Keep an eye on the prize

For those of us who may be predisposed to the January blues, ACCA believes that there are reasons to be cheerful. In Professional Insights’ latest research on the future of careers we look at how trends are impacting careers. It tells a story of opportunity, and of a profession that can be reimagined for the digital age.

Digital is exploding, transforming businesses and organisations. Other forces are at play too revolutionising the workplace: globalisation and protectionism, changing expectations, shifting social mores and values, and presenting new levels of connectivity, and demographics.

The greatest imperative facing organisations is survival and sustainability. There is also more scrutiny. Organisations don’t just have to generate financial return – they also need to employ better corporate citizens, too.

Sustainable businesses are the lifeblood of both a sustainable economy, and planet.

This presents a golden opportunity for the accountancy profession to build on its foundations and renew itself. A chance to adapt and play its part in building and protecting businesses and organisations for the long term. It’s a once in a lifetime occasion to repurpose a profession fit for the modern world. A possibility to transform the profession in the minds of a younger generation entering the workplace who may have misplaced idea of what a career in ‘accountancy’ truly means, but who have ambitions for purposeful vocations.

It is a call to arms for accountancy to be reimagined. A profession that can offer exciting and meaningful careers to the future workforce to play their part in building sustainable organisations fit for the digital age.

Some 79% of members in ACCA’s report survey agreed that accountants will move into more diverse career paths.

In this emerging world, ‘jobs’ in the profession are more flexible.

As jobs change, new, more amorphous career journeys are likely. These are difficult to predict or define precisely. For example, linked career experiences, which are unique, personal and diversified.

These changes also present considerations for how finance teams are designed, how they support careers and design ‘jobs’ for accountants, even with evolving work strategies. They will need to build roles that require flexibility, which are less prescribed and rigid in their definitions. We can expect teams across organisations to be more collaborative, permeable, more fluid, and for some teams possibly less anchored to traditional organisation functional structures in a world where business models are also rapidly evolving.

This future world also demands a different mindset by individuals, augmenting with emerging technology as they transition through their working lives and adapt more quickly to fast moving and multifarious career paths. The bottom line is simple: The job for life is a relic of the past.

The report suggests five emerging zones of career opportunity for the future linked to the imperative of helping build sustainable organisations for professional accountants as assurance advocates, business transformers, data navigators, digital playmakers and sustainability trailblazers These aren’t specific roles or career paths necessarily, rather broad areas of work where professional accountants can bring their expertise to bear for the benefit of their organisations and the wider community.

We foresee a world of significant career change, where individuals may have many types of roles, building a portfolio of careers potentially rather than the traditional career ladder. We will also see fluidity in how people navigate across types of career zones. Roles are changing quicker, and that is driving turnover of skills. That in turn is driving the transformation of how we learn, which needs to change along with the skills we need to develop.

Accountants will still need to apply the ACCA seven professional quotients – (technical and ethical, intelligence, digital, and experience) and softer skills (creative, digital and emotional intelligence). In fact, these become even more important as we look forward in this environment.

Accountants will need to apply all their broad skills to have maximum impact in organisations seeking to build sustainable business strategies and operations. Those who succeed can look forward to a new world of opportunity and the chance to build great careers.

• Jamie Lyon, ACCA Professional Insights

• The report, ‘Future Ready: accountancy careers in the 2020s’, was published by ACCA on 14 January