Figures published by the Office for National Statistics show that once again, Britain is facing a productivity crisis. Measured by output per hour, productivity shrank 0.5% in the three months to March 2017, compared to the previous quarter. After no growth in almost a decade, this is a worrying time for the UK as it heads towards Brexit. So how are accountants’ productivity levels affected?
In financial services alone, output per hour has fallen on average by 0.6 per cent a year since 2009. The reasons behind this fall are complex and broadly relate to low investment in the UK, record high employment levels and the lack of best practice in management leading to flat levels of growth.
So what impact might this have on accountants? And how best can employers help lift the UK out of this productivity mire? One of the most effective ways of tackling this issue is through solid investment in training and development opportunities by HR teams. They offer employees a consistent experience and background knowledge of the environment they are operating in. In the fast moving world of accountancy, this has never been more important. The automation of certain processes towards the more manual end of the market has meant that not only are there more opportunities opening up for accountants to move up the professional ladder, but also, there is a chance to become more skillful as they do so. Training, particularly in accountancy, is a given. With 10% of all graduates picking accountancy after university, it is a well-trodden route and the training programmes that the ‘Big Four’ firms offer are second to none.
However, different training options within the accountancy profession are opening up with the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy in April this year and not just at entry level either. With the chance to take up the apprenticeship route, recruits can build their careers in accountancy while achieving a professional qualification and, at the end of the day, ensure their skills are up to date. With higher apprenticeship levels on offer, up to degree level in finance and management, there are plenty of development opportunities to choose from for financial professionals. On the ground, many employers have invested heavily in both time and money in their development and learning schemes, so they have every incentive to make them work. With organisations such as EY offering apprenticeship schemes there are far greater opportunities for financial professionals to increase their skills and qualifications at the same time.
Bringing the debate back to productivity levels to find an answer to the so called productivity puzzle, one could argue that it’s the responsibility of both accountants and their HR teams to ensure that team members are given the best chance to up-skill themselves even at the most senior levels. Accountancy is fortunate that it has a wide range of qualifications on offer. However, to play their part in boosting UK productivity levels, rather than sitting on their qualified laurels, so to speak, accountants need to keep one step ahead of the learning curve. Accountants, your country needs you!
If you’re an accountancy professional looking for your next role or an employer looking to boost your team, then maybe we should be talking.
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