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How to beat the skills gap

5th May 2020
Brought to you by

Caseware financial reporting and audit solutions.

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Bosses believe that talented accountants have become a bit of a rare breed over the last few years, saying skillsets will need to change to adapt to the new decade.

The skills gap within the industry has increased over the last four years, with two thirds of accounting professionals admitting finding qualified staff has become a lot harder, this is compared to 51% experiencing the same issues in 2016.

This was a major finding in our report ‘Understanding Technology Attitudes within UK Finance Professionals’, where we asked 1,000 industry professionals their opinions of the trends and challenges they’re currently facing in their jobs.

It has been highlighted that the UK is currently in the grip of a skills and productivity crisis, and has been for the past decade. This is proving to be a significant challenge to all, with the accounting industry feeling the full effects of the shortage. Corporate finance teams along with accountancy firms are sure to be worried, as the challenges faced are seemingly getting worse.

Although the report uncovered that resolving the skills gap is only part of the issue, the 1,000 professionals we surveyed also noted a change in emphasis of the skills required by the industry in the future.

Analytical skills giving way to soft skills 

A trend which was noticeable within our research was that the majority of accountants asked, predicted a move away from analytical and data entry skills (which are currently very important today) towards a more expansive range of ‘soft skills’ including the ability to use accounting specific software.

Over half of accountants (56%) agreed that many of their current tasks could be automated, while on 43% expect to see this continuing beyond 2020.

Furthermore, 41% of accountants see analytical skills amongst the most important, with 37% convinced that the skills will be required in the next five years.

The same could be said for the ability to record data accurately, 41% are confident this will be a key skill over the next five years, compared to 61% who view these skills as essential today.

These findings are a complete contrast to what were predicted to see in the future, however.

For example, a third of accountants expect financial reporting to be a key skill by 2024, opposed to just 25% who think it’s an important skill today. 30% also agreed that accounting specific software will be an essential tool over the next couple of years to help ease compliance with reporting regulations and Making Tax Digital – in comparison to just 24% today.

Is 2020 the start of the automation decade? 

Introducing automation technology into the accountancy profession has been pivotal, for many firms and organisations the software already plays a large role already.

It remains to be seen whether the next decade sees the start of the automation revolution, but it clear that the accountants who took part in the report expect this is the direction that will be taken.

We can see that accountants recognise the role technology is playing, and how it is going to impact their jobs as they start to undertake more strategic and creative roles for clients.

What the industry needs now, is to discover whether the skills are there, or ensure training is provided in order to accommodate these more strategic roles in the future.

Accountants believe that the skills gap within accountancy is getting worse as the skills landscape evolves. Our report suggests that people are unsure of the industry’s ability to handle the changes.

This is something which finance teams and organisations should address as soon as they can.

Training and recruitment for the changing skill requirements

According to a PwC Workforce for the Future report, nearly two thirds (59%) admit that in order to be successful in their career, they require further skills and training which they are not currently being provided with.

The AAT has also tried to change mind sets when it comes to accountancy training.

Communications and reporting training is something which will be crucial for if accountants of the future are to act in a more consultative and advisory role.

Although automation is removing much of the manual data entry accountants currently do, along with some analysis – accountants need to become more capable of understanding and portraying financial information, whilst reporting on key trends, advice and direction. 

To summarise, ensuring accountants can meet reporting requirements should be the focus, and access to training for accounting software is a must in order for firms and organisations to thrive within the new era.

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