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TRAINING EQUIPS YOUR TEAM FOR BETTER CLIENT SERVICE

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By Rhys Madoc, CEO, UHY International

March 2022

Clients expect professional service providers to offer the most up to date expertise and advice. Naturally, they expect us to be familiar with relevant legislation changes, regulatory reform, reporting standards and so on. But rightly, they demand more. They want professional service providers that are equipped with the latest skills to help their businesses thrive in a competitive world.

And that mix of skills is changing, as a result of the pandemic and the march of technology. For that reason, training should never be seen as a one-off activity that happens as part of an employee’s onboarding process and never repeated. Training needs to be a continuous journey enabling both growth in knowledge and impact within the firm as well as on client projects. In a fast moving digital world, knowledge that is current today can soon become obsolete. In fact, it has been calculated that the half-life of a work skill is four years. This could mean that every four years our skills become half as valuable. That period is likely to be considerably shorter for technology-based skills.

 

The key to loyalty and longevity

To give our clients the best possible service and advice, we need to continually update our knowledge and upskill our workforce. That’s especially true after a shock such as the Covid pandemic, which highlighted the importance of digital skills around the world.

But continual training serves another purpose. It helps organisations attract and retain the very best talent. It is generally recognised that top employees regard lifelong learning opportunities as a crucial employee benefit.

It is easy to see why. Good employees want their firms to be successful. They also want to equip themselves to thrive in an uncertain future.

Continual training is an effective way for employees to drive careers forward today, and to equip themselves for the career challenges of tomorrow, whether that means economic downturns or the encroachment of AI (artificial intelligence) into the world of work.

Your top employees know that the skills that are useful today may be very different from those they will need in ten years’ time. Organisations that help them continually acquire new capabilities are likely to be rewarded with loyalty and commitment.

 

Learning is securing your future

The benefits of training and development reinforce each other. Continual learning opportunities update your in-house expertise. Employees who feel invested in work harder to deliver better outcomes. It is win-win for firms, colleagues and clients.

In addition, training adds to your organisation’s wider knowledge base, and well trained staff identify new opportunities and contribute to organisational improvements. They help to drive change.

In that respect, continual learning and development is a bona fide way to future proof your firm, because it allows you to offer new services or new ways of working as soon as a demand for them becomes apparent. That can give you first mover advantage.

 

Learning is all encompassing

A key point to recognise is that learning comes in numerous forms. It can mean traditional off-site classroom-based courses, though these days it is just as likely to mean webinars and classes delivered online or over Zoom.

Here at UHY we provide a comprehensive range of training webinars to our member firms around the world, aimed at continually updating both the technical and ‘soft’ skills required for effective performance, and expanding the knowledge base of our global network of great people. In a profession which is continually changing, it is important to ensure the business has all the right skills on board.

But learning and development goes beyond formal classes and courses. It can encompass, for example, work shadowing and mentoring.

At UHY, we encourage member firms to offer secondments. These can fill operational gaps in the short term, build the skills and knowledge of the individual concerned as well as support service delivery to the client.

We find that secondment is especially invaluable when it happens across borders, because it brings our professionals first-hand knowledge of the challenges businesses face when they internationalise their operations. It also exposes them to different ways of solving problems, and helps us become more effective advisors to those of our clients with cross border ambitions.

 

Knowledge and skills are differentiators

UHY’s continual learning programme allows our professionals to update technical skills, keep up with wider developments in accountancy – whether they be international taxation guidelines or smarter tech solutions – alongside developing leadership, management, commercial and team-building skills.

UHY offers lifelong learning and development opportunities because it is the right thing to do. Our network of talented people want long and fulfilling careers, and we want them to build those careers with us.

By investing in their future, we are investing in the success of our clients.

 


Image acknowledgements: Microsoft 365 subscriber content

TALENT MANAGEMENT IN A POST-PANDEMIC WORLD...

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HAS THE PANDEMIC CHANGED THE WAY YOU RECRUIT AND RETAIN YOUR TOP BUSINESS TALENT?

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By Rhys Madoc, CEO, UHY International

September 2021

If it has not done so yet, it probably should. Companies are facing unprecedented challenges with their workforce management. From recruitment to development to retention, the world of work is changing fast. Income pressures, working from home and personal wellbeing have been put under the spotlight. Employers and their clients alike will need to adapt and engage with the risks and opportunities that now present themselves.

According to one report, one in four workers are considering resigning in the wake of the pandemic. Research for Microsoft suggests that 40% of employees globally are thinking about handing in their notice. The fact is, Covid has fundamentally reworked the rules. Employee expectations have changed, and businesses that fail to grasp this fact risk losing good people, may struggle to recruit, and find themselves without the skills they need in a post-pandemic world. Conversely, employers who recognise change and embrace it may find themselves with a competitive advantage and an inflow of talent.

Here are just a few of the ways work has changed in the last 18 months, and what they mean for your talent management strategies:

Remote working

Most obviously, many employees have got used to working from home. They may not want to do it all the time, and there are business benefits to having employees in the same physical space on at least one or two days a week. But flexible work is here to stay for many organisations, often in ‘hybrid’ form. If you do not offer it, and competitors do, attracting top talent and keeping yours, could be much more difficult.

Wellbeing

According to the Microsoft study I referenced above, exhaustion and burn out are leading many employees to start contemplating a simpler life. High productivity during the pandemic has masked the fact that many employees feel overwhelmed, isolated and anxious. Businesses need to recognise this fact. Those that heighten their focus on employee wellbeing are likely to reap the rewards of greater loyalty and higher retention rates. A corporate culture that judges performance on the quality of work employees produce, rather than the time they spend at their desks, is likely to win out in the “new normal”.

Competition

It will not have gone unnoticed by your most valuable employees that a new acceptance of home working means the pool of businesses they could work for has grown exponentially. Quite simply, they no longer have to live within commuting distance of work. While this could threaten the stability of your team, it is also an opportunity. Some of our member firms are already finding that the ability to recruit new staff outside the office catchment has widened. Others like the idea of being able to open smaller regional offices to support hybrid working.

Naturally these are new considerations that may enhance your strategies – they will not replace the core motivations of having an employee-centric company culture. Flexible working is certainly part of that, but you might also consider other benefits that employees consider of real value, like continual learning opportunities and enhanced parental leave.

Technology

The pandemic has proved technology’s worth to the extent that, according to a recent McKinsey survey, Covid has accelerated many businesses’ digital transformation strategies by three or four years.

Businesses that do not keep up risk losing talent to those that do, because your employees want those digital tools. They want easier communication and collaboration, and they want automation that takes dull and repetitive “drudge” work away and leaves them free for more creative or challenging tasks.

Organisational change

As a professional services provider we know you rely on us having the right people in the right places to help you successfully meet business challenges. There is no doubt that for the accountancy profession, accelerating technology adoption provides challenges of its own.

Game-changing technology like artificial intelligence, deep data analytics, cloud accounting and, in the future, blockchain technologies, require a new injection of skills and expertise into professional businesses like ours, and talent strategies will need to reflect the changing shape of organisations. Some experts predict that effective professional practices will shift from a traditional hierarchy (pyramid) to a more diamond shape, with a ‘fat middle’ of specialists recruited and developed to manage a wide range of products, processes and technologies, enabling partners and experienced audit and accounting managers to focus on client relationships. This makes for a very different career path compared to traditional rungs of the ladder, and I am already seeing this in our own network as member firms realign their people strategies and business models to best meet the needs of clients.

Our collaborative culture

Over the 35 years that the UHY network has been operating, our member firms have created a global culture that promotes collaboration between colleagues, regardless of geography.

When clients need specialist expertise, or partners need fresh ideas to invigorate their business, our people can call on an international network of colleagues for assistance. Help is only ever a call or email away and this has been critical during the pandemic.

I truly believe our collaborative culture makes for a better client service; it also makes UHY member firms better places to work and develop a career.


Image acknowledgements:
Homeworking, Photo by May Gauthier on Unsplash
Screens, Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash
Video meeting, Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash