The accountancy and finance sector has undergone a transformation in recent years as digital technology has become an essential part of most industries. Financial professionals are required to have a range of digital skills, from using software tools to analysing data and managing complex financial systems. However, many organisations are struggling to keep pace with the changes and are facing a subsequent digital skills gap as a result.
Research from Fintech Futures found that more than half (57%) of accounting professionals predict that accountancy will become automated within the next few years, indicating an urgent need for businesses to keep up or risk being left behind. Addressing the digital skills gap now rather than leaving it until the last minute means organisations have time to ease staff into new processes, reducing anxiety among workers who may not enjoy the changing elements of their role. In this way they will gradually learn the skills they need to be successful in their roles.
Here are some steps employers can take to help prepare their workforce for digital transformation:
Identify the specific digital skills required
The first step in addressing the digital skills gap is to identify the specific skills required. This will vary depending on the organisation, the role, and the technologies being used. Important skills to consider are:
Knowledge of specific software programs
Many organisations use specialised software for tasks such as accounting, financial reporting, and tax preparation. It’s essential that financial professionals are proficient in these programs to be able to do their job effectively.
Familiarity with cloud-based computing
Cloud-based computing has become increasingly popular in recent years, offering organisations a range of benefits, such as increased flexibility, scalability, and cost-effectiveness to help grow their business offerings.
Data analysis skills
As data volumes continue to grow, you’ll need to identify professionals who can analyse and interpret large amounts of data to make informed decisions and provide compelling insights to clients and senior management.
As financial organisations become more reliant on technological advancements, cybersecurity risks will increase. You need professionals who can identify and mitigate potential threats sensitive financial data and ensure compliance with industry regulations.
Provide training and education
Once the specific digital skills have been identified, the next step is to provide training and education. This might involve formal training, online courses, or on-the-job training to help professionals across the organisation enhance their skills and make them well-rounded individuals who can add further value to the company.
Formal training programmes can be delivered in-person or online and may cover topics such as software applications, data analysis, and cybersecurity. Online courses can be a cost-effective way to train large numbers of employees, while on-the-job training develops skills in a real-world setting.
Encourage continuous learning
Technology is constantly evolving, and it's important for professionals to continue updating and refreshing their digital skills. Employers can encourage this by providing access to learning resources, encouraging participation in training, and creating a culture where learning is easily accessible.
Online learning platforms, such as LinkedIn Learning and Coursera, offer a range of upskilling opportunities to improve, while industry conferences and events are also a great way of encouraging professional development among the workforce.
Creating a culture of continuous learning can also help foster innovation and creativity in the workplace, as employees are encouraged to explore new technologies and ways of working – enhancing employee engagement along the way.
Partner with technology providers
Technology providers can be valuable partners in addressing the digital skills gap. They can provide training and support for their software and systems, as well as insights into best practices and emerging technologies that can have significant impact on the sector.
A software company, for example, might be able to offer training or webinars on how to use their product effectively, supply a free trial period for an extended period of time, or provide access to an online user community where professionals can share ideas.
Foster a culture of innovation
A culture of innovation can encourage professionals to embrace technology and develop their ever-evolving digital skills. Organisations can nurture this culture by encouraging experimentation, celebrating successes such as the development of new technology solutions or the implementation of a new process, and creating an environment that supports learning, development and growth.
The digital skills gap is a significant challenge for the sector. Taking positive steps to identify the skills required not only nurtures employees to enhance their knowledge, but also allows the organisation can ensure a future of continued growth.
To find your next accountancy role, or the best candidates on the market, find your local Reed office.