Who Needs Orientation Training?

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Arriving for my first day of work on my first job in public accounting a partner took me to a client’s office to begin an audit. After seating me in the conference room, he stacked several large journals and ledgers and many bank statements on the table in front of me. As he left for another appointment he told me to prepare a “proof of cash” while he was gone. Not remembering that term from college Audit 101, I began to search the client records trying to find a proof of cash! When the partner returned several hours later I was still searching!

My first on-the-job experience, like those of many staff assistants, wasted valuable time (not to mention it made me feel like a dummy!). With no training to familiarize new hires with firm philosophies, engagement strategies and various software applications, considerable time is wasted on engagements.

You’ve probably heard the arguments. Our firm is too small for orientation training. We don’t have time to create a formal program. We can’t bill the training time…and so on. It’s true. Time is money for a CPA firm and orientation training isn’t billable. It’s a costly decision to buy into three or four days of unbillable time charges for each new staff person. The important question is, however, “What does it cost not to provide orientation training?

Time spent orienting staff assistants during engagement performance not only increases engagement time for learning firm polices and practice aids, it usually results in more mistakes by new staff persons that, in turn, require more supervision and review time to fix. While some of this learning will be memorable for staff persons, it usually will be engagement specific and probably won’t address the foundational issues that should be included orientation training. In short, the lack of orientation training costs a lot, for a long time!

Many state societies of CPAs and other publishers sell orientation training packages which can be tailored to meet a firm’s specific needs. The cost of these materials and the time to train new hires is small when compared to the costs of not providing this important training. Tell us about your firm’s approach to orientation training.

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