Business Drivers: Michael Crompton Explains How the UK Bus Company Successfully Implemented a CPD Support Scheme for Its Financial Professionals

Article excerpt

UK Bus is a national transport company that operates more than 8,000 vehicles to exacting schedules, high safety standards and clear customer expectations. In a highly competitive market, the bar on these demands is being raised constantly.

The company's annual turnover exceeds 1.2bn [pounds sterling], derived from 20 area businesses. Profitability, cash flow and balance sheet performance is reported through 70 qualified accountants spread across those areas, all working to tight deadlines and exacting quality standards.

UK Bus's experience will resonate with a lot of other organisations. Financial expertise is highly valued by the firm's management teams, especially those involved in growing the business portfolio. For many companies and their finance professionals, the main CPD challenges are the same as those faced by UK Bus. They are as follows:

* How to create a unified and effective CPD process that adds substantial value to the competence of accountants and, therefore, to their organisation.

* How to make CPD part of a continuous organisational cycle.

The goal is to create a seamless CPD process in which accountants are truly engaged because they intrinsically understand how it improves their career prospects. Ultimately, the link between the organisation's objectives and an individual's role and learning must be at the heart of any such scheme. And it's within this context that accountants can enhance their employability.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The touch-paper for the project was lit when the senior management team became aware of how isolated the firm's finance professionals had become within the organisation. The nature and extent of the problem was hard to assess at first. My appointment as project manager and the resulting preliminary study changed this, as views on CPD were collected from across the finance teams.

We took six weeks to find out about the attitudes of the organisation towards CPD, the barriers to development activity and the availability of CPD resources that would fit with the company's way of doing things. Building the research into a coherent project required extensive consultation with senior managers, finance professionals at all levels and the firm's learning and development team. This culminated in a presentation of the key project proposals to the finance directors. They were as follows:

* The adoption of CIMA's CPD Planner and Harvard ManageMentor Plus as the online platform to be used by all accountants.

* A "scorecard" approach to CPD assessment, including the measurement of skills such as commercial awareness.

* The linking of 12-month action-plan needs to the services of a dedicated training company, plus the tailoring of subjects to increase the relevance for all attendees.

* The full integration of CPD into UK Bus's performance management processes.

After an open discussion, the proposals were universally adopted for a swift roll-out. The planning tools were implemented quickly, with CIMA's CPD team providing excellent service. Within two weeks, over 60 accountants had online CPD facilities at their disposal. Our one-to-one meetings with them to discuss roles, skills and action plans had been the key to gaining their support for the project. Treating everyone as individuals meant that there was a real sense of ownership of the scheme among them. For the first time, a diverse group of accountants began to think seriously about their roles and the skills required to execute them well. This is why the six-step CIMA professional development cycle has been so successful within UK Bus: it supports a natural progression of CPD thought and action.

Once people had worked out their development plans, the next step was to plan the training required. A CPD forum was created using volunteers from the finance directorate. Applying their knowledge of the firm's operations and logistics, they formulated a detailed programme of training. …