How Ford benefit from CPD and how your business can too

People need more skills in order to maintain their effectiveness. In that case, why aren’t more employers embracing continuous learning?

In 2011, while working for Ford Motors, Dante Healy was put on assignment to establish internal controls at a newly acquired plant in Romania. The plant had been part government-owned for years and was in need of an upgrade – that included the finance department.

Financial statements were still printed out on dot-matrix printers. None of the senior members of staff had even seen Excel, let alone used it. 

Building continuous learning into careers

When the company did a skills match to see who had the right experience for various roles, those senior staff members fell short. It caused, in Healy’s words, massive disruption. “A lot of senior managers ended up reporting to people who were previously four levels below them. In some cases, we had people who were office administrators, in senior roles, emptying bins. That was a bit of a shock for me. I thought: I don’t want to be there when I’m their age.”

From that point on, Healy built CPD regularly into his schedule and encouraged his team to do the same. His interest in constantly learning led to him becoming the project manager for the accounting centre of excellence in Ford Credit, which involved learning a whole new skillset.

Update your skillset to avoid automation

With the accounting and finance sector changing at a pace its never seen before thanks to technological leaps, changing regulation and shifting business needs, it’s never been more important to keep up to date. According to ONS figures, AAT-level accountants are at 38.39% at risk of having their jobs automated. The best way to avoid that risk is to update your skillset.

And yet, CPD is not prioritised as a part of staff development in many organisations. Healy certainly feels like he’s in the minority. “After formal Finance qualifications are completed, the funding for technical training basically stops and spending is purposed to leadership and tools (Excel/PowerPoint etc),” he says.

Empowering individuals to address skill gaps

While training is readily available in many organisations, CPD offers more than that. As Enterprise Study’s whitepaper on the subject, Supporting CPD in the Workplace, states: “CPD can empower the individual to identify and address skills gaps, and therefore can feed onto and help shape the organisation’s own professional development programmes. It supports individual growth as well as provide the foundation for teams development.”

Because CPD involves everything from courses to individual learning to mentoring, it results in a richer and more tailored learning experience. “It’s an investment in themselves,” says Healy.

Tip: At the end of the day, your employees are working and the more they can come at problems at different angles, the better the solutions that you can derive from them.

Encouraging shared learning

Whatever Healy learns, he shares with his team. In weekly meetings, he also encourages others to share any new learnings that they’ve picked up the previous week. He still is the driving force behind it, but he believes all team leaders in accounting and finance should take an active interest in the CPD their team takes.

“I spend time encouraging my staff to look into their own development across the course of the year, working out with them what areas they should develop and scheduling with HR any courses they might want to take,” he explains.

Tip: The most important thing to take into account when implementing a CPD-inclusive approach to people management is the follow-up. It’s all well and good taking a short course or a webinar, but if the learnings aren’t applied, it’s a waste of time.

Following up on what you learn

At Ford, employees were required to do a follow-up to explain what they’d learned from the training and how they’ve applied it. That might be too bureaucratic for some businesses, says Healy, who believes you can measure effectiveness by being an observant manager.

“For example, if the employee needed to work on their meeting management, have the meetings been smoother and more focused? Have they been more disciplined in terms of keeping to time and having the agenda upfront and organised? It’s really around: have they been applying what they learned in the classes? It involves a bit of observation and making sure that what’s on their development plan in terms of training lines up with what they need.”

In summary

The need for new knowledge and skills isn’t going to go away – if anything, it’s only going to intensify. Healy hopes that more accountants in team leader positions will follow his lead. It may get to the point where CPD becomes an absolute necessity, or people could find themselves in the same position as the senior staff in Romania – essentially cleaning out the bins.

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The content team are the owners of AAT Comment.

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