Finance isn’t Doing Enough Training: 4 Areas Employees Want to Focus on

With Brexit posing a potential threat to the supply of migrant workers, there is a pressing need for UK companies to nurture talent. But is the finance sector doing enough to develop staff and offer skilled career progression?

Reed Finance asked senior finance professionals what they thought and Rob Russell, Director of Reed Finance, shares some of the key findings with Finance Monthly.

The need to invest in the development of staff should be a top priority for any organisation. Employees who feel supported and have the opportunity to extend their skill sets are more likely to remain with a business, which in turn can benefit from a stable and committed workforce.

Skills development within the finance sector is a current hot topic with the acknowledgement of a growing skills gap, not helped by the uncertainty surrounding Brexit’s impact on the labour market. A skills gap that is not addressed will lead to a lack of competiveness as companies struggle to fill important roles with qualified staff.

We polled 600 senior finance professionals to gauge their opinions around staff development, what could be holding firms back from investing further, and the important areas requiring a skills development and training focus.

However, it is important to look at the type of skills needed for a successful career in finance. Our recently published interactive report ‘State of Skills’ analysed Google and O*NET data from the past 10 years for typical accountancy and finance roles. It found that written and verbal communication is prized by employers of finance professionals. This could be due to the future strategies of companies wishing to see finance executives take on leadership roles which entail not only technical soundness, but also an ability to inspire and work as a leader of teams – with ‘active listening’ and ‘oral comprehension’ some of the most important skills for a CFO to have.

We were also interested in where finance leaders thought skills gaps were, and how they were planning to tackle them. We polled 600 senior finance professionals to gauge their opinions around staff development, what could be holding firms back from investing further, and the important areas requiring a skills development and training focus.

  1. Current status

When asked to describe their organisation’s current status when it comes to investment in skills and training, about two thirds believe that the level was adequate for their company needs.

However, 35% of those questioned said that the investment levels were not high enough, and when asked why this was, they answered that there were ‘other business priorities’ to take care of first. This could be a false economy for such organisations, as this direction of travel will inevitably lead to an under skilled and, perhaps, demotivated workforce and all the subsequent issues this would create.

  1. The training barriers

Questioned on the potential barriers that mean training investment is not what it should be, a number of constraints were cited. Chief among them was the belief that budgets are tight and training resources under pressure within their organisation. This was followed by an admission that time pressures were too great to allow more focus on staff development.

Interestingly, a quarter said there is no guarantee that staff would remain with the organisation once they had been trained and the investment in time and resources would be effectively wasted. This is a pessimistic outlook when the converse could be argued. Employees could be more predisposed to stay with a business that is prepared to help support and develop them. Unenthusiastic employees and apprenticeship levy issues were also highlighted as barriers, but only by a few finance professionals.

Interestingly, a quarter said there is no guarantee that staff would remain with the organisation once they had been trained and the investment in time and resources would be effectively wasted.

  1. Areas of focus

The current advancement in new technology and software across the sector was identified by respondents as a vital area for training. As more organisations invest in growing technological capabilities, the need for employee training to optimise their potential needs to increase. This area of employee development was, by some distance, the most strongly articulated in the research findings, outstripping the more traditional areas of skills training such as accounting information, auditing, financial accounting and tax accounting.

It would appear that a focus on supporting staff as new technology enters the sector should become a top business priority both to meet business need as well as employee demand.

  1. The role of training

Asked what they believe the role of training to be within an organisation, three views dominated the answers. There was general consensus that the purpose of training is to improve overall company efficiency, as well as enhance individual skillsets for the general good of the organisation. These two opinions were closely followed by a need to retain staff and to have better career progression internally.

With the current uncertainty around Brexit and its potential threat to the availability of skilled migrant workers, there is a pressing need for British business to develop and nurture its own talent pool.

Some stated that a proactive training-centric business philosophy leads to the creation of a positive company culture. This not only retains staff, but can act as tangible attraction when it comes to the task of attracting new talent in the face of increasing competition.

With the current uncertainty around Brexit and its potential threat to the availability of skilled migrant workers, there is a pressing need for British business to develop and nurture its own talent pool. By valuing employees and supporting them to grow in their roles, businesses can enhance their reputation, become an employer of choice for those seeking new positions, and be rewarded with a lower employee turnover that creates a more stable platform for the rest of the company.

 

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