Why Accounting Firms Need to Prioritise CPD for Staff

Posted on 10th August 2017 in Advisory

Written by Freya Hughes

You need your team to be working together to raise the profile of your firm. Presenting a united front in your firm, all selling high-value services with confidence, is the best way of ensuring you can become head and shoulders above the competition. But how can you raise the skillset of your entire team? Continuing professional development (CPD) is the easiest way for staff to build upon what they already know and develop their expertise. The industry has come a long way, and in the last decade it’s evolved to be almost unrecognisable. To stay in the game, you need your entire team on the same page and ready to promote, sell and implement your new, value-added services.

CPD, or Continuing Professional Development, is the best way to enhance the qualifications of your staff. It’s the process of tracking and documenting the skills, knowledge and experience that you gain both formally and informally as you work, beyond any initial training. Think of it as a record of what you experience, learn and then apply. For them, they’ll find they’re learning how to become more competent and efficient in their roles. Your staff will become agile – able to adapt to changes and developments in industry and in your firm – and have the ability to identify and close up gaps in their knowledge. For your firm, your brand perception will be increased, and employing it internally encourages and promotes a good learning culture. In turn, you’ll notice that your team are more fulfilled in their roles, so staff retention will not be a worry.

What is CPD good for?

It’s a great way to combine education and work. The hours spent, and credited, must be recorded and are mostly completed in the individual’s own time. You can, of course, allow staff to complete their training within working hours but that’s left to your own discretion. The learning hours spent are usually converted into points, and are defined through training, online testing, seminars and workshops. Firms that are resistant to changes like investing in CPD are likely to fail as staff won’t be as qualified as they could be. Resistance comes when people don’t understand how beneficial these are, and have no idea how to get started. CPD will keep your practice relevant and fast-track your (and your team’s) learning.

Professional Accounting Organisations (PAOs) are one of the main suppliers of CPD to those who’ve joined their membership. Professional accounting and auditing firms also provide significant CPD both to their employees and also employees of their clients. What differentiates these courses, however, is their focus. Most CPDs focus predominantly upon the ‘how’ of converting your firm’s skills to advisory level. This is a great thing to know and learn, however you’ll find there’s no explanation of ‘why’.

Walk before you run

We’ve noticed that many CPD suppliers have introduced very broad courses. While it’s great to obtain a broad knowledge we’ve found, from speaking with our community of bookkeepers and accountants, that what’s needed is a ‘back to basics’ introduction to advisory and grows from there. Like with any course, you need to get a handle on the basics: walk before you run. Browsing courses, you’ll notice that many promote themselves in such a way that opens up an individual’s job opportunities. We really do believe that it’s more important for people doing CPD to understand the value of what they do for their clients, not just themselves.

Business is becoming more complex, so it’s fundamental you and your firm keep up. We know that people learn in different ways, so that’s why we’ve ensured certification is a varied course, covering different topics in diverse ways.

Read the science behind people’s learning preferences

Happy staff will stick

Your staff will appreciate additional training. Giving them the support to grow their skills and knowledge is going to benefit both parties, as you’ll find you can adjust your pricing structure with more valuable services. Your team will feel nurtured, and having the ability to sell their clients better services they actually need will increase their job satisfaction. Nobody wants to be shackled to endless compliance tasks, so entering them into a CPD will help them have more fun at work.

Humans are a social bunch in general, and contact time with clients will enable your team to grow meaningful professional relationships with clients. Most accountants are a dab hand at maths, but after years of staring at a wall of numbers their clients don’t understand it’s time to evolve the working day to have variety. It’ll keep your staff engaged, and there will be no more sleepwalking through the day.

Unify the team

Getting your entire team on board is a must. Explain exactly how CPD will benefit them and you as a company is certainly step one. It’s like when you have your clients implement KPIs and structure for their business – they need every person on their books working towards the same goal.

Once the entire team is trained up, you’ll find you can add a lot of revenue to your bottom line. When we spoke to early adopters of advisory services, Blu Sky Chartered Accountants, Lead Account Manager Sam Wood told us,

“The whole team are now so eager to sell forecasting to clients because they understand the value of it for businesses across the board, not just larger companies.”

You can see this adds a whole lot of value to services. Certification takes you right from the basics of forecasting, right up to what-if scenarios, and in-depth non-financial forecasting. If you consider how much a given business would benefit from these services, upping their revenue and streamlining their operation, just think how much you could be charging for them.

Read the full case study with Blu Sky here

Educate and deliver

Business owners expect and demand higher levels of service than ever before. But, we know change is hard. That’s why we’ve focused on your education and implementation. It’s crucial to get both sides of this right, as without the right delivery you may find there’s little to no interest in your new services. Certification lays out a step by step process for you to promote your new services.

You’ll be loaded up with information as to how and why your clients need your new services. When you near the end of our course, you’ll see some more insight from Blu Sky. They’ve positioned their new services so successfully, their firm is all but unrecognisable. You’ll need to prepare yourself for a big overhaul in your website, social media and perhaps even branding, as you need to align your entire firm with advisory. You’re jumping from a standard to high-level place in industry, so it’s essential to get this right from the off.


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