Why ethics must top your skill set

content code of ethical behaviour neon sign

Five thousand years ago in the land that we know today as southern Iraq, a man wrote his name into history. He carved a message in Sumerian script on a clay tablet: ‘29,086 measures barley 37 months’. And he signed it with his name: Kushim.

Kushim became the first person in 250,000 years of history whose name we know, and he wasn’t a king, a warrior or a poet. Kushim was an accountant, and what he wrote was basically a stock-take for a load of cereal.

In 3000BC Kushim used the most advanced communications technology available – a sharpened reed and a blank block of clay – to do his job. And we are doing exactly the same today, by harnessing the power of technology to do our jobs.

At ACCA, one of our big aims is to boost our students’ and members’ employability, which means mastering the demands of our digital age. We achieve that by preparing our students and members to nurture a desire for continual self-improvement.

In today’s highly digital world of machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data, we focus on enhancing professional, analytical and ethical skills. They are needed because professionals must continue to add value through the human, ethical and innovative dimension.

We cannot forget the importance of accountability and integrity.

ACCA’s Ethics and Professional Skills module (EPSM) uses emerging technologies to develop these skills much in demand by forward-thinking employers.

Just as importantly, the module speaks to the needs of modern learners. We hear a lot about the different demands of millennials, of Generations X, Y and Z. EPSM allows you to learn about the role of ethics and professional skills in the workplace in a flexible way, at your own pace, in your own environment, and in media you know and love.

EPSM allows you to learn about the role of ethics and professional skills in the workplace in a flexible way, at your own pace, in your own environment, and in media you know and love

Our module introduces important concepts of ethics and professionalism in real-world situations where students interact and engage with the materials they are presented with such as office tools and having realistic business situations to resolve. They learn in a digital world by using gamification. EPSM encourages learners to see the big picture and to understand the concepts of personal and professional ethics, corporate responsibility, public interest and they acquire key professional and digital skills, crucial in a world that is delegating key processes and decision making to machines.

There are diagnostic and coaching tools – for example:

  • to emphasise the need for reflection and to ask the question ‘what will I do better next time?’ or
  • what kind of leader and team worker am I? And then use this information to guide how they best work with others to deliver team objectives.

All you have to do is blink and the business world has changed again, so agility is crucial. We have built in a mechanism of iterative updates, with a strong transition plan for those who are part-way through the module. Learners who have completed the module have access to the latest version, so they can always remain relevant.

EPSM launched in October 2017 and we have already made changes, including two major ones, including:

  • dynamic question banking where each learner’s knowledge is uniquely tested
  • data analytics – working with big data and analytics tools.

In the near future we will introduce the concept of peer assessment to EPSM; borne from the fact that we are judged and probably best learn from others. Learners will upload tasks to the online environment where others rate success and provide feedback. There is a psychometric model and software operating in the background to ensure the fairness and consistency of the results given.

The world needs more ethical and professional accountants with a broad range of modern skills to make a difference today, just as they relied on accountants to use the tools they had available to them then, to count barley in Bronze Age Babylon.

Ethics and Professional Skills module

If you’re planning on taking any Strategic Professional exams soon, we’d encourage you to complete the Ethics and Professional Skills module to support your success in these exams.

Access the Ethics and Professional Skills module from your myACCA account

This article was first published in Student Accountant

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