Change / transformation Learning / Education Personal development

Quit talking about learning new skills. Start doing it.

The stuff you learned in school, the experience you gained on the job … none of that will prepare you for what’s to come.

We’re learning that over, and over, and over again.

We’ve known for years what skills we’ll need to succeed going forward. For years. The MACPA and the AICPA told us in 1999 and again in 2011, as part of the AICPA Horizons 2025 project. The Sleeter Group told us as much in 2015, as did The Business Learning Institute has supported that research time after time as part of our own professional issues updates. Our own members our telling us so.

Now, Barry Melancon is telling us. During a recent professional issues update, the AICPA president and CEO outlined the top 10 skills CPAs will need to master by 2020. Those skills include:

  • Complex problem-solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • People management
  • Coordinating with others
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Judgment and decision-making
  • Service orientation
  • Negotiation
  • Cognitive flexibility

I would add an 11th skill into the mix: anticipation — the ability to spot future trends and position yourself to take advantage of them before those trends gain traction.

Without a doubt, these are the things we need to know. CPAs must start finding the programs that will teach them these skills. Their employers must give them the time and support they need to do so. Accounting educators must start building these skills into their curricula. High schools and elementary schools must start training children for the day when they’ll be working side by side with machines that can think, learn, and reason.

Everyone knows it, everyone is talking about it … and almost nobody is doing it.

Wake up, people. We’re not living in the future. This stuff is happening now. By some estimates, automation could help eliminate close to half of all existing jobs within the next 20 years. By others, those same machines will help create tens of millions of new jobs during that same timeframe. Clearly, our jobs are going to change. Clearly, we’ll need new skills to remain relevant.

Those are the hard trends. The soft trend is this: Are you going to do anything about it?


William D. Sheridan