Navigating the New Skills Pathway in Accounting and Finance: One of the Key Trends to Emerge from the Global Economic Downturn Is to Rethink the Traditional Skill Sets and Job Descriptions That Have Characterized the Accounting and Finance Sectors

By Drobocky, Kristina | Strategic Finance, August 2013 | Go to article overview

Navigating the New Skills Pathway in Accounting and Finance: One of the Key Trends to Emerge from the Global Economic Downturn Is to Rethink the Traditional Skill Sets and Job Descriptions That Have Characterized the Accounting and Finance Sectors


Drobocky, Kristina, Strategic Finance


Communication, leadership, strategic thinking, and presentation skills are now as important as the hard skills you use every day. What is emerging is a profile of a candidate who, for example, has gone from having a generic "accounting" title to a focused "accounting analyst" role. You need an array of advanced communication and presentation skills--the so-called "soft" skills.

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The debate about skills, soft or otherwise, touches a deep nerve. There are some entrenched views about what constitutes the appropriate skills for those in the industry, especially recent graduates entering the field. There are also diverse expectations among employees and employers as to what is required at different career stages and how skills gaps should be addressed.

A new analysis of workers in the corporate accounting and finance sectors in the United States and Canada has shed light on the way workers view training and skills development and how some are taking greater control over their career development.

The analysis comes from the results of the 2013 Kelly Global Workforce IndexTM (KGWI), which is an annual survey conducted by Kelly Services that examines opinions about work and the workplace from a wide range of industry sectors across 31 countries--from the Americas to the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region to the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. Approximately 1,000 employees in the accounting and finance sectors across the U.S. and Canada took part in the survey.

Employee Preference for Skills Development

Some insightful messages have come out of this research. First, accounting and finance workers have a strong sense of the type of continuing education and skills development that best suits their career paths. When asked to choose from a range of training options, the one that attracted overwhelming support was on-the-job experience, cited by 75% of respondents. On-the-job experience far outweighs other methods of skills development, including continuing education and training (59%), professional certification (38%), and seminars/webinars (31%).

As employers look to retain or attract employees to their accounting or finance teams, it's important to look at the training resources offered because on-the-job experience and training emerges as a key driver for department productivity and growth.

If you look at how education is evolving, we not only have students sitting in classrooms, but we also have systems learning and entire bachelor of accounting degrees online.

Many businesses, especially those with recent graduates, devote significant time and resources to on-the-job training designed to integrate students from all of these different educational formats into a corporate culture, as well as teach them about enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and company procedures.

Why Invest in Training?

Perhaps the main reason to invest in employee training is simply to ensure that employees feel a commitment from the company they work for. Kelly Services has looked at engagement and motivation as part of its ongoing KGWI studies.

Challenging and fulfilling work is typically one of the top drivers of engagement and retention and ranks above compensation. Training and continuing education is often the most direct means to challenging, motivating opportunities and career advancement.

It has been increasingly recognized that training doesn't stop at the college level. In virtually all professions, the process of skills development and renewal is a career-long requirement. In accounting and finance, there are continuing education requirements for most certifications throughout a career.

Where governmental compliance and regulation are prevalent, the process of upskilling and reskilling is the norm. In the accounting and finance sectors, where so many compliance pronouncements and rules are made, it can be daunting to keep up with certifications and industry-specific rules and regulations. …

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Navigating the New Skills Pathway in Accounting and Finance: One of the Key Trends to Emerge from the Global Economic Downturn Is to Rethink the Traditional Skill Sets and Job Descriptions That Have Characterized the Accounting and Finance Sectors
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