A crisis of competence

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A crisis of competence Bill Sheridan, CAE Maryland Association of CPAs Business Learning Institute The ‘skills gap’ and what it means for business

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The problem: Many young professionals are largely unprepared to meet the challenges posed by a changing and complex world.

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The reason: The ‘skills gap.’

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There is a significant gap between the skills young professionals need to succeed … … and those they actually possess.

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Report after report points to this ‘skills gap’ as a real burden on today’s businesses.

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1. Communication 2. Writing skills / memos 3. Critical / strategic thinking 4. Advanced Excel skills 5. Time management / organization 6. Prioritization 7. Collaboration In a May 26, 2015 strategy session facilitated by the MACPA and the BLI, the managing partners of 14 local, regional, and national CPA firms ranked what they believe are the most important skills for entry-level staff members.

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Those skills mirror the results of numerous national reports. For instance …

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The most critical non-technical skills needed by young professionals: Ethics Communication Customer service Adaptability Strategic thinking / execution Process improvement Leadership Collaboration This is from a report produced by the American Productivity and Quality Center and the Institute of Management Accountants.

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81 percent of those polled say planning, budgeting and forecasting skills are critical. Only 30 percent of entry-level finance professionals possess those skills. 77 percent say leadership ability is a necessity, but only 14 percent say their employees have it. A May 19, 2015 article in The Wall Street Journal found huge gaps in the supply and demand of certain skills:

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The top four skills leaders must possess to succeed in a world defined by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity: Managing / introducing change Building consensus / commitment Inspiring others toward a future vision Leading across generations The Conference Board’s Global Leadership Forecast 2014-15 examined the skills that will be most in demand going forward.

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The top five skills young professionals say they need to be successful: Communication Inspiring and motivating others Strategic and critical thinking Anticipating and serving evolving needs Influencing and persuading others The MACPA’s Tom Hood facilitated a session at the 2015 AICPA E.D.G.E. Conference for young professionals. Here’s what attendees said:

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The top four teachable skills for young professionals: Critical / strategic thinking Time management Writing skills / memos Problem solving Then there’s this from “Top Ten Skills in New Hires,” a white paper produced by the Connecticut Society of CPAs:

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Do you see what’s happening here? Report after report finds the same thing: Young professionals need more ‘soft skills.’ The ‘soft skills’ that are most in need are largely the same from report to report: strategic and critical thinking, communication, leadership, anticipation.

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56 percent of employees were only somewhat prepared for their first accounting or finance job. 14 percent were not at all prepared. The most often-cited reason: Knowledge gained in the classroom didn’t translate to the job. Young professionals often say they are unprepared to meet the demands of today’s workplace. From the Robert Half Readiness Index: And yet …

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Who’s to blame?

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Employers blame higher education.

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Higher education blames the K-12 system.

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The real answer is more complicated.

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The exponential pace of change and technology is automating lower-level skills. That means “soft skills” are crucial at earlier ages.

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“The environment in the early CPA career is more demanding of those ‘soft skills,’ especially communication and business acumen. Some posit that in the future, ‘back office’ functions will be automated, which will require entry-level workers to do more customer- and client-facing work earlier in their careers. What does this mean as far as the skills they’ll need to do that work?” -- Tom Hood, CPA MACPA Executive Director

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CPAs who succeed going forward will have mastered the “soft skills” that improve their ability to do client-facing work.

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We must urge educators at every level to transform their business and accounting curricula to include skills like leadership, collaboration, and strategic thinking. But until then …

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Young professionals must take it upon themselves to learn the key skills that will make them future-ready. Where can they find those skills?

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From more sources than ever. Among them is the Business Learning Institute, whose thought leaders offer instruction in leadership, personal development, strategic thinking, communication, and scores of other competencies.

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There’s also “The Anticipatory Organization: Accounting and Finance Edition,”TM a revolutionary new learning system that teaches CPAs how to anticipate future trends and take advantage of the opportunities they offer. www.BLIonline.org/The-Anticipatory-Organization/

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Regardless of where the training originates, it’s more important than ever that young professionals gain the skills they need to be future-ready.

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The future of their organizations — and their very careers — may depend on it.

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