by Kenneth M. McCall of Boomer Consulting
Let’s assume that by now you are convinced of the need to be more aggressive in your training program and you want to get started. “Who has the time to do all that?” It is a question well asked. The answer, for many firms, is a full or part-time training coordinator who will assume the responsibility for planning, conducting and evaluating your training program. Where, and how, will you find such a person?
Commitment of the Firm
First, you must make sure you are not alone in your commitment to training in general and the training coordinator in particular. Hiring and supporting such a person will require a commitment of resources and the emotional support of all involved. Nothing could be worse than recruiting and hiring a good training coordinator, getting them started and having people involved, only to have some partner faction rise up and say, “This is too expensive.” Convince your partners of the value and need, and get their support before you begin!
When it’s time to hire a training coordinator, begin by analyzing and determining the requirements of the job. A good job description is imperative and, in writing one, you need a clear understanding of what the job requires. The principal duty of this person is to organize your training program but not necessarily to conduct all the training. Therefore, a background in classroom teaching is not necessarily a prerequisite. Some very good training coordinators come from the ranks of teachers but many others do not. The real skills required involve the management of the training program . . . the ability to analyze requirements, assess current levels of proficiency and design specific training programs to address the needs identified. The training coordinator obtains, or arranges for, the required training resources, the availability of the facilities and the availability and selection of instructors. Upon completion of training, and the evaluations which follow, the training coordinator needs to maintain accurate records to ensure proper educational credit. (i.e. CPE, certification credit, etc.) Periodically, they will report to the owner group on the progress of training. If this suggests a strong management background, you are correct. Most important are their organizational and analytical skills along with creative problem solving. A good training coordinator will have at least a bachelor’s degree (the area of specialization is not as important) and several years of business experience in the technical training field.
Once you’ve determined the qualifications you want and crafted a detailed job description, you are ready to start your search. First, you must decide the scope by which you wish to recruit. Do you want to search nationwide, regionally, or in your local area? The answer to this question will drive your decision as to which advertising media you will select. If you are recruiting locally, try state society job fairs, newsletters and, of course, the local newspaper. Write your advertisement in a manner that sounds exciting. Focus on the challenges and the rewards; your candidate will have plenty of both! If you are willing to recruit nationwide and perhaps pay for some relocation expenses, try the Internet job bank recruiting sites (i.e. http://www.monster.com and http://www.headhunter.net). Of course, once you have received contacts and resumes from interested candidates, you will follow all the normal procedures for selecting the best applicant. Be sure, however, to keep in mind the skills for which you are recruiting and the personality and work style that go with the job. Don’t hire a training coordinator just because they look like a good accountant!
Once you have made your selection and your new training coordinator has come to work, be sure to provide them with a good firm orientation. Remember, this person may not be familiar with the inner workings of a CPA firm. If they come from another industry background, they will need coaching on the culture of the firm. Everything from WIP, time entry and billing policies to the intricacies of the partners’ calendars should be covered. Be sure to bring everyone in the firm, along with the training coordinator, up to date on who they will report to and take directions from. Generally, we have seen the best results when the training coordinator reports directly to the managing partner or firm administrator and not to the network administrator or senior technical person. Make sure any additional duties of the training coordinator, (i.e. help desk support or other computer related duties) are spelled out and understood by all.
Most training coordinators will need little technical training on general computer systems and software. They will, however, need to know something about the specialized software the firm uses. They don’t need to know how to prepare a tax return, but when someone mentions “depreciation schedule” or “client organizer”, the training coordinator needs to know what it is and how it fits into the mix of required skills. A few hours spent with knowledgeable people from each of the major departments within the firm will be time well spent. The training coordinator does not need advanced technical certifications such as, Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) or Certified Novell Engineer (CNE), however, you might consider getting them trained and tested for certification as a Microsoft Office User Specialist (MOUS). The Mous is a user level certification program which focuses on basic and advanced skills for those who use Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access or Outlook. In addition to sharpening their skills for task training, this level of proficiency will assist them in providing on the spot, desk-side assistance to others throughout the firm.
Remember that your training coordinator is “non-billable” for the most part. Occasions when you will generate direct revenue from this person are few and most times unusual circumstances. However, remember the reason you hired them in the first place was to make everyone around them more productive. Therefore, it is reasonable to include the training coordinator in any general or shared production bonuses that you pay the staff. The formula for doing this is as varied as the number of firms, however, if you pay a percentage of results as a performance bonus, remember the training coordinator helped get you there. This person will bring a unique and valuable set of skills to your firm and you will quickly become dependent on them. Be prepared to pay fairly to keep them.
The training coordinator is a relatively new concept within the accounting profession. But, given the trends and demographics at work in the industry, enhancing productivity from existing staff is more important than ever. A qualified training manager, in tune with the needs and objectives of the firm and abreast of the latest training tools and technologies, can make an indispensable difference in firm-wide productivity. Remember, as you recruit and hire, you are not hiring an accountant. Focus on the required skills, orient the new person to your culture and methods and reward them for their successes. Be prepared to be pleased with the results!
This article was contributed by Kenneth M. McCall of Boomer Consulting