Did you know that people who work for companies that invest in their continued learning are 80% more likely to feel happy in their jobs? And 40% of team members who receive poor training will leave their role within the first year?
Extensive training is vital when building a committed and engaged client team that delivers excellent customer service. Training your team members to better understand the accounting industry and your clients’ industries, anticipate the needs of their accounts and communicate effectively is one of the best investments you can make as an accounting firm.
With effective training, your client team will be better equipped to provide high-quality customer care and adhere to best practices. Traditionally, this kind of training would almost always happen in person, but today a wealth of online learning tools are available.
It can be hard to understand which option is better for your client team’s training. Traditional in-person training or online self-paced learning? To help you make the right decision for your client team training, we’ve broken down some of these training delivery methods' pros and cons.
The case for in-person training
In-person training is the more hands-on approach of the two. Client team members are invited to training sessions at a specific date, time and location where an instructor leads the group through various activities.
The benefits of in-person training
There are several clear benefits to in-person training. The most obvious is that it allows for a more collaborative learning experience. During an in-person training session, team members will likely learn from each other’s input and questions and benefit from group discussions.
It’s not only an opportunity for learning but team building, allowing team members who might not usually have cause to work together to enjoy a chance to get to know each other better.
In-person training also allows for a more interactive experience. Learners can ask questions and request further clarification from the session leader, potentially allowing for a deeper understanding of the topic.
This kind of hands-on, interactive training is often a lot more engaging for learners, and it’s been shown that active learning activities such as group discussions can significantly improve information retention.
Lastly, you can wholly tailor the content of the sessions to your firm and your client team’s specific requirements. If they struggle with scope creep but are great at time management, the teacher can spend more time focusing on the former, providing a more effective session.
The disadvantages of in-person training
However, there are drawbacks to in-person training. For example, if you have a large team, finding a time and place that suits all your team members can be hard. Team members in client-facing roles typically have busy schedules, and you may receive kickback from clients if your entire team is out of the office at the same time. That means some team members may miss the sessions and lose out on vital training. What’s more, sessions held in a set location can be especially tricky to organise if a team’s members are dispersed across the city (or country).
In-person training sessions are often intensive, spanning several hours or days, with a lot of information shared in a short amount of time. While some people may flourish in this environment, other learners may feel overwhelmed and disengage from the session. All other benefits are redundant if your team cannot benefit from the session.
In-person learning can also incur higher costs, with the trainer’s fees for their time and expertise, the rent for the session space if your office is not large enough, and accounting for the cost of your team’s wages while they are away from their desks.
How to implement in-person training
How you implement in-person training will vary depending on how the session is being delivered. For example, if it is being led by a team member or by an external facilitator you’ve contracted.
The best training accounts for the different learning styles amongst the group by making use of a range of activities. It’s a good idea to intersperse the delivery of information with interactive exercises which allow your team to process what they’ve just learned. This also helps to keep engagement up during long sessions where people’s energy and focus might begin to dip.
Using various materials and methods can help keep in-person training sessions engaging and informative. A mix of digital presentations, paper handouts, and group discussions will keep the session varied and help team members to absorb this new information.
If the session runs over an entire day, create a schedule and stick to it. Just like at school, short and regular breaks will keep motivation and energy up and prevent attention from drifting. A schedule will also make sure the trainer doesn’t spend too long on one topic and end up rushing later on.
The case for self-paced learning
Self-paced learning is training that is accessed online and can be completed at each learner's own pace.
The benefits of self-paced learning
Self-paced learning is a fantastic tool for remote teams who rarely get the chance to meet in person. It’s easier to set your client team up with a course hosted online as it usually only requires the learner to have access to the internet and enough time to complete the work within the set time frame. This reduces the pressure on busy team members who might work at a slower pace and need more time to complete assignments.
Plus, it doesn’t matter exactly when they complete it, meaning they can set aside time to focus on their learning at a time that suits their schedule, flexing it around client calls and internal meetings. Learners often prefer this method as they can set aside time for studying when they know they won’t be distracted.
Online learning has been linked to increased income for almost 42% of organisations that have tried it, and it reportedly reduces energy consumption by 90% compared to classroom learning. It is a scalable option that allows you to provide every member of your client team with a consistent and engaging training tool.
Lastly, online learning will be preferred by introverted team members who may be hesitant to contribute to group discussions or find long training days overwhelming. As always, it’s important to find a solution that benefits everyone.
The disadvantages of self-paced learning
An ongoing challenge associated with online work and learning is that it reduces opportunities for teamwork and collaboration, which many team members enjoy.
It can also make it harder to hold team members accountable for their learning. While online learning is flexible and important to prioritise, you can’t guarantee your team will engage with it when other pressing or more interesting tasks require their attention.
Finally, there is the challenge of customisation. In-person training can be tailored to your team’s needs, while the most widely accessible online learning tools may not offer the features or content you’d like.
You can create your own training content on more flexible platforms or even develop your own software, but this is time-consuming, costly and requires frequent updating to avoid it becoming outdated.
How to implement self-paced learning
The first thing to do when deciding to implement a self-paced learning program is to identify your goals, timeline, and expectations for the learning program. This will help guide you when choosing an online training platform, as there are dozens of options on the market. Two to consider are Mercia, one of the leading providers of training services in the UK accounting profession, and Auzmor, which features an easy-to-use course builder.
Set clear goals and expectations for your client team to help them get the most out of their training. We recommend making the experience engaging and social by creating an online learning community. Some software offer these capabilities, but if yours doesn’t, you can create your own using a Slack or Teams channel dedicated to online learning. Here, team members can ask each other questions and celebrate progress.
It’s important to measure progress using assessments which allow team members to demonstrate their knowledge. Even though this process happens remotely and at the learner’s pace, make sure it’s kept top of mind by monitoring their progress via the tool and addressing any issues in regular team meetings.
Making the right choice for your team
Each learning delivery method has pros and cons, so it’s essential to consider the best approach for your team. We often find that, unless our clients are fully remote, they prefer a hybrid approach. Supplement in-person training with online resources such as Pixie’s learning academy and video library, giving your client team the best of both worlds.
If you want to learn more about how to set your client team up for success with Pixie’s learning resources, why not book a demo?