Upskilling for Digital Transformation: Part 1

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Accounting firms see digital transformation on the horizon and realize they must navigate a significant skills gap. The competencies for which their professionals are most proficient are not the same as those needed to leverage emerging technologies to transform their value proposition. Closing this skills gap is imperative.  

Own Your Organization’s Skill Set

Your organization must understand and define its own skills gap. Getting this definition right and having your professionals buy into it is too important to let someone outside the organization do it for you.

As with any change management initiative, defining the skills gap should be driven by leadership, and it should involve a critical mass of your team members that will add value by:

  • Contributing multiple perspectives to deepen the wisdom of the group
  • Creating a base of support to launch and sustain the initiative

Avoid Generalities

Broad skill categories (e.g., critical thinking, problem-solving, data analytics) can help organize your thinking, but they’re too general to build a plan for competency development. If you were given the directive, “our people need to improve their critical thinking” or if a CPE provider advertised a module on “problem-solving,” the chances of you developing the necessary competencies would be slim.

To effectively close your skills gap, you must have a much greater understanding of that gap and focus on desired behaviors. Make an abstract concept like “decision-making” concrete by taking steps to understand how you want your professionals to act when faced with a decision.

Use Scenarios to Define the Skills Gap

After identifying a process in your firm that needs improvement, start by asking these questions.

  • How do your professionals currently act to perform the tasks in that process?
  • Given those same circumstances and tasks, how do you want them to act in the future?

The delta between what they’re doing now and what you want them to do defines the skills gap, and putting the exercise within the context of a business situation makes the definition more concrete.

Play the Long Game

Finance organization leaders know they need to invest in their professional staff to develop new skill sets and often turn to quick-fix technology solutions that promise competency. A more holistic strategy starts with identifying the unique needs of your organization, then learning to apply these advisory skills in context to generate solutions. Based on my experience, this methodical approach is more effective.


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