Accountants must possess a variety of skills to effectively perform their jobs, including excellent problem-solving, critical-thinking and communication skills. It's difficult to develop and master these competencies in a classroom setting, which is why experiential learning is essential for accountants. Whether you work at an accounting firm or maintain financial records for a public or private organization, developing these high-level skills through experience is vital for success in your career.
According to Accounting Today, experiential learning is key to growing top talent at an accounting firm. Many financial firms have robust training programs designed to prepare accountants for the position. These programs do a phenomenal job of expanding on the knowledge new hires learned in college while also teaching new skills required by the specific firm. However, there is no substitute for real-world experience, which is the primary benefit of experiential learning.
Experiential learning is often associated with classroom learning, and organizations that use this training style generally use action-based teaching materials and give learners the opportunity to critically analyze a topic or data and make important decisions. Accountants also require specialized training, including continued professional education training, which is required in order for accountants to stay abreast of the latest developments within the accounting industry. One of the best ways to receive this training is through actual on-the-job experiences.
Mentoring programs are ideal for experiential learning, as they allow seasoned partners at the firm to work directly with new hires, which can be a great advantage to mentees who are fresh out of college and have very little industry experience. Mentees can attend partner meetings, work on high-priority projects, crunch financial data and connect with clients under the direct supervision of a mentor. Firms that encourage this level of interaction among seasoned and new workers dramatically enhance the new worker's intellectual and professional skills, making him more of an asset to the company.
Rotating staff members is also a good strategy for experiential learning. Placing staff members in different departments within the firm allows all workers to gain a more comprehensive understanding of how an accounting company operates. Workers gain real-world experience in many different areas of accounting instead of focusing on just a few aspects of the industry. This approach not only reduces a worker's resistance to change but also creates camaraderie among workers, as it helps them develop a shared appreciation of the organization’s goals.
Accountants record, review and analyze financial data, and they're often required to provide information about their findings to a variety of people, including managers, colleagues and even investors. Experiential learning is the best method for helping accountants develop the skills they need to efficiently perform these tasks while developing many other industry-related competencies. This learning method provides real-world experiences that let accountants learn from their own mistakes and successes as well as those of others.
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