How to future-proof your skillset
In its Future of Jobs report, the World Economic Forum claimed that by 2025 50% of all employees will need reskilling, driven by automation adoption, technological innovation, a quickly evolving business landscape and the economic impact of the pandemic.
These drivers will be all too familiar to finance and accounting professionals, which are witnessing the impact technology is having on the profession in the form of cloud accounting, automation and big data. And while the technology can be perceived as a threat to jobs, it’s also the creator of new roles and skills, as well as providing novel ways in which to learn them.
Hard and soft skills
Future skills areas for accountants revolve around harder technical skills such as data interrogation and visualisation, financial planning and analysis (FP&A), and tax and regulatory knowledge; roles in finance business partnering, transformation and project management; and softs skills like communication, stakeholder management and adaptability.
‘In most fields, hard skills are generally impacted by ever-changing technology, regulations and principles over time. Keeping hard skills up-to-date with these areas in mind gives you the confidence to deliver on specific tasks where things are constantly evolving. It also means that you are staying on trend, which makes you very valuable to a business, client and other stakeholders. The more up-to-date your hard skills are the more expertise you build in an area that can command higher compensation,’ said Roselyn Baah MSCI, oversight and MLRO & founder of The GRC Network.
‘Your soft skills are transferable and should continuously be developing and adaptable. The soft skills will depend on your work, how you engage with your stakeholders and the level of your role. You need your soft skills to be able to relay your technical ability. For instance, in a post-pandemic world, the style of communication has changed. Being able to engage with your stakeholders virtually, understanding your audience and tailoring your style to that, and being digitally proficient have all become important.’
For professionals to learn new skills, it will take a combination of efforts, with governments and organisations investing to upskill their workforces, but also individuals putting themselves forwards.
And there’s no better time to start than now. ‘As the great resignation has shown, there is a talent war out there after the global pandemic. In some countries there is even a shortage of accountants. So how do you make yourself stand out? New business skills is always an asset on your CV, but how do you know which skills to acquire?,’ asks Kevin Kan, a former Big 4 consultant and now a coach at Break Out Consulting Asia.
There are various things you can do and signals to pay attention to in identifying skills you might be lacking.
First, you need to understand the skills required by your intended career path, then perform a gap analysis and self-audit to know those you’re missing. Research industries and roles you want to work in — check job adverts, read industry media, network with relevant people on LinkedIn. To better understand your current skillset seek constructive feedback from peers and seniors, it’s difficult to be self-critical so the honest input from such people will be invaluable, and above all be honest with yourself.
How to go about upskilling
Work with your employer and managers to get the training you need. Employers know they need to boost their skills capabilities to remain competitive, so if they’re not already investing in learning and development, make the case to them, convince them oft evade you’ll bring by undertaking any training you suggest. As well as this, seek out challenging tasks and projects to be involved with — there’s nothing like learning by doing.
Pay attention to any of the hot topics in your profession and sector, and make efforts to familiarise yourself with them. You will often cover these in the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) that all ACCA members must do as part of maintaining membership and professional standards.
For more specific skills, take up professional refresher courses. ‘A lot of these courses tend to be free and are a good way to identify where you’re at and what you need to improve your skills,’ said Baah. These can be as simple as advanced Microsoft Excel courses or basics in data visualisation, and are largely available online, especially post-pandemic.
Depending on where you’re at in your career, investing in a professional qualification, such as ACCA, will boost your skillset and CV. Many ACCA members bolster their professional qualifications with advanced courses, such as MBAs, or profession specific ones, such in tax, forensic accounting or analysis.
‘Network horizontally with your peers as well as vertically with those in senior roles and find out what others are doing or what they have done. Joining networks within your firm and externally are always a great place to start,’ said Baah.
Kevin Kan’s hot accounting skills
General Business Knowledge: Accounting professionals who possess strong business acumen can help develop strategy, inform key decisions and serve as business partners for their clients or across multiple departments if they are in-house finance personnel. our aim is to become a trusted business partner.
Technology Skills: With advancements in software, cloud computing and automation, accountants are working with new technologies all the time. Update your skills by learning new cloud-based applications for finance or even finance reporting tools (eg Hyperion).
Communication Skills: Accountants need to be able to tell the story behind the numbers. Both verbal and written communication skills are critical for success in any accounting or finance role. Whether you’re writing or speaking, to become a trusted business partner to your clients or departments, you will have to present information about the business in ways that can be understood and acted upon.
Customer Experience: For your client’s business to survive and flourish, customer experience needs to be a focal point for all businesses. Accountants can help clients look at processes to make them more customer centric in order to drive sales and retention.
Payments: Accountants need to help clients or departments understand the best ways to collect cash for positive cashflow management. After the global pandemic, there are many payment options available now other than traditional cash or credit cards. How well do you know these payment options to help your clients remain in a positive cashflow position?