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Helen Rourke

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Blog: top tips for training finance staff


 The NHS Foundation Trust is a big believer in staff development. Helen Rourke, Assistant Finance Director at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, NHS Foundation Trust, shares her tips on training finance staff of all skill levels and abilities through a formal qualification. 

The NHS Foundation Trust has supported a significant number of finance staff through formal training for a number of years. We are strong believers in career development and encourage all staff to participate in further learning no matter what stage they are at in their career. 
Of the 80 staff that make up our finance team, a large percentage are qualified through AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) or another accountancy body. Many have either completed or are completing their training across Levels 2-4. 
In 2011, we were approached by AAT to be involved in a pilot for a Level 1 qualification called AAT Access. We saw this as an opportunity to develop those staff members within our finance department who didn’t yet have a qualification or the confidence to take on Level 2. AAT Access is a basic introduction to finance and accountancy and is suitable for anyone regardless of age, knowledge or experience. Essentially, it’s a ‘taster’ for the full accounting qualification.  
We nominated four staff members to be involved in the pilot. Their ages ranged from 32-46 and all were from a management accounting background. Some had not studied for years and others were unsure of what the course could offer them. But since completion, all have been more enthusiastic towards their career development and have progressed on to Level 2. 
Although it’s still early days, we’ve seen clear results of our investment. Their attitudes to training and development have changed significantly and clear correlations between their studies and the working environment are apparent.

Top tips to training finance staff
  • Find the right qualification. It’s important to identify the right qualification for your staff members so that you can be sure both you and they will get the most out of your investment. Most accountancy bodies have a ‘skills test’ (such as the AAT Skillcheck) where prospective students can test their knowledge and identify an appropriate starting level. 
  • Find the right training provider. The way your training provider delivers the course and supports your students will ultimately determine their success. Together with iCount Training, the NHS Foundation Trust developed a model of study where students attend classes one day per week at a Lancashire Teaching Hospital site. 
  • Find the right candidate. Identify staff members who show potential and a keen attitude for career development. You want to be sure your investment is worthwhile in more ways than one. Training those without formal qualifications will not only produce better skilled workers, but mentors for others to learn from in the future. 
  • Offer support. Keep the conversation open so you’re aware of your staff members’ progress and any obstacles they face. A mentoring programme, using more experienced staff members can offer direct support and increase chances of success. 
  • Evaluate success. In this economic climate, it’s important that you demonstrate your return on investment. Implement evaluation measures from the beginning by highlighting competencies across different tasks so that you can evaluate outcomes, demonstrate success and gather support for future staff development programmes. 

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