How To Prepare Your Team For Automation
Today’s accountants are often fraught with worry over the forthcoming wave of automated changes that are soon to sweep their field; some estimates figure that automating technologies could cost millions who are currently gainfully employed their jobs, and most analyses label accountants as some of the most likely workers to be replaced. Is the future of the accounting industry going to be defined by this job-stealing wave of automation?
As a matter of fact, no; accountants can prepare for automation now so that they’re not caught off guard when their industry is fundamentally upended in the near future. By investing heavily in employee training and reskilling, you can prepare your team for the age of automation with confidence.
Understanding what’s at stake
It’s no exaggeration to say that the financial wellbeing of countless CPAs and accounting professionals is on the line; automation could kill 73 million jobs in the US alone in the coming years, according to one estimate, and many of those who are replaced will be in the financial sector, where complex algorithms can more easily replaced human employees. Accountants shouldn’t beat around the bush when it comes to preparing for the next age of accounting, but rather should be putting their foot on the gas when it comes to investing in more technical training.
Not everything is doom and gloom when it comes to automation; though many of today’s more mundane task will become a thing of the past thanks to machines that can complete them in a cheaper and more efficient fashion, a great deal of things that accountants are required to do today can’t be automated, and new jobs and opportunities will be revealed by emerging technologies too. So, how can you capitalize on these forthcoming changes, rather than succumbing to them as a casualty of the technological times?
CPAs and firm owners in particular need to start off as early as possible; you should already have established a talent pipeline between today’s leading schools and training institutions and your own company, which means you’re probably familiar with at least some accounting students who are aiming to join your firm one day. Preparing students to work with emerging tech like data analytics is crucial if accountants are to remain relevant in the future, as the next generation of CPAs will need a wholly different skill set than the one that assures success in today’s market.
Not all of CPAs problems can be dismissed by training our youth, however; existing employees who have been working with accounting firms for countless decades, will need retraining to and that’s a harder hurdle to overcome. Luckily for older accountants, the time hasn’t yet come when they’re to be placed out to pasture; by keeping your eye on the technological ball, you can stay one step ahead of the changes that are sure to wreak havoc on your industry.
The contemporary accountant
To make the shift from the traditional accountant to the contemporary accountant, you need to learn the art of mastering your specific niche. To put it simply, much of the work that’s done today by accountants, especially the more simplistic and repetitive paperwork that many of them loathe, will soon be entirely handled by algorithms, or at the very least by a fewer workers than before. That means you’ll need to adjust your day to day operations if you want to remain relevant, and the best way to do that is to focus on honing your social skills to become a better people person.
By focusing extensively on the specific communications skills that you’ll need to remain relevant in the era of the robots, you can ensure your future job security. That’s because more creative task like writing and interpersonal communication can’t yet to accomplished by algorithms, at least not in a cheap and efficient way.
Accounting clients of the future will want CPAs and accounting professionals who aren’t only familiar with the latest tech, but who are also people persons capable of suavely navigating complex social situations. Expect to do a lot more face-to-face work in the future, as your physical presence in the room as a living person is about to grow much more valuable to your firm and clients.
Above all else, accountants of tomorrow will be expected to explain the complexities behind the wonderous technological developments that are buffeting their field. There really is no escaping the forthcoming tidal wave of tech; those accountants who bury their heads in the sand will simply become obsolete, and inevitably find themselves replaced. By focusing your team’s training on creative efforts, and having them cooperate more often so that your accounting firm is more of a coordinating team than a collection of individuals, you’ll be well prepared to survive and thrive in the age of automation.
Gary Eastwood is a CPA licensed senior accountant from Seattle, Washington. He received his CPA license from the Washington State Board of Accountancy in 2001 before relocating to Onawa, Iowa in 2008. Over more than 15 years of accounting experience, Gary has worked with multinational health service providers and independent CPA firms. He has a...