We all know AI is here to stay and it will have a permanent effect on how we live and do business. If you’ve seen the recent video of Google’s Assistant making a dinner reservation, even the most skeptical among us must admit AI will change life as we know it.
We’ve also learned from widespread automation of factories in the past two decades that automation doesn’t pose a direct threat to jobs. In fact, most futurists are predicting that AI will create more jobs than it eliminates. The theory is: if we let machines take care of menial calculations, human brains are freed for more important things like creativity, innovation and growing the economy.
Sounds simple enough, as long as we are ready and waiting with the new skills needed in this not-so-distant future. In the next 5 years, every industry will be affected by AI, and the skills that helped secure a job just a few years ago will not be sufficient to keep it. For example, manufacturing assembly jobs, once considered routine, have become more complex; critical thinking and technical aptitude are now required skills.
So what changes will automation and AI bring to the accounting industry?
According to a recent study by Forbes, by 2020, artificial intelligence will be able to fully automate accounting tasks as well as other financial tasks like tax, payroll, audits and banking.
So what will accountants do?
Leading global professional services firms Ernst & Young and Grant Thornton give their perspectives on how they are future-proofing their people.
Building future-focussed skills at EY
EY knows disruption is affecting every business, so in working toward their Vision2020, they’ve looked closely at factors such as innovation, digital strategy and they’re deciphering how they can nimbly adapt in a fast-paced world.
“By 2020, the majority of our employees will be Gen Y and Gen Z – two groups with high expectations related to collaboration, virtual teaming, flexibility and opportunities to learn and grow,” says Muriam De Angelis, Associate Director, EY Canada Talent Team. “We know we have to be continuously adapting. Our new Toronto EY@Work office and upcoming spaces in the Montreal and Vancouver offices are some examples of how we’re adapting to change. We’re creating spaces that will bring together physical changes, with improved technology and flexible working.”
“On top of that, programs like EY Badges are helping to foster a continuous learning environment for our people to gain future-focused skills in areas such as robotic process automation, transformational leadership and data science. This credential program allows our people to display badges on their social profiles, improving their professional visibility. It’s initiatives like these that equip our people with the right skills and experiences to respond to a changing working world.”
Building relationships at Grant Thornton
At accounting and business advisory firm Grant Thornton, they recognize that automation, digitization and artificial intelligence threaten to disrupt their traditional core accounting practice and the work that many of their people have built their careers on. They have chosen to leverage their single greatest asset, which is grounded in the human connection their people have with clients and each other. “At Grant Thornton, we recognize that our firm’s greatest source of competitive advantage, and the thing we know will help us manage evolving technology, is the strength of the relationships our clients have with our people,” says Sharon Healy, Chief People & Culture Officer, Grant Thornton.
The firm strategy is very focused on “helping our people transform their skills by making significant investments and providing them with developmental opportunities to learn new skills, and for some, to reinvent themselves. Our training programs are designed to develop an agile workforce for the future by providing our people with in-depth insight into the factors that must be taken into consideration when providing solutions to our clients, as well as helping them build strong collaboration, problem solving and critical thinking skills. We’ve also introduced new approaches that will help our people understand their clients’ business in a more holistic way. By continuing to focus on building strong relationships, we’re able to live our purpose of helping our clients, colleagues and communities thrive.”
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