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The evolution of accountancy roles and skills

The ACCA recently released a report that outlined our research with more than 2,500 ACCA qualified accountants in 50 countries around the world.

Our findings show that as accountancy roles and skills are evolving, there is a perceived gap between the skills that organisations need and those that employees and external candidates actually possess. This problem is being compounded by supply shortages of professional accountants, and is most noticeable in relation to management skills. The main gaps are in the following skill areas:

  • Communication skills
  • Analysis skills 
  • Leadership skills 
  • Time management skills 
  • Team building skills 
  • Presentation skills

Organisations need to be more aware of these issues to in order address the gaps, and the research suggests that current investment in training and development is insufficient and isn’t being allocated effectively. For individuals, their future career success hinges on them holding such skills.

The evolution of career aspirations

Today's accountants are more mobile and their careers often cross traditional borders, both inside and outside the finance function; they also transcend national borders more often. This increased career mobility is facilitated by the growing global demand for the services of finance professionals. This will pose a challenge for organisations with poor retention strategies, while providing opportunities for those with good employer brands who seek to alleviate talent shortages. All organisations will need to enhance their retention strategies and employer brands and embrace international recruitment.

How should organisations respond to a changing profession?

Skills shortages, the evolution of roles, the growing demand for accountants and the higher career aspirations of finance professionals are leading to a recruitment and retention crisis for many organisations. Current recruitment programmes are not reflecting increased international career development aspirations, while development programmes are not providing finance professionals with the business skills, personal effectiveness skills and ‘people skills’ their roles require.

Many organisations are facing a retention crisis. Current learning and development strategies are therefore not effective and must be addressed. Recruitment processes need to transcend national boundaries. The focus, methodology and provision of development programmes need to be reassessed. Retention strategies should be examined to develop a more compelling employee proposition.

This article has been supplied by ACCA. ACCA's research report "A changing profession? The evolution of accounting roles, skills and career aspirations", sought the opinions of more than 2,500 ACCA qualified accountants in 50 countries around the world.