The robots aren’t coming to take your jobs – but it’s time to make changes, warns Simon Wright, operations director of global jobs board CareersinAudit.com
For most of us, our only reference point for artificial intelligence (AI) has come from watching films. Until now, it’s been pure science fiction, since the storyline is always set too many years in the future for us to deem a reality. Yet with a plethora of studies across many professions about the threat of AI and other technology taking over humans’ jobs, should accountants be worried?
CareersinAudit.com surveyed 1341 accountants this August, and found that four in ten are worried that automation and other sophisticated technologies will render their job obsolete in the future. This statistic rises to 50% amongst accountants aged 18-30, who’ve been brought up on all things tech.
The reality is no-one in 2016 can say how life as accountant will be in, say, 2076 or even 2036. What we can be sure of is that the role of the accountant in the 21st century has changed and is still changing. In our recent research, eight in ten accountants believe the role has changed over the past five to ten years, and nearly half are worried they are going to be left behind because they do not have the right skill set.
Before the profession surrenders to a brave new world of robots, here is the crux of the issue as I see it – it’s about today and tomorrow’s accountant and auditors having new skills, the right skills and crucially wanting to have these skills. Undoubtedly technology and automation has a place and increasingly so in the future. Yet the ‘brave new accountant’ today needs to be ready to embrace their new role and cast aside fears of being left behind.
Many used to think it was enough to go on a few courses to brush up on technical skills, but now it’s about having at the bare minimum a good understanding of technology, having a much broader understanding of commerce (perhaps even swapping over to industry if in practice), building up the softer skill set such as networking and generating new business. Plus with eight in ten accountants prepared to move abroad for work there is an onus on having a better understanding of international regulation and practices.
However, acquiring the skills is perhaps where problems currently lie.
From research CareersinAudit.com has conducted over the past seven years, nearly two thirds of accountants say that career development is not considered high on their line manager’s or boss’s agenda. Now is the time for accountants to be more pro-active and to take a hard look at where their skills deficit lies.
This includes taking time to do research, ask other colleagues and peers in the profession what courses and workshops they would recommend – be they online or face to face. If HR and senior management aren’t forthcoming with investment then perhaps it’s time to either move on or invest personal time and funds to be in stronger position for 2017 and beyond.
Over the next few months, Simon Wright will be writing a series of articles on building up the right technology skills for AccountingWEB.