Change / transformation | Learning / Education | Personal development

Your job’s in danger. Will you learn the skills you need to keep it?

Our profession's war for talent is real, and it's becoming ever more competitive. Businesses are becoming increasingly bold in their bids to attract the best and brightest accounting and finance talent, and with good reason: That talent is becoming harder to find.

Often lost in that war for talent, though, is a key question: Do the people we're trying to attract have the skills they'll need to take our organizations into the future?

The answer might lie in the World Economic Forum’s annual “Future of Jobs” report.

For years now, the folks at the World Economic Forum have been beating the drum about the impact that artificial intelligence, machine learning and digitization will have on our workplaces. Well, they’re no longer talking about the impact these new technologies will have. They’re talking the impact these technologies are having … because this stuff is happening now, in real time.

First, let’s talk about the division of labor. According to the report, this year humans will work 71 percent of the hours required to get the job done, while machines will work 29 percent of the hours. In 2022, humans will outwork machines 58 percent to 42 percent. And in 2025, just seven years from now, machines will be doing the majority of our work — 52 percent, to just 48 percent for humans.

So yes, machines are taking jobs. That’s happening.

And what jobs are they taking? According to the report, here are the 10 jobs that are most in decline in this age of automation:

  1. Data entry clerks
  2. Accounting, bookkeeping and payroll clerks
  3. Administrative and executive secretaries
  4. Assembly and factory workers
  5. Client information and customer service workers
  6. Business services and administration managers
  7. Accountants and auditors
  8. Material-recording and stock-keeping clerks
  9. General and operations managers
  10. Postal services clerks

So for accounting and finance pros, there’s a lot to be worried about there. Machines are increasingly able to do the stuff that we’ve been trained to do for years.

But it’s not all bad news. By 2022, emerging new jobs will outnumber displaced old jobs by almost 2 to 1. Did you hear that? New technologies will create more new jobs than they destroy.

To take advantage of that, though, we must learn some new skills. And according to the World Economic Forum, these are the skills we’ll need to remain relevant going forward:

  • Analytical thinking and innovation
  • Active learning and learning strategies
  • Creativity, originality and initiative
  • Technology design and programming
  • Critical thinking and analysis
  • Complex problem-solving
  • Leadership and social influence
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Reasoning, problem-solving and ideation
  • Systems analysis and evaluation

In other words, we must learn to do the stuff the machines can't do.

That list dovetails incredibly well with Tom Hood's list of vital future-ready skills, which is cross-referenced against some of our profession's top available research. Tom's future-ready skills are these:

  • Communications
  • Leadership
  • Strategic and critical thinking and synthesizing intelligence to insight
  • Anticipating and serving evolving needs
  • Integration and collaboration
  • Tech-savvy and data analytics
  • Functional and domain expertise

The bottom line, really, is this: If you want to make your mark in this profession, you must be a lifelong learner. You must commit to continuously learning new skills ... to constantly bettering yourself. And I'm not just talking about CPE. I'm talking about life skills — the stuff that's going to keep you relevant for years to come.

Do you have those skills? If not, are you committed to getting them?

The people with these skills are the folks I want on my team going forward.

Do you have them?


William D. Sheridan