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Lifelong learning is essential to remain relevant in an ever-changing world


19 Nov 2018


Innovation & Enterprise
Accountancy professionals will be increasingly required to broaden their skill-set and take ownership of their personal development if they are to succeed in an ever-changing, dynamic world, according to a new report from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). 
The report - Learning for the Future - published today also reveals how the learning landscape is changing as a result of rising new digital solutions, but social interactions to reinforce learning are ever more essential in turning learning content, especially that provided online, into effective skills and capability. 
The accountancy profession, like many other professions, faces several significant challenges from social and technological trends and developments. Careers are getting far longer as we need to spend more time in the workplace and our paths are increasingly less linear. Digital innovations in finance and accounting can present both an opportunity for accountants to move up to more value-adding roles and responsibilities, but could also mean others are at risk of getting marginalised if they are not open to change. 
The report highlights four dynamics in the change of workplace learning:
  • Technology in accounting – Robotic Process Automation, Artificial Intelligence and cloud-based computing are all technologies that have an impact on accounting and are changing the way we are working. Tasks are being automated and roles are being squeezed. We have different expectations of new entrants and challenges for other roles. Interpretation of data, communication, vision and strategy are increasingly top responsibilities for the future accountant.
  • The evolving workplace – many of the traditional perceptions of work are being challenged by evolving business models, giving way to more flexible and dynamic team based structures. Instead of developing staff in existing roles, many organisations are now embracing the gig-economy and ‘borrowing’ talent over a specific period of time to cover a certain phase in growth. Also, many societies are facing the reality of four generations in the work place and strategic organisational design needs to ensure all generations are able to work together and leverage each other’s strength and experiences.
  • Flexibility in career – the transition to more flexible, lattice career paths can create challenges for those trying to progress. We are moving away from the conventional ‘ladder’ path to a journey where we make career choices aligned to our personal growth agenda. Concepts of a job for life are long gone and for those generations already in the workplace, adapting to this model is challenging.
  • The self-curated learning trend – as individuals we are increasingly responsible for our own career choices and the traditional reliance on the employer to support us is decreasing. Many have historically sustained careers in a world where learning took place at a time and place and fitted into a cycle. Nowadays, to assume there is one clear course that can be rolled out at organisational level is outdated. While employers must embrace the variability of content and providers now available, learners must become more educated as to what activities they can undertake to achieve the performance level they are aiming at. 
ACCA’s executive director, strategy and development – Alan Hatfield, says: 
‘ACCA sees the successful accountant of the future being one who realises the need to develop their skills on a continuous basis. They take full responsibility for their own development and accept no one will do this for them. While they need to be technically competent, they also need to have the softer skills required for the value added aspects of their role.  As the pace of change progresses so we need to ever more refresh and build upon our skills to remain relevant.
‘It’s also vital for employers to maintain a culture that supports continuous learning in the workplace and recognise that employee development is a longer-term project. Effective mentoring and coaching from peers, colleagues and fellow professionals is also essential in that regard, which is why ACCA recently introduced its own online mentoring programme to facilitate those important connections across our global membership.
‘The learning and development community should endeavour to move away from being providers and rather become curators of learning content. Organisation-wide learning is probably a thing of the past and a one-size fits all approach can never effectively address the variety of needs. They must step in and provide guidance and support on how to achieve the most from the range of developmental programmes available.’
This report is based on surveys, roundtables and interviews with ACCA members and students and those from the learning and development communities, including employers and education providers.
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For media enquiries, contact:
Chanel Townsend
T: +44 (0)20 7059 5622
M: +44 (0)7834173867
Twitter @ACCANews 
About ACCA
ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants, offering business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. 
ACCA supports its 208,000 members and 503,000 students in 179 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. ACCA works through a network of 104 offices and centres and more than 7,300 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through its public interest remit, ACCA promotes appropriate regulation of accounting and conducts relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.
ACCA has introduced major innovations to its flagship qualification to ensure its members and future members continue to be the most valued, up to date and sought-after accountancy professionals globally. 
Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. More information is here: