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Skills tech-savvy millennials need to succeed as accountants


The future of the accounting profession depends on the ability to attract talent to stay relevant and competitive. The requirements needed to address the ongoing and increasing skills gap in the profession is to create a workplace that is a compatible environment for the smart, technology-aware millennials that are drawn to companies they believe are doing meaningful work.

Russell Guthrie, Executive Director External Affairs and CFO at the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), says the results of a recent IFAC survey indicates that 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. “Millennials, in particular, are interested in roles they feel provide them with the ability to influence and make a positive impact.”

The biggest challenge for accounting and auditing firms is to prepare the future workforce for the new skills required by new technologies, such as blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) that are advancing the global profession, raising the bar and driving demand for new skills and competencies.

“It 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,” Guthrie says.

“While schools can do their part to prepare accountants, the companies at which young professionals begin their careers also need to be cognisant of the priorities of their new recruits. These younger workers also want a more flexible work environment and are eager to embrace new technologies, such as AI. If attracting talent is a priority for the accountancy profession, these requirements need to be considered imperative for the future growth and success of the industry.”

Guthrie says within the increasingly technologically advanced accounting profession, it will be just as important to hone leadership and communication skills. “While AI assumes an administrative role to gather and categorise data for accountancy professionals, interpreting that data is becoming a more prominent part of an accountant’s job. Providing insights, feedback and guidance will become a full-time job for accountants, with data acquisition and algorithmic analysis work completed by AI. An accountant must be able to translate the insights gleaned from AI data mining into recommendations that companies and executives can understand and trust.”

Now more than ever, accounting professionals are increasingly seen as advisors and have a huge part in providing strategic insight on matters that impact the health of the global economy.

Another challenge in honing future skills is to impart the experience, knowledge and skills needed to implement large-scale changes in technology, regulation and general practice while adapting to new technological developments.

“While millennials are undoubtedly more tech savvy than their predecessors, they also have less experience as newer employees and it is crucial that firms stay focused on preparing the profession’s future leaders.”