Building a successful accountancy practice starts with empowering each team member to tap into their professional career goals.
Every person in your team will have some plan for their career, but they may not know how to achieve it.
Your goal is to provide a framework to support their learning and advancement, which will in turn lead to their increased confidence and job satisfaction.
In this article, we highlight why career development is so important, what options you can offer your team, and how you can continue to support them on their career paths.
Here’s what we cover:
Why career development is important for your practice employees
Workplace development describes the ongoing process of improving skills as a person explores and refines their career path.
When team members believe that the accountancy practice is concerned with their growth and provides avenues to reach individual career goals, they will feel more confident and be increasingly engaged in their work.
On the other hand, a lack of career development opportunities can result in your team feeling undervalued and unappreciated.
Not only can this lower morale and affect the efficiency of your accounting practice, it can also result in staff resigning from positions where they are unable to see future growth.
High turnover has a material impact on businesses, with the average cost of turnover per employee (earning £25,000 a year or more) being £30,614, according to research by Oxford Economics and income protection providers Unum.
Investing in developing your team’s skills will benefit everyone because it will ultimately bring new knowledge and therefore better processes and technology into the team.
That will free up more time to focus on value-added activities, such as your firm’s strategy, direction, and impact on clients.
Career development options you can offer your team
An accredited course is one that has been approved by a professional body such as ACCA, CIMA or ICAEW.
Your team will have Continued Professional Development (CPD) requirements to complete each year, and you can help encourage their development by being flexible and enthusiastic about attending external CPD trainings.
You could also request to become an accredited training provider and offer in-house training for popular topics.
To further encourage their development, you could schedule regular informal meetings to discuss the varieties of CPD activities that everyone is doing to share their knowledge, recommendations and takeaways with each other.
Not only will it inspire the team, it will give individuals a chance to show off their achievements.
The UK government is putting a spotlight on training with the recently passed Skills and Post-16 Education Act, promising to “level up and drive economic growth across the whole country”.
The focus is on ensuring everyone has the chance to get the training that will lead to a satisfying job.
Among the new measures introduced was a Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE) which, from 2025, will enable learners to “access a flexible loan for higher-level education and training at university or college, which they can use at any point in their lives”.
General training courses
If you’re looking to expand your services, for example offering payroll services to your clients, this would be a great development opportunity for your team.
It will allow members to learn new technical skills as well as take responsibility for a new sector and eventually train others.
Encourage your team to think about non-accounting related skills that would assist them on their career path as well.
Developing new computer skills such as programming and using databases would help them lead the practice in adopting new technology and automation.
The pandemic required many in-person conferences and networking opportunities to become virtual events, and now many of these events have been permanently redesigned to accommodate both remote employees and those keen to return to in-person events.
As a result, it’s easier than ever for your team to attend events whether it’s from home or in-person.
Coaching and mentoring
Formal mentoring programmes have been hugely successful in many businesses, in terms of both employee retention and individual personal and professional growth.
The 2022 LinkedIn global trends report found that professional development opportunities, which included both coaching and mentoring, were the top concern of respondents looking for their next career move.
Mentoring can also be an effective tool for onboarding remote staff.
Although often seen as a transfer of knowledge from experienced team members to more junior employees, mentoring in the workplace is mutually beneficial to both parties.
While senior staff members can offer industry insights and professional guidance, they also can benefit from the fresh perspectives and technological skills of younger employees.
Leadership development programming
Many accountants focus on optimising their accounting or business skills, overlooking leadership development, which is an essential component for professional growth.
It’s easy to focus on what feels like more pressing issues in your practice and put leadership development on the back burner.
But leadership development programmes will teach employees these vital skills:
- How to identify and improve their leadership style
- Communication skills, mastering the art of negotiation, influence and conflict management
- How to effectively connect to people, give constructive feedback, as well as seek feedback from the team.
Leadership development will help young managers prepare for greater responsibility and accelerate their careers by improving their personal leadership skills.
It will also help mid-career managers to create higher value for the practice through strategy training, especially in our current fast-changing global environment, as well as further honing the skills for leading functions.
How to help and support your employees with career development
If you want to prioritise learning and development in your practice, the conversation can’t be reserved for your annual review.
Instead, it needs to be a regular and ongoing discussion with the relevant people.
Having a document that clearly sets out the skills required at each level in the team will be very helpful for the conversation too.
It should provide equal information to everyone and make it straightforward for employees to identify what’s expected of them to be promoted. Setting expectations with salary banding for each level also provides valuable transparency for the team.
Google developed the GROW model to help leaders structure career conversations with their teams:
Goal: What do they want?
A good initial question to jump-start the conversation would be: “What does your career look like in one year, five years, or even 10 years?”
Reassure them it’s OK if their career goals don’t necessarily align with the scope of their current role. You don’t want your team to feel like they have to limit their responses to a perceived career track within your practice.
Having this initial conversation will help reveal different opportunities for learning and development both inside and outside the practice.
Reality: What’s happening now?
Encourage the team to explore which parts of their current role they enjoy doing.
Looking at specific elements of their job will help them to identify the parts that get them excited.
This means you both have a base to build further development opportunities on, and it’s an opportunity for the employee to compare these relevant development opportunities with their career aspirations.
Options/obstacles: What could they do?
Assessing their strengths and weaknesses will help to define areas of development.
Working on their strengths leads to identifying specialisations, while developing on weaknesses will bridge any skill gaps.
It’s great to complete this with them, to help them acknowledge their strengths that they might overlook. We tend to undersell our strengths, because we assume as a particular skill comes so easily to us, it’s not considered a strength.
You also might consider one of their weaknesses a strength, for example, an obsession with details can also be a highly desirable trait in roles requiring high attention to detail.
Way forward: What will they do?
Like all successful goal setting, the key to accomplishing them is to set out a defined plan. So work together with your employees to define a clear development path.
This will allow you both to track their progress, and will empower them to set the pace they work towards these goals.
Future growth of your employees and your practice
In such a competitive job market, the way to retain talented employees is to make career development a priority in your practice.
By keeping regular, open communication with your team, you can ensure each member feels satisfied in their role and can identify continued future growth within the practice.