Practical Training Tips for Smaller Firms

BY LINDA STEELE

Implementing a training program in a smaller firm does not require a significant financial investment and can be done without hiring a trainer.


A standardized training process can help ensure that all new employees coming into the firm are on the same page and improve retention. Consider these tips for establishing and maintaining a training program in your firm:


 checkbox Purchase training software. For example, an excellent program for testing and training on Microsoft products—Outlook, PowerPoint, Excel, Word and Access—is available at www.ddctraining.com.

checkbox Create a resource book for new employees of processes your firm follows such as standardized signatures or forms. Consider the procedures that are a part of your daily work routine in the firm and make them part of the orientation training.

checkbox Set specific dates each month to offer new-hire training. Establish a training agenda for new hires and introduce them to marketing patterns of your firm such as the areas you sell to and target goals, HR procedures and software used. Bring in speakers for technical skills as well as soft skills such as e-mail etiquette.

checkbox Use the software program Camtasia Studio to capture screen shots with voice layover for training purposes. The software is available at www.techsmith.com . You can easily develop training sessions using this tool.

checkbox Create a training library of resources such as CPE prep books, audit manuals, tax reference books and management skill building books.

checkbox Find grants or tax credits. For example, New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development awards competitive Customized Training Grants to pay for programs that enhance employees’ skills. Georgia has a Retraining Tax Credit that helps pay for training programs and materials. Many states and the U.S. Department of Labor administer similar types of grant programs.

checkbox Use your reps (CCH, RIA, LexisNexis, PayChex, ADP, insurance carriers) for training. They offer many free classes.

checkbox Use DVDs to focus on technical skills. For example, BISK ( www.bisk.com ) sells monthly DVDs that focus on legal and regulatory updates in the tax and audit sectors. Show these at a lunch-and-learn. Have a partner lead a discussion on the DVD’s material to emphasize points relevant to your firm’s clients.

checkbox Videotape all training sessions, even those conducted by outside speakers. This will make the training available to employees who could not attend.

checkbox Create learning plans for your employees and use them as part of the mentoring process. Learning plans allow employees to map out the specific classes they will take to help them advance in the company. Have the employee set training goals and select topics to explore.

checkbox Bring in outside trainers. Use AuditWatch, Surgent McCoy or other speakers and invite other small, local firms to attend and share the costs. Use local college professors to teach specific courses, even soft skills.

checkbox Turn repetitive questions into a weekly or monthly tips e-mail. Include clients and prospects in your training programs or offer training to them in areas where you see a need. Our firm sends out weekly tips on specific training topics to clients and firm employees, usually based on recurring questions or mistakes that we see clients make in Excel or QuickBooks.

checkbox Be creative with training opportunities. Training should not be seen as a mandatory or mundane requirement but, rather, a benefit of employment. Look for unique ways to incorporate fun into the training process to improve the chances of its ­success.

Linda Steele , director of education and training
for Habif, Arogeti and Wynne LLP in Atlanta.

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