Companies plan to increase the amounts budgeted for professional development this year, in part to address regulatory compliance.
Nearly one-third of CFOs in a US survey said they planned to spend more on employee development, and another survey by the American Institute of CPAs showed that finance decision-makers predict a 1.8% rise in training budgets for the coming 12 months, the highest projection since the second quarter of 2015.
Compliance remains the most popular training area, according to a survey by global staffing firm Robert Half. Sixty-three per cent of CFOs said their company offered compliance training for accounting and finance employees, followed by software/technology (57%), technical skills (56%), and soft skills (54%).
While 57% of CFOs predict their professional development costs to remain the same, 31% predict an increase, compared with just 11% who predict that budget to shrink. Technology is a large driver of that sentiment. CFOs realise that legacy systems can hold them back from taking on more of a strategic role and that being behind in technology makes a company less attractive to potential employees.
Job candidates will “make assessments to join a company or not often based on the strength of the professional development and training programme,” said Tim Hird, executive director of Robert Half Management Resources.
Hird said the issue facing many organisations is that they see the need to develop staff, but they’re not always finding the funds to devote to development. Another issue is companies committing to an increase in training and rolling out a “cookie-cutter” approach that isn’t applicable to all workers.
Organisations with strong professional development have programmes that can be customised to the worker or the department, Hird said. That customisation comes from seeking feedback from employees when developing training and can go a long way towards determining success.
“A lot of it is how good the organisations are at [listening] to employees about their needs,” Hird said. “Then they understand the key ingredients, as opposed to just rolling out a generic professional development programme that may not impact the majority of employees.”
A strong development programme addresses another common blind spot in organisations today: succession planning. Workers who get the training they need today are putting themselves in position to be the leaders of tomorrow. Plus, offering training in the skills employees seek can help a company’s retention.
Improved training programmes lead to high morale, increased job satisfaction, and a stronger pipeline for future executives, Hird said. Leadership development, he said, “is one way companies can stay ahead of their competitors from a people perspective.”
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—Neil Amato (Neil.Amato@aicpa-cima.com) is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.