Last year, the world experienced a level of disruption no one could have anticipated.
Accountants and finance professionals were called to respond to the economic effects of the pandemic, and as a part of a resilient, forward-thinking and innovative profession, we were prepared to handle it. Now, with hope for an end to the pandemic in sight, we are looking beyond the crisis – as should you – and recognising, understanding and leveraging the changes coming from it.
I believe this is what makes the accounting profession so successful. Throughout the profession’s history, accountants and finance professionals have been resilient, developing our skills, talents and service lines to keep pace with change and turning that resilience into results for clients and businesses. Today’s fast pace of change means we cannot wait until ‘the busy period or season’ is over; we are embedding this professional development, albeit hard, into what we do every day – and I encourage you to do the same.
Whether you work in public accounting, finance or endeavor for a career in business: to find long-term success, you must continue to evolve. Reflecting on my own career, I was required to constantly adapt to new and different roles, and learning new things that frankly, took me to uncomfortable places, but that paid off in the long run.
Here are three things we should all consider as we map out a resilient pathway and overcome the ‘same as last year’ urge.
1. Utilise new technologies and ways of working
This past year proved that one event has the power to accelerate what we thought would take years to change, particularly around technology. Many companies, organisations and firms moved faster than was thought possible on things like remote work and cloud migration. Interesting how quickly we did it – and successfully! Imagine if we incorporated this speed into everything we do.
Yes, the pandemic has upended our lives, but technology allowed us to adapt quickly. Today, most of us regularly use cloud and digital communications to stay connected to one another. Others have leveraged new technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence and data analytics to drive more efficiency and effectiveness in their work. For accountants and finance professionals, that meant better serving clients and employers.
I’m a big fan of ‘war rooms’ – half-day sessions with my leadership team to brainstorm a problem or potential new area of support for the profession.
Imagine if we took ‘a timeout’ a couple of times a year to force ourselves to think differently about the tools we are using and how we are working – or how we could work in the future?
I’m a big fan of ‘war rooms’ – half-day sessions with my leadership team to brainstorm a problem or potential new area of support for the profession. Focused on a single issue for a set time with a clear goal and agenda has been incredibly successful for me.
2. Evolve your skills to leverage a changing environment
Technology is a great enabler, and as technology becomes further embedded into our lives and work, jobs as we know them will change. Organisations and people that embrace new technologies and new ways of working will be more successful.
To leverage this new, dynamic, digital era, we will need to embrace new skills – a mix of technical, business, leadership, digital and people skills — and develop a deeper understanding of the technologies, algorithms, data and organisational structures that are emerging and becoming increasingly important. I include myself in this category and have been particularly focused on advancing my own technological skills.
I have also embedded a cycle of ‘’learn, unlearn, relearn’ into my annual goals. I have learned that unless I set a goal for myself that I can measure throughout the year, it does not get done.
3. Discover and take advantage of growth opportunities
People and businesses are reassessing what they want for an uncertain future. Individuals and businesses now have different priorities and needs, which presents unlimited growth opportunities.
For individuals, growth could mean pursuing a degree programme, new credential or professional designation, or even making a career change.
Online learning – which continues to rise in popularity and availability because of the pandemic – is an excellent way to explore new subjects and broaden your knowledge and build new skills. The Association has made online learning a priority and offers a whole host of free learning to members, students and business leaders around the world.
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For businesses and business leaders, one such area of growth is in the environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) space. The pandemic increased attention on how businesses interact with the world around them, resulting in more companies thinking about the ways social and environmental issues affect how they operate and communicate their value. Accounting and finance professionals can help businesses see a holistic view of their ESG performance.
There are clear lessons to be learned from this crisis – as we have learned from others in the past – most importantly that we must be comfortable with change and quick to adapt. Resilience means not only addressing current crises but committing to constant reinvention to meet the needs and responsibilities of an ever-changing world.
The Association has made online learning a priority and offers a whole host of free learning to members, students and business leaders around the world.
I am proud to be a part of an organisation – the Association comprised of The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and the American Institute of CPAs – that is focused on supporting the accounting and finance profession to embrace what needs to be done. We are working harder than ever to serve the broad and diverse profession and our more than 650,000 members and students, so they can continue to drive results and lead recovery in 2021 and beyond.
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