Are you prioritising the right type of training?

Mar 12, 2019 | Key Business skills, Networking

Weird question? I know. But stay with me for a moment.

For as long as I can remember accountants have treated CPD as being synonymous with technical training – by which I mean technical updates and courses intended to explain new rules and regulations.

And surely we have to prioritise such training?

As far back as I can recall accountants have always made time to keep their technical knowledge and skills up to date. They want the confidence to know they are at the top of their game. They want to understand the issues that will enable them to advise clients. And they want to minimise the risk of giving negligent advice. There’s also the need to do this because (where relevant) their professional bodies and insurers demand they keep up to date.

But CPD is not the same thing as RTT (Regular Technical Training). Continuing Professional DEVELOPMENT (CPD) demands more of accountants than keeping up to date.

And whilst it’s absolutely necessary to keep up to date, this is rarely sufficient if it is done to the exclusion of all else!

And there’s a big shift coming….

When I first moved away from technical training I wasn’t surprised that I was often speaking to smaller audiences. ‘Soft’ skills were evidently not perceived as important as ‘hard’ technical skills. And those ‘soft’ skill are all just common sense aren’t they? NO they are not!

I have sensed a change in the last year or so. There seems to be a growing awareness of the importance of investing in improving one’s client handling skills and business advisory skills.

I first started researching, what I was already calling, Key Business Skills, in 2007 – after many years of writing, speaking and training accountants in such areas. This is all now becoming ever more important that we stop referencing a simplistic distinction between technical training and soft skills training.

One reason I continually reference KBS is that the more traditional term ‘soft’ skills demeans the skill set and implies they are fluffy or easy.

Previous generations of accountants assumed that you could learn all you needed about business, communication and personal ‘soft’ skills simply by observing your colleagues and the partners. So many accountants have survived (and some have even thrived) regardless of their personal skills And in the past they could focus on the provision of compliance services that didn’t require them to evidence their business knowledge and skills.

We really need to debunk this historical attitude. The world is changing. Accountnats can now secure their technical updates and insights far more easily online than ever before. If you really feel that you LERARN more by attending technical training courses that’s fine. But if you’re like most accountants I know your main reason for attending courses is actually to confirm that you already know stuff and that your knowledge isn’t out of date.

These days the better accountants are much more willing to accept that they don’t know everything, nor do you need to do. When a client has an issue, challenge or problem that is beyond your experience and expertise you need to have the confidence to admit this and to confirm that you will find the answer and/or speak to someone more expert in that area.

Keeping your technical knowledge up to date is part and parcel of what you do – in your own preferred way each day, week or month. That’s fine. And yes, of course that should continue. But, if that’s where you prioritise your continuing PROFESSIONAL development, I think you’re missing a trick. And this is going to become even more obvious in the coming years.

I am absolutely convinced that over the next 5-10 years fewer clients will choose an accountant simply for help with compliance services. And those that continue to do this will need less help than at the moment. This probably means lower fees OR a need for accountants to spend more time communicating with those clients. And, beyond this, accountants will need better promotion, marketing and selling skills to secure more clients especially those who want help, support and advice about their finances and businesses. Traditional technical skills will not be enough for accountants to thrive.

It’s also worth noting that most clients have long taken accountants’ technical knowledge for granted. As Robotic process automation, Intelligent automation and artificial intelligence continue to develop, it is your Key Business Skills (KBS) that will distinguish you from other accountants and make all the difference between success and failure.

Think about which business skills will be key to the development and success of your practice or of your career. There are two sides to this. The KBS you will need to ensure your own success and also those KBS that clients will value, appreciate and pay you to provide.

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