Learning into the future
This article was written before the coronavirus pandemic had escalated in the UK, Europe and the USA and first appears in the April 2020 issue of CA magazine.
In a dynamic world, the accountants of tomorrow need a broad and diverse range of skills to optimise their careers and the value they bring to clients. An industry leader in learning and development (L&D), ICAS provides its members with all the tools and guidance they need to move forward – and to stay ahead.
Technology and globalisation have changed the face of the business world, creating new expectations and requiring increasingly diverse skillsets in order to benefit from the opportunities. The role of the accountant is evolving.
Career certainty has given way to the rhythms of continuous innovation, requiring greater agility from individuals, the sector itself and in the way L&D is understood and delivered. Once a top-down cascade of knowledge, today’s learning journey is a dynamic and collaborative one that keeps its eye firmly on the ways in which the skills and knowledge needed for this changing world are continually evolving.
“ICAS supports its members and students, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers,” says Vikki Douglas, Senior Manager, Professional Development.
“We work with BPP Professional Development our learning partner, which provides high standards of learning and development to ensure that individuals can develop and maintain the professional skills that are needed in the changing accountancy profession.”
The ability to be able to respond to change and to recognise the fundamental role we now play in our own growth are crucial, developing both the technical knowledge, outlook and behaviours to succeed. We look at some of the areas in which continuous learning will be key – and the skills that are needed for success.
Evolving workplaces and expectations
The workplace is changing at pace, thanks to digitisation and globalisation – and within this, the way we work is evolving from traditional structures to flexible and dynamic team-based models based around skillsets and flexible and remote working that require new ways of managing productivity and collaboration.
The changing expectations of the younger generations are also a powerful driving force of this evolution, as they are bringing with them a more fluid sense of career trajectory, motivated by challenge and characterised by agility between roles and employers. The impact of this on learning can be a valuable part of futureproofing – with multi-generational workplaces offering opportunities to leverage each other’s strengths and experiences as part of a business culture, or in mentoring and reverse mentoring relationships.
Flexibility and continuous learning
The speed of innovation in the industry calls for new levels of adaptability and flexibility in career paths and crucially in the way we forge them. Recognising the role of the individual in driving, curating and sustaining their own professional growth will be key to navigating future change successfully.
In a fast-paced business world L&D is not only about meeting current challenges but looking down the road tactically to keep ahead of exponential change. With technology expanding the possibilities, online resources and learning modules are increasingly popular assets for L&D, along with microlearning, social learning, and even podcasts. All offer effective, flexible ways to augment more traditional forms of learning such as work based and qualification study.
Communication and technology
Cloud-based computing, data analytics, social media and AI all have the potential to change ways of working in accountancy and all require a dynamic mix of soft skills and technical competencies. Communication and relationship building offline will unlock potential in an increasingly complex work – and indeed, making sense of complexity and being able to communicate that to stakeholders is at the core of an accountant’s role.
As the power and amount of data multiplies, this communication bridge extends to analytics, where information must be translated with clarity to clients or across the business. Niche expertise will become increasingly valuable – as will the ability to consider technological processes within a bigger strategic picture at the opposite end, says Robbie White, Director of Technology Programmes at BPP.
“People will need to build up a [technological] skillset, but then there will be more of an advisory function in professional services about ethics and strategy,” he says. “The expectation of the role will be to understand whether something like AI should be used in the context of an organisation – and if so, why?”
Keeping current and preparing for the future
Professional skills may be good futureproofing currency, but there will always be a fundamental need to keep developing technical ones too. “Your technical skills are the knowledge and abilities required to perform your core business and financial duties, whichever area or sector you’re working in,” says Douglas.
“Keeping your skills up to date can give you the confidence to handle any tasks that your employer expects you to perform”.
The full range of practical training courses can be found in the professional development section in the members professional development area on our website.
The professional resources section also has the latest information on technical and practice issues in areas such as tax, audit and assurance, pensions, sustainability, insolvency, ethics, charities and public sector.
This article first appeared in the April 2020 issue of CA magazine.