Accountex was awash with statistics but two in particular caught my attention. According to Gartner 1.8 million jobs will disappear over the next year while 2.3m jobs will be created thanks to AI. It’s no doubt reassuring for those accountants who are feeling glum at the prospect a machine is about to take their job. That said, there’s still cause for concern for anyone who wants to develop their career but hasn’t a plan as to how they will do it in this new world.
But there are signs to follow. Right now, we have a skills shortage, which is becoming more apparent as technology pervades practices. It’s exacerbated by HMRC’s digital plan whereby practices will need to provide clients with regular nudges and reminders on what to do and when to do it to meet HMRCs quarterly deadlines. That’s easy for any firm to do, but to stand out it will have to come with a layer of strategic advice on top.
I therefore see that we’re at an important juncture for career development best practice, with one path pointing to the highly technical end of accounting, and another pointing at the skills needed for ‘micro advisory’ services. Skills like empathy and a growth mindset needed for strategic consultancy will be essential. As a result, the space in the middle is shrinking and this will force a career crunch point for many.
A skills shortage
This divergence in skill already poses a problem for firms like ours: namely there isn’t enough of the highly technical and capable skill we need to function and deliver high performance, and there’s not nearly enough of those with the emotional intelligence to provide advisory services. If you want to develop a career that adds value, you need to look to these two areas.
The apprenticeship schemes offered by ICAEW et al are welcomed and will provide people with a fast start to a career and the option to develop the micro advisory skills firms like ours are already looking for. However, it doesn’t help those already in the profession.
I’d therefore advise people weighing up their futures to seek out the smaller firms, not just the big 4, who are tackling the problem by opening up their own academies for new starters, school leavers, and more experienced and existing members of the team. Their programmes will not only support accreditations, but the acquisition of new, less practiced skills like listening, problem solving, and developing strategic visions, that will become essential.
The firms investing in these career development models are likely to be the ones with a clear growth plan and embracing technology. They will also be the ones supplementing traditional practice values like accuracy, trust and transparency with values like innovation and helpfulness.
It may seem a daunting prospect to tap into a bit of a brain you aren’t used to using – but if there is one message that rang loud at Accountex it’s that the future of the profession is no longer only for those who are good at maths but those willing to change.
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Being good at maths is no longer good enough. A growth mindset is what you’ll need.