“Tumultuous” might be an understatement for what we’ve all been through in the last year. In fact, 2020 has set so much in motion that in some ways it feels like we still have some catching up to do, which is why in this article I’m going to revisit two of them: digital transformation and diversity. Let’s take a look at the state of these two “D’s” in the accounting space, look at the fallout from 2020, and outline some tips to help organizations succeed on the path forward.
Digital transformation: aligning technology investments with development initiatives
Alongside COVID-19, the acceleration of digital transformation may have been the theme of 2020, impacting all industries – and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. In fact, global investment in digital transformation projects, which has yielded an impressive amount $469.8 billion in 2020should exceed $1 trillion score by 2025.
The accounting space is of course not immune to this kind of disruption. Yet in many organizations there also seems to be a lingering sense of ambivalence – and often it extends all the way up the chain of command. For example, one study found that while the majority of CFOs say they are fully open to adopting the latest digital technologies, 82% are concerned that cultural factors within their organization will prevent them from implementing automated technologies, workflows and more. (Interestingly, almost the same number — 79% — were concerned about the impact of these technologies on their own job security, according to the same survey.)
With all that in mind, however, now might be the time for accountants to hit the pause button on their digital investments and check in with their workforces. Just think of it as your overall digital readiness audit. What are your strengths from a human capital perspective? What skill areas do you have in abundance – and what skills will you need to cultivate in the future? Finally, are all team members ready to commit to professional development and retraining if necessary to make the trip a success?
This last question, in particular, can help bring everyone on your team into alignment, while allaying any fears they may have. Needless to say, this in turn could require you to improve the retraining, upskilling and development programs you offer your team – and if so, that’s a good thing. After all, the benefits will be twofold:
- The best in-house reskilling, upskilling and development programs allow you to proactively develop skills for the future based on the resources you already have today. You maximize the value of your human capital, in a nutshell.
- These programs can also differentiate your employer brand over time. Now, in addition to having stronger team members, recruiting and hiring has also become a bit easier.
This is a smart move on many levels, especially in the area of accounting, given the global competitiveness of the hiring market right now (especially if you’re hiring for one of the most in-demand accounting jobs today). As many organizations find out the hard way, looking outside every time you need to add a key competency often comes down to an expensive and time-consuming proposition these days.
Diversity: Establish levels of responsibility
Aside from digital transformation, what is the state of diversity in accounting firms in general today? There has certainly been a lot of talk around improving diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the accounting space over the past year, but what about action? Namely, what can accounting firms do if they are struggling to move the needle?
A few tips from my experience as a human capital leader:
- Make sure you start with a sufficiently diverse talent pool. It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how often the process is undermined in these early stages. Good inputs lead to good outputs.
- Analyze your end-to-end hiring process and introduce accountability checks where possible. It is essential to have this extra level of transparency during the execution phase.
- Hiring diverse leadership-level talent is often an important first step. This may seem counter-intuitive, especially if you’re looking to dramatically increase the number of employees from underrepresented groups in your company. But hiring at the top first, then working down, can effectively send the message that you’re serious about your commitment — and from there, it should help you attract more diverse recruits down the line.
As any industry veteran will tell you, this is an area in which we all have to do better. Women, and women of color in particular, remain woefully underrepresented on the ground, according to the latest data from McKinsey. However, I remain optimistic that better hiring processes — and, if necessary, working with better-aligned talent partners — can lead to meaningful change. For now, I hope the tips and advice I’ve shared will help you achieve your D&I goals and lead to a more equitable accounting workforce for everyone.
Jodi oversees the field organization and provides strategic direction for Randstad Life Sciences, Randstad Professionals and Tatum. With over 20 years of experience in the recruiting industry, Jodi’s entrepreneurial drive and business acumen have enabled her to consistently grow revenue, grow profits and deliver return on investment. His expertise spans team building, strategic planning and execution, mergers and acquisitions, branding, social media and multigenerational leadership.