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Put Some Science In Accountants Personal Development Plans

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We’ve all had those staff members in our accounting firm where personal development meetings are tough. They normally fall in to 2 categories:

  • The bright star who the firms see as partnership material one day, if they can hang on to them. 
  • The not so bright star (in our eyes anyway) who has high ambitions, but we don’t think has the capability. Still in today’s job market we don’t want to lose them either!

In both cases providing them with a development plan that engages them, provides a challenge, and satisfies the need to be seen to be moving forward is not easy. Everyone’s looking for SMART objectives, but the way we set them is often just a reflection of our own career progression e.g. “Attend 10 networking events in the next 6 months”, “Bring 3 personal contacts to the firm as potential clients”, “Make 2 presentations to staff / clients on a business topic”, etc. 

Here’s another way of looking at it:

How about objectively identifying those parts of their working style that might be holding them back, and then developing plans specifically around those?

When we developed the world’s first (and only) Accountants Personality Profile Questionnaire (APPQ) that was one of the objectives we knew we could tackle to help firms grow talent.

Here’s an excerpt from an APPQ report

excerpt from APPQ report

We can see the candidate indicated in the test that they are less interested than most in policies and procedures and are not confident in challenging social situations. The report gives some ideas of how this can be translated into their personal development plan – but as their coaching manager you might then turn these into some really SMART objectives like:

  • Review your weekly workflows with your manager WITHOUT FAIL (we all know how easy this can slide)
  • Make sure all job sign-off processes are complete and signed off before finalisation
  • Work with your manager to attend 3x social events each quarter – get your manager to attend with you and introduce you to useful contacts in clients / referrers

These objectives can and should be reviewed regularly of course, but will feel much more supportive by the team member, and are much more targeted. Regardless of whether the team member is the bright star or the not so bright star this will help manage their expectations and give them a focus.

To have a look at an example full report see the APPQ product page

If you want to trial one on a staff member just click here – and make sure to let us know if you want some specific feedback to help get the most from using the tests in this way.




About the Authors

Giles Pearson FCA was a PwC Partner for 18 years before jointly setting up Accountests.  

Steve Evans has a whole career dedicated to enabling employers to attract, recruit, develop and retain talented individuals and teams, with particular expertise in candidate testing and assessment before setting up Accountests.

Accountests deliver the world’s only online suite of annually updated and country-specific technical knowledge tests designed by accountants for accountants and bookkeepers. 

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