Disruption in accounting; building advisory services

There is no doubt accounting firms are under pressure for both fees and service delivery. This can be considered disruption. There are a few reasons for this pressure and it will only intensify. Here are some reasons:

* Businesses are questioning the amount of fees they pay annually for compliance services against the perceived value they receive from these services.
* Accounting firms are facing a technology tidal wave that will shift much of the compliance work to ‘bots’ that deliver higher accuracy and cost a fraction of a qualified accountant.
* The complex operating environment facing companies is encouraging them to seek outside expertise to remain competitive and sustainable; unfortunately they rarely look at their accountants to provide such services.

These disruptive changes are compelling proactive firms to focus on developing other capabilities to maintain and grow revenue. The most common focus is on building revenue from advisory services. One would normally think accounting firms are well positioned to delivery advisory services. They may be well positioned, but many lack the competencies needed to uncover opportunities, scope advisory projects and execute the delivery phase for a successful result.

We were engaged to help a firm build an advisory capability without increasing the headcount. Our project including a number of phases that included strategic planning, business model development, behavioural competency assessment, training and coaching. Our process included a small digital transformation with the inclusion of work to improve use of the incumbent information management system, CRM and the introduction of a learning management system, (LMS).

We implemented a learning management system to support our transition strategy as well as sustain competency development across the firm. Below are some of the key outcomes we have achieved thus far with the LMS.

* Communities of practice to foster sharing of ideas, best practices and content.
* Learning linked to performance reviews and career planning.
* Tracking learning and participation in communities of practice.
* Self-publishing content using standard tools like PowerPoint, Sway, audio and video.
* Team publishing by practice teams to share with teams in other locations and colleagues.

Our ongoing strategic focus for the LMS includes:

* Eliminate knowledge drain.
* Replicate the learning across the organisation at lower cost.
* Develop individual learning pathways for advisors based on subject matter expertise and market sector focus.

Is Productivity Killing Your Business?

Productivity is a hugely popular topic and there is no shortage of authors, teachers and ‘gurus’ out there to help you get more productive. You may be using Microsoft Outlook at work but if you do a search on ‘productivity apps’ you will get an avalanche of options for your laptop, phone and tablet. Productivity is a big deal and big business. It has advanced way beyond the days of sending people to a time management program and see them return with a paper planner in a binder. If you don’t remember those days you did not miss much.

Do you ever wonder why key strategic milestones and projects are not completed successfully and on time? Is your organisation slow to respond to changing internal external pressures? Are you only discovering failed or stalled projects when it is too late?

Organisational and team productivity is not always a sum of the ‘parts.’ Every person in a team may be highly productive but this does not always translate to overall productivity when measured by successfully achieving objectives. As a leader you need to take a deeper dive and build processes that will ensure productive activity achieves outcomes.         Strategy Cascade.001

Our process on a high level includes the following and we may go into a deeper dive in subsequent posts. In addition we have a number of tools to help teams and managers execute tasks and achieves tasks more effectively.

  1. Your corporate or organisation’s strategy must be clearly ‘cascaded’ to the individual level. Each person must have ‘line of sight’ from their role to the overall strategy.
  2. Your strategy should be broken down into goals, objectives and tasks in alignment with your structure and the strategic horizons assigned to roles and job titles in your business. This is a very simple structure.
  3. The most difficult phase of achieving excellence in execution is changing the way people work together and introducing systems and discipline in at least one management process. This process includes the following steps:
  • Weekly team meetings with a structure set of questions coupled with accurate note taking, task creation, task assignments and follow up. The manager meets with the team every week.
  • The agenda is fast and focused.
    • What are you working? Is it on your work plan and/or task list?
    • Is there anything or person disrupting or distracting you from achieving completion?
    • The manager asks, “What can I do to ‘clear the path’ or support you in achieving your tasks?” This is recorded as well.
    • The manager has one day or less to follow up with the person on actions taken.

4. The meetings are fully documented and retained. I have clients who use OneNote or          Evernote to record these meetings. The information captured is excellent for use in      management meetings, reporting up the organisation and for performance reviews with the manager and team members.

This can be a major change program depending upon existing systems and processes in your business and the culture you have. This type of process must be implemented at all levels of the organisation and not focused on one business unit or functional area. All managers who will be conducting the weekly team meetings must be trained in how to conduct them and record information. If a manager is away for any reason the weekly meetings must still occur.

The end in mind for this change initiative is achieving higher levels of engagement, adaptability and competitiveness. You achieve these outcomes by enabling people to work effectively to achieve your strategic objectives.

Best Practices to Achieve 70:20:10

Here is a list of the five best practices e-learning courseware design elements, that when used together, can help your learners make the transition from the formal e-learning space to application on the job—thus moving you closer to achieving 70:20:10 in your learning mix.

Specific Instructions

Rather than rely on simulations or exercises in your courses or workshops, which is still part of the 10%, provide the learner with step by step instructions on how to apply the course on the job.

This will eliminate the issue that David V. Day mentioned in his article about “happenstance and ad hoc at best.” The structure and guidance on how to handle the situation is provided—nothing is left to chance. The learner will know exactly what to do.

Keep Courses Short

Most e-learning courses tackle more than one topic. Here is an example, communication skills training. Communication skills training covers numerous topics ranging from listening skills to non-verbal communication skills to knowing your audience and so on.

Instead of one long communication course, an alternative training method would be to provide short courses also known as micro-learning, chunked learning, or bite sized learning.

They all mean the same thing: learning content that is broken down into small bite sized chunks or one single learning topic or learning objective per course.

This allows the learner to select the exact course to meet individual need at the time of need. When too many topics are addressed at the same time, the learner wastes time getting to the point in the course that applies to their particular need.

Employees and leaders have no patience for wading through information, thus wasting their time. This can lead to low e-learning course utilization.

Job Aids

Provide the learner with job aids they can use on the job in conjunction with the step by step instructions.

Job Aids make it easy for the learner to complete the exercise. Removing barriers to completing the exercise will help your learners start and finish the on-the-job exercise.

Mobile

To help your learner complete the  instructions on the job, in an actual work situation, the learning content needs to be able to be accessed on a hand held device.

Each step that the learner needs to go through to access the information acts as a barrier. Eliminate as many of them as possible.

Self Assessment

Most e-learning courses end with a quiz that measures knowledge acquisition. This is appropriate in formal training.

However, if you are designing courses that provide structure for the 70%, add an assessment that asks the learner to reflect on his/her experience and the skill building activities after the step by step instructions.

As Charles Jennings suggests, this is an important component to learning in the 70%.


David Patterson, a director of Learning Light
, which owns the E-Learning Center and provides advice and help to organizations using e-learning and learning technologies to improve their business performance, explained:

“It’s now well accepted—and research shows—that 70% of development happens on the job, 20% happens through coaching and mentoring, and the last 10% comes through formal learning, including e-learning and instructor-led workshops.”

“Vado’s courses are the only off-the-shelf courseware that helps learners to make the transition from the formal learning environment to applying that learning on the job.”

He continued, “Basically, Vado not only espouses the 70:20:10 model but its e-learning courses embody the model’s principles, using the 10% to deliver the 70% and thus, make the learners and the organizations they work for more productive and profitable.”

Incorporate the Best Practices

Combine these five design elements to create e-learning courseware that will help the learner apply on the job to….

  • Leverage the natural way a person develops
  • Provide structure to the 70%
  • Lower your training and development costs
  • Increase personal performance
  • Increase organizational performance

70:20:10 in Action

To see an employee soft skill development or management development course created using the five design elements listed above, contact us and we will give you a demonstration.

5 Tactics to Support Your Employee Engagement Strategy [Part Three]

When you were taught how to swim did you experience the shock and awe of being forced to enter the water while consumed in fear?  Or were you first coached on the pool deck and acclimated psychologically and physically for the inevitable entry into the unknown environment of a large body of water?

If you have been in the workforce for some years, chances are you have experienced the shock and awe and/or the coaching method of training and development.  If you have been around as long as I have you have probably experienced both to differing degrees.

Training and development is not an optional tactic – it is a critical component to your engagement strategy.  It demands its own structured strategy and measurements to ensure it is delivering results for your organization.  The training and development starts on day one [or before] with an effective on-boarding program and continues thereafter in a roadmap of personal and professional development that enhances a person’s ability to contribute to the organization and grow as a human being.  Lofty?  You bet.

Here are a few prime elements that I have found contribute to a solid and effective training and development tactical component to your engagement strategy.

  • There is a linkage between a person’s position or job title to at least one of their learning pathways.  This is often compliance based.
  • The learning and development has a mix of modalities and these do not need to be concurrent – they can occur at different times and for different purposes.  For example:
    • Quality online self paced learning programs.
    • Webinars, seminars and discussion groups.
    • Targeted coaching programs with agendas and feedback.
    • Mentoring programs – particularly effective for succession planning.
    • The business owners and/or leaders are engaged and committed to the learning and development activities in the organization.
    • There is alignment between the organisation’s strategy and the learning and development programs down to the individual level.
    • Learning activities of employees are visible to managers.
    • Learning and development is included in the performance management strategy.
    • Learning for personal development and interests is included in the offerings for all employees.  [I cannot count how many clients initiate an LMS implementation with compliance and corporate learning the only pathways].

I realize I could go on and on with this list.  Give me a call or email me and we can share some more ideas.  If you are seeking some ideas or help in developing or implementing an engagement strategy,  I can help you out.

9 Tips for Effective Performance Management

9 Tips for Improving Performance Management

 

1.  Performance management is a process and not an event.  Include performance management in one-to-one meetings between managers and employees throughout the year.  This can include discussions on barriers to execution, lack of clarity on projects/tasks, resource availability, learning opportunities among many others.

 

2.  Create easy to use and easy to understand performance appraisal forms whether they are online or paper based.  I have seen some that include scoring formulas and ranking scales that are way too complicated.

 

3.  Ensure there is ‘line of sight’ between an individual’s goals and the organisation’s strategy.

 

4.  Offer coaching and interpersonal communication skills development to managers who may need this training to conduct better performance appraisals and strengthen interpersonal relationships.

 

5.  Include competencies in the appraisal as one means of structuring development plans.

 

6.  There must be follow up actions from the performance appraisals.  Too often appraisals are filed away never to be seen again.

 

7.  Ensure the whole performance management processes are on the radar of the management team.  Performance management should be a regular topic in meeting agendas dealing with organisational health, succession planning, tactical and strategic decision making.

 

8.  Perform some quality control by undertaking interviews with selected employees to gain feedback on how satisfied they are with the performance management process.   Look for some common feedback and ask some good questions to learn how the process can be improved.

 

9.  Your performance appraisal process should include at least one face-to-face meeting with the manager and employee present.  At the very least this could be an online meeting with cameras turned on.  Believe it or not, I have worked with one company that had a performance appraisal process that only included inputs from the manager and employee entered separately.

 

Performance management has had a bad reputation for too long based on lousy design, planning and execution.  I think the term ‘performance management’ is pretty bad as well but at this point it is a commonly understood term.   When done well, performance management can be a positive contributor to organisational health and employee engagement.  If you are interested in more information and ideas on how to make your performance management processes more effective then you can get in touch and we will help you out. performance management processes more effective then you can get in touch and we will help you out.