Kate McCann, Associate Director, Audit and Assurance, Grant Thornton Ireland 

Kate McCann
Kate McCann

In the autumn, a new intake of graduates started their Chartered Accountant training contracts, just as further lockdown measures were introduced.

In the new world of remote working for the majority of employees, what struggles will these new trainees face, and how will they gain the experience and knowledge that was previously picked up in the office environment?

Looking specifically at the audit sector, employees would usually gain valuable ‘on the job’ experience from day one by taking on the junior role within an audit team. This would involve attending a client site with the team, and provide the ability to ask questions and share knowledge within that audit team, both of which are invaluable to their learning.

With many audits now being performed remotely and employees working from their homes, new graduates are missing out on information they would normally pick up just by being in the room with the team and listening to interactions with clients.

This is just one example of how remote working is affecting people starting out on their career. For all businesses in these circumstances a strong culture of openness and communication is vital.

Where face-to-face interaction and impromptu meetings are not possible, new recruits must be encouraged to lift the phone to more senior members of the team. Employers should foster this culture of collaboration within teams, as only by doing this will younger team members gain the understanding and knowledge to progress in the organisation.

In addition to on-the-job learning, employers should make the most of online training where possible. An online learning management system (LMS) can be a cost effective solution that can roll-out training whether employees are in the office or working remotely.

A LMS can also support other business functions that are especially important right now. For example, the communication and collaboration features of a LMS allow all those within the team to work and interact online within the same platform. A LMS can also be integrated with third party tools such as video conferencing and document sharing, making it the centre for many work-related activities.

For young professionals, a training contract is not only made up of the technical aspect, but also of making personal and professional connections within peer groups and the wider firm. In a time when we cannot hold social events in person, employers must devise innovative ways to nurture these connections virtually.

This can be through online social events, such as post-work virtual drinks or regular department catch-ups via video calls. This will give new trainees a chance to put faces to names, and to understand the dynamic and the culture of the firm which is not possible when working in isolation.

One of the most important aspects of a firm and the reason that employees remain after training contracts is the culture and the relationships that they build over their time working there.

Employers must be cognisant of the fact that if they do not put the work in now to nurture the latest intake of new trainees, there will be a gap in the workforce both in technical skills and each individual’s connection and loyalty to the firm.

For further information or advice, Kate McCann be contacted at kate.mccann@ie.gt.com

Grant Thornton (NI) LLP specialises in audit, tax and advisory services.