The proliferation of an ever-more digital world, with technology reinventing historic business practices every day, has forced entire industries and professions around the world to shift their thinking and business models. Not surprisingly, the workforces supporting them have had to shift their focus as well-professional accountants, including auditors, are no exception.
Traditional bookkeeping and manual data entry disappeared long ago. Today, access to data and technological advancements are at the core of everything we do. New technologies, such as blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) are advancing the global profession, raising the bar and driving demand for new workforce skills and competencies.
In turn, there is an urgent need to address an ongoing and increasing skills gap in the profession and across professional services more broadly. My company, the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), recently issued the results of asurveyof accounting practitioners operating in small-and medium-sized practices. The survey took the pulse of the challenges they face, the market factors most likely to affect them in the future, the consulting services they provide and their overall performance. Results revealed that nearly half of those surveyed reported issues with finding qualified talent.
The writing is on the wall: To stay relevant and competitive, the accountant (including internal and external auditors) of today and tomorrow will need to be tech-savvy, a strategic thinker and strong communicator in order to provide high-quality, high-value insight to clients.
Preparing The Future WorkforcePreparing the future workforce is not as simple as ensuring employees take tech courses to build their skills, or recruiting only data scientists. It’s about getting to the bottom of, and properly addressing, what’s required to be successful in the accountancy profession now, as well as in the future, so that both employees and the companies they work for are set up for success and growth.
Forbes Schools are already evolving their programs to prepare students for the future of auditing. One example is Villanova University, where they will belaunching a new Masters of Accounting with Data Analytics (MACDA) program this fall, requiring students to take a more big data and analytics-focused curriculum. And in the Philippines, it’s possible now to obtaina Bachelor of Science in Accounting Technology.
Whileschools can do their part to prepare accountants, the companies at which young professionals begin their careers also need to be cognizant of the priorities of their new recruits.
Creating a workplace that is a compatible environment for this smart, technology-aware workforce will be critical to supporting the potential. It’s no surprise that millennials, in particular, are interested in roles they feel provide them with the ability to influence and make a positive impact.
They are drawn to companies they believe are doing meaningful work. In fact, more than three-quarters (76%) of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a company if it means they would be doing meaningful work.
POST WRITTEN BY
Executive Director External Affairs and CFO at IFAC overseeing communications, public policy and finance functions