the country.

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