Do you pass the 'agility' test?

content agile ice skater

In addition to the pandemic accelerating change and economic uncertainty, skills shortages are having a direct effect on what roles are in demand and what skillsets accountants require for the future.

‘While it is not easy to keep up with today’s modern business landscape, it is essential for success,’ says Lee Owen, director at Hays specialising in accountancy and finance. ‘Being able to make prompt and confident decisions could be the difference between a successful organisation that progresses through change, and one that remains stagnant and falls behind.’

But what does ‘professionally agile’ really mean? According to Katie Hoare, global head of practice solutions and sales enablement at cloud accounting platform Dext, it’s about making sure you’re flexing within an environment.

‘It means keeping a positive mindset towards change,’ she says. ‘When so many distrust or are fearful of change, professional agility embraces any developments that have the potential to enhance a business. Adopting this mindset means you’ll always have the most up-to-date approach to the workplace. As a result, you’ll be embracing new technologies, methodologies, approaches and working with the most diverse and progressive workforce.’

So is it simply a matter of changing the way you think and work when the context calls for it, or does it involve more? As expected, Hoare says there is no ‘simple’ or easy way to change the way you think, but people do tend to fall into one of two camps: those who love and embrace change, and those who find it really unsettling.

‘Unfortunately, they’re not equal camps, with as much as 70% of people struggling to embrace change,’ she adds. ‘Instead, leaders need to help their employees to confidently process that change and help them understand why it’s necessary, and what it will achieve. Clear communication and objectives will make all the difference.’

Thriving through change

Hoare and Owen are united in believing that, as an employee, you should be looking for an employer that creates a culture in which you can thrive through change.

‘Look for organisations that have a strong working culture with admirable values and purpose that employees can stay rooted to during change,’ advises Owen.

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‘You should expect your employer to take the lead when it comes to agility and support their employees to adopt agile attitudes and behaviours, such as being able to act on feedback and ask for help. Similarly, employees should feel empowered to make bold decisions and encouraged to collaborate with their colleagues to come up with solutions.

‘An organisation that operates with a growth mindset will stand out against competition as an agile force. Employers should also emphasise the importance of transferable skills and have programmes in place to support reskilling and upskilling.’

Hoare speaks from personal experience when adding that remaining agile is not just about keeping abreast of the latest technology.

‘I class myself as a very early adopter of accounting technology, but at the time that just meant working with the most prominent general ledger products on the market. It meant training our clients on them and ensuring our bookkeeping team were using the best-in-class products for a quick and meaningful service,’ she says.

‘These days, you must be agile in everything you do. It’s not just about keeping up with the latest technologies, but also offering client services, pricing, advisory services, benchmarking, workplace happiness, flexible working, staff benefits, etc. Accounting and finance is a quickly changing industry, and agility is crucial to keep the best clients and staff within the business.’

The bottom line is always try to be receptive to change and foster the ability to quickly adapt to an ever-evolving environment.

As Owen says: ‘See change as an opportunity, instead of a setback. Take advantage of it by progressing and growing in your career.’

More information

This article was first published in Student Accountant in April 2023Get the SA app now

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