As technology continues to transform the accountancy profession, ICAEW continues to seek and embrace the new opportunities it presents. Data is exploding. Over the past few years, the volume and depth of data that accounting and finance professionals have had to deal with have become vast. The growth of its importance has only accelerated in 2020, as we've all suddenly had to adapt to a remote and predominantly digital way of working. This trend was brought to the fore by Finance in a Digital World – launched back in 2018 – which explores the major disruptors to the profession and the impact they are having on the work we do and how we do it. Technological change is nothing new – we've all experienced it throughout our working lives. What is different now, however, is the amount of data and its availability to businesses of all sizes, and the technology and computing power that enables us to turn this raw data into useful information. The ability to accurately predict future trends is a priceless asset to any business. But it's not just about analysing the data; it's about using it intelligently to answer practical business questions and effectively communicating the findings back to the business to inform decision-making. We should not underestimate the skills required to take information and explain clearly and concisely to colleagues what it means and how to act upon it. The recent World Economic Forum' Future of Jobs' report underpins many of these beliefs, but what surprised me is the speed of change it predicts. It forecasts that the 'double-disruption' scenario of increasing automation in tandem with the COVID-19 recession will result in a significant shift in tasks, jobs and skills within the next five years. Audit and accountancy feature in the top four areas impacted. Data analytics and data science are listed as the biggest areas of growth. This is something our profession must take very seriously. Encouragingly, the massive take-up of our Data Analytics Community, launched last year, suggests many members recognise the very real need to adapt and upskill in this critical area. Today, I'm proud to announce that we are taking the next step with the launch of the ICAEW Data Analytics Certificate Programme. The programme has been developed specifically for finance professionals and explores data analytics as a process for answering business problems or questions rather than as a pure data exploratory exercise. Operating entirely online and developed in collaboration with ICAEW Partner in Learning, Kaplan Financial, this programme will upskill participants with the practical skills and understanding of data analytics you need to better support your business and clients by providing evidence-based, forward-looking insights and assurance that help decision making. With an already well-established knowledge base and skillset in business and finance paired with commercial acumen, I believe chartered accountants are perfectly positioned to adapt, thrive and lead in this area. Our new certificate programme will help you do just that. Find out more about the ICAEW Data Analytics Certificate Programme here.
Digital transformation in many organisations has accelerated this year. The need for accountants with data analytics skills has never been higher. The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) recent Future of Jobs Report 2020 explores how automation, in tandem with the COVID-19 recession, is creating a ‘double-disruption’ scenario. The report forecasts a significant shift in tasks, jobs and skills within the next five years, with accounting and auditing being in the top four areas impacted, and data analytics and data science being the biggest area of growth. This trend is echoed in recent figures from accounting and finance recruitment firm Robert Half, which show one in three employers are redesigning roles in direct response to the pandemic, with the focus on digital, technical and soft skills. With the WEF’s view of significant change over such a short timeframe, never has the need to upskill been more urgent. For finance and accounting teams, this means a greater focus on business planning and analysis. This comes hand-in-hand with a digital ‘levelling up’ of businesses, with two in five leaders committing to fast-tracking digital transformation in the second half of the year, according to Robert Half. An EY survey came to similar conclusions: 57% of respondents said predictive and prescriptive analytics skills were critical. Historically, data analytics was the domain of other departments, such as marketing and IT, says Fraser Nicol, Partner, Business Technology Consulting for top 10 accounting and business advisory firm Azets. With the digital transformation agenda accelerating, the data available to support decision making is growing. “Finance functions first need to be able to use data in its own right to support good financial decision-making,” Nicol says. “Secondly, they need to be able to support the business case that’s being made by other bits of the business that want to use data analytics. That's why it's becoming more important now.” Skills gap However, the skills currently aren’t there to meet demand. According to consultancy firm McKinsey, only 18% of companies believe they have the skills necessary to gather and use insights effectively. Just 19% of companies are confident their data insights processes are improving the effectiveness of their sales. Nicol says there’s often a lack of knowledge around data and its potential. “Businesses have got more data available to them now than they had before. And most businesses don't know exactly what that data is or what it could enable them to do.” Data analytics managers within the finance function can help businesses utilise and use that data, which requires certain skills. “You have to be able to respond to the evidence critically and make your own decisions. Insight only comes from understanding your business and the significance of whatever the data is telling you,” says Nicol. “You have to link your data analytics very closely to your strategy and your business objectives, rather than allow it to drive them. That's why it's almost too important to be left to the data scientists.” Accountants as ‘data translators’ McKinsey talks about the importance of data translators: people able to take data sets, draw insights from that data and put those insights into actionable language that can then be applied across the organisation. “When the data are rendered into insights, business managers need to then translate them into messages and offers to be delivered to the marketplace.” This isn’t necessarily a new role to accountants, Nicol explains. Finance professionals have always been responsible for taking financial information and presenting it to others within the business. The difference is in the depth and range of data now available from non-traditional sources, possibly in areas of which accountants are unaware. “There's a challenge there to get that right. But there's also a massive opportunity to actually add a lot more value than you were previously adding because you can access much richer streams of data.” What you can do about it If you want to move yourself or your team into more of a data analytics role, there are several key skills you need to develop and consider, including technical (programming, statistics, business knowledge) and non-technical (problem-solving, communication, critical thinking). The collection and analysis of richer data also brings new ethical considerations for accountants to keep in mind. “It's not just about how you can quickly extract data, manipulate it and create outputs with it; you have to be able to think about the ethical side of it as well,” says Nicol. ICAEW, in partnership with training provider Kaplan and Azets, has created a Data Analytics Certificate Programme for members who want to improve their data analytics capabilities. The Analyst course teaches people the principles of data analytics as a process, including how to code and how to manipulate data, and the importance of creating engaging narrative and data visualisations back to the business to aid decision-making. It also covers the ethics of data analytics. The Management course is for those who are seeking to understand how to develop an effective data analytics function within their organisation and covers areas including data strategy and governance, forecasting and risk management, and influencing through storytelling and visualisation. Experts are predicting that digitisation will bring automation to traditional accountancy roles, Nicol explains. However, the need for finance professionals who can interpret data and can enable decision making based on their data-driven insights is only going to grow. “The world is changing, business is changing, accountants need to change too.” The ICAEW Data Analytics Certificate Programme will be available from 1 December 2020. For more information or to register your interest click here. If you want to excel in data analytics and succeed in this insight-driven era join the Data Analytics Community for free.
If finding a new job or getting a promotion is on your New Year’s resolution list, take a look at our expert tips on moving your accounting or finance career up a gear in 2021 and find out how ICAEW Jobs can support your search. COVID-19 has caused untold upheaval to the jobs market and many, including accountants, have found themselves out of work and looking for a new role. It has also made many of us reassess our priorities and look closely at what we really want to be spending our time doing. But what’s the best way to go about finding a new job during a pandemic? Simon Gray, ICAEW Chartered Accountant, former recruiter and author of Super Secrets of Successful Executive Job Search shares his 2021 job tips and insights with us. Is it a good time to be looking for a new accounting job? With so many out of work, you may be wondering whether looking for a new accounting job right now is a good idea. Speaking at ICAEW’s Financial Controller’s update in December, Gray said: “Now is always the best time. Organisations are always on the lookout for skilled and talented people.” Helen Jones, Head of ICAEW Jobs, confirms that the number of roles being advertised on the ICAEW Jobs board is now back up to pre-COVID levels. She says: “I've seen an increase in candidates recently, which shows people are starting to look for jobs again. There are actually huge opportunities at the moment and in the past few weeks I’ve had a lot of new roles become available.” How to stand out from the crowd With each accountancy and finance job vacancy often attracting hundreds of applicants, finding ways to stand out has never been more important. Gray says: “The way you stand out is not through your CV. Standing out means doing something different to everyone else. Think hard about the sector or organisation you’d like to work in and think about the value you can add. Then approach senior decision-makers within those organisations (through LinkedIn or even a letter) and engage in a conversation about how you can help their organisation. That could lead to an opportunity now or at least make you memorable for the future.” When you are applying for an advertised vacancy, Gray explains you can improve your chances of making the shortlist by following up with a phone call, even just to check the CV has been received. Or, better still, request an informal call with one of the interviewers ahead of the selection process. He says: “No one else is likely to have done that. It immediately puts you in a position to do two things: to stand out as being proactive and to get intelligence as to information you might need for the interview process.” How to secure a promotion Maintaining an understanding of what’s going on across your organisation can be tough when you’re operating remotely but remaining visible and maintaining your awareness of business activity can benefit you greatly. ICAEW member Amy Griffith, Business Finance Partner at British Council, who has worked remotely in many of her past finance roles says: “It’s about getting exposure to senior management. It’s also important to demonstrate strategic insight: to show people you’re operating at the level above where you’re currently working. It’s not about talking the most in meetings, it’s about listening and providing those insights.” Griffith also recommends joining online events and networking opportunities to stay visible when working remotely. How can ICAEW Jobs help with your accounting job search? ICAEW Jobs provides support for job hunters and ICAEW members looking to develop their finance careers. The site features a members-only job board with around 500 live jobs, from entry-level roles to senior positions. You can register to receive tailored job alerts and join the 38,000 members who have already uploaded their CV. ICAEW Jobs also hosts a blog and can help you arrange career coaching through CABA. Later this month, ICAEW Jobs is launching a course of lunchtime sessions to support members searching for their next role. Helen Jones adds: “ICAEW Jobs is about your entire career journey. If you want to become manager, we’ll help you find the training you should be taking now so that when that role comes up, you’re ready. It’s about working out what you want to do and finding a role where you can progress.” Further support Visit ICAEW Jobs and upload your CV. Watch Simon’s session at ICAEW’s Financial Controllers Update 2020 in December. Listen to Simon Gray’s podcasts supporting executive job search recorded with ICAEW.
Despite a record hike in the overall number of UK redundancies, specialist accountancy recruiters remain upbeat for the sector, predicting an upturn in demand over the coming 12 months and salary increases buoyed by ongoing skills shortages. The UK unemployment rate rose to 4.9% in the quarter to October and layoffs soared to a record 370,000 in the three months to October as the government scaled back its furlough scheme (before the decision was made to extend it). This brings the UK jobless total up to 1.7 million people, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Lee Owen, Director at Hays Accountancy & Finance, said it had been a tough year for all industries, and accountancy and finance were no exception. “However,” said Owen, “sentiment from our clients about the long-term prosperity of the sector is somewhat upbeat. Most are expecting their activity levels to increase or stay the same over the next 12 months and there is optimism about the health of the wider economy.” Owen said he expected employers to roll out targeted recruitment strategies over the next 12 months as they looked to fill skills gaps. “Aside from prerequisite technical skills, we’ve seen a real demand for professionals who are strong communicators, able to adopt change and good at problem-solving. Given these skills shortages, it’s unsurprising that many employers have increased salaries – a trend which will continue into the New Year.” According to the Hays Salary & Recruiting Trends 2021 Guide, 88% of employer respondents said they expect their organisation’s activity levels to increase or stay the same over the next 12 months. More than half - 54% - said they plan on recruiting staff over the next 12 months and three quarters said they had experienced skills shortages in the last 12 months. Meanwhile, 45% of employee respondents said they would be tempted to change role due to the salary or benefits on offer, with the same proportion feeling there is no scope for progression within their organisation. Hays says job seekers should remain open-minded and flexible about the direction of their careers. “The pandemic has caused surges in demand across sectors such as pharmaceuticals, technology and FMCG resulting in a ramping up of recruitment requirements over the course of the year,” Owen said. “Job seekers may wish to target those more buoyant sectors to uncover unexpected opportunities – which could be the ones to propel your career.” Continual investments in professional development will stand candidates in good stead, Owen added. “Those who are refreshing their skillset on an ongoing basis will be the ones who thrive in our changing world of work. Take advantage of any training opportunities offered by your employer, as well as looking at online courses, podcasts and reading in your own time.” Chris Hickey, UK CEO of Robert Walters, said macro factors such as Brexit being concluded, the newly elected US President starting his term, and COVID vaccines being administered, would provide a positive springboard for the rest of the year. The Robert Walters Salary Survey 2021, due to be published in January, anticipates pent-up recruitment demand across a number of sectors and the highest rates of salary inflation in four years since the Brexit vote was passed. “Senior professionals with expertise in restructuring and turnarounds will be in high demand as the UK initially emerges from its recessionary market,” Hickey says. “Experienced individuals that are able to communicate effectively to provide training and advice to more junior staff will also be highly valued as the markets begin to pick up and transition into a growth cycle.” Meanwhile, the market for CFOs and financial leadership roles witnessed a rebound in hiring activity from early summer - a trend set to continue into 2021, according to headhunter Odgers Berndtson. Duncan Hoggett, a partner in the CFO Practice, said the pivotal role finance had played in helping businesses navigate through the crisis had stood it in good stead. “Initially, this centred on securing liquidity, implementing furlough schemes and securing other government support. However, as the crisis has unfolded it has also accelerated a number of structural changes across a range of sectors. Finance will continue to play a critical role in helping businesses to transform and adapt. There’s a lot of companies looking for specific, senior-level finance capabilities to deliver turnarounds, support M&A activity or lead digital transformation programmes.” Accountants with the right mix of skills – particularly AI and Digital Transformation – will continue to be in demand. “We have no doubt finance professionals will play a lead role in the way businesses engage and deploy these exciting technologies,” Hoggett said. “Accountants should be accumulating these skills now so that they are able to thrive in the future jobs market.” Finance in a Digital World: a suite of online learning modules to support ICAEW members and students, develop awareness and build understanding of digital technologies and their impact on finance.
After the ups and downs of this year, we all deserve a well-earned break over Christmas. It’s important to take this time to relax, recharge and refresh for the upcoming year. However, the festive period is also a good time to evaluate your professional life and set a new direction for the year ahead. If a new job is on the horizon for you, then you need to take a proactive approach to job searching during at least some of your time off. Here is some guidance about what’s true and what isn’t when it comes to using the festive period to look for a new job. I need to completely switch off from work. Fiction. I’m certainly not denying that it’s important to switch off from work during the festive period. It has felt like a long year, which has left many of us wanting – and needing – to take this time to relax. However, you also deserve to have a successful career in the year ahead. My advice is therefore to turn down your work brain, rather than switching it off completely. Don’t ban yourself from reflecting on the year gone by. What parts of your work have you enjoyed? What have you achieved? What would you have done differently? Some reflection and consideration might illuminate new goals or a new direction for you to take your career in as we approach 2021. Job searching will ruin my Christmas plans. Fiction. Christmas mean that many of us are looking forward to spending time with our loved ones. There’s lots to do over the festive period in any case, so the last thing you want is to miss out on the fun because you’re looking for a new job. The reality is that you can do both. Set some time aside to search for jobs, even if it’s just a couple of hours here and there. Aim to harness your most productive times – like you would do in a normal day at work. Being disciplined and smart with your time is the key to getting a good end of year break while also investing time in your career. Lots of people will be wanting a new job in the New Year. Fact. As I mentioned, the New Year is a great time to set a new direction for your career and explore your options. Indeed, many professionals will be thinking this, which can make the New Year feel like a competitive time to be applying for jobs. But here’s where you can put yourself at an advantage: starting your job hunt over Christmas will give you a head start over others. Many will put off their job search until they get around to making it a New Year’s resolution, so get ahead of the competition by starting your job hunt now. Even if it’s just updating your CV and doing some research at this stage, beginning the process early will pay off when competition might heat up in the New Year. No one will look at my CV over Christmas. Fiction. It’s a fair enough assumption to make, seeing as business activity typically winds down towards the end of the year. However, this doesn’t mean that hiring completely stops. Recruiters and hiring managers will likely still be checking their emails over the Christmas break because of the nature of their job, so don’t worry about your CV sitting in someone’s inbox unread. What’s more, most recruiters and hiring managers will be feeling less busy over the next few weeks and therefore might be more receptive to any applications that come through. Putting your CV out there over the Christmas period might just make you stand out more and offer you the chance to grab the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager during a quiet period. A five-point plan for your festive job hunt Here are some steps to help you get starting with your job hunt: Ask yourself what you want from a new job. Think beyond salary and job title – what sort of employer do you want to work for? And what kind of company culture do you need to thrive? Start researching. Try recruitment websites, job boards and LinkedIn to get a sense of what’s out there and get inspired. Brush up your CV. Ensure it’s up to date and include some of the key words and phrases you’ve picked up when researching potential jobs. Network. Identify relevant contacts who could help you make your next step and reach out. Practice your interview skills. When you get that call inviting you to interview you want to be ready to impress. Hopefully separating fact from fiction when it comes to job hunting over Christmas goes to show that it can be a good time to explore your options. Balancing your break with some investment in your career will see you have a positive and successful start to the New Year.
You may have lost your training agreement or job as a result of the pandemic. Emotions like shock, upset and anger are all very normal in these circumstances and many people have to go through these emotions to get to a point of acceptance. Even people with the thickest skins find rejection difficult. When something important to you is taken away, it can be very hard. Seek out the people you know and whose opinions you trust. Talking your situation through will help you vent some of those emotions and will help you get to a place where you can plan for your new future with energy and positivity. It is important to recognise that organisations are still hiring. Some companies and sectors have prospered throughout the pandemic and they show no sign of slowing down their recruitment plans. Many others, of course, have been impacted and redundancies are increasing, especially many government job protection schemes come to an end. But while many organisations are downsizing, they are also rethinking and reorganising. They are planning for the ‘new normal’ and, for many, that means looking at bringing in new talent to do new and different things. So how do you find and land a new job? Here are our 3 top tips: 1. Treat your job search like a job itself Most jobs have tasks, routine and an overall objective. You know what you have to do, when it’s got to be done by and what you are seeking to achieve. Apply these same principles to your job search and you will have a plan. Your plan should start with the overall objective. Take some time to think about the skills and potential you have, the roles you want, the sectors and companies that are of interest. You can then start honing your CV, so it is focused on your end game. Then research employment agencies who specialise in the areas you are targeting. Register your CV and make contact with individual recruiters. Make your approach email personalised and engaging. Ensure you are looking at LinkedIn and relevant job boards. Above all, you should be networking. In the current climate, this will help you make quicker progress. Once you have your plan, set yourself daily and weekly goals. This will help to keep you motivated and energised. 2. Make sure you stand out It is true that there are roles out there. But it is also true that there will be increased competition for every role so you must stand out. Now is the time to think about your personal brand. Spend some time thinking about everything you’ve done. Everything thing you’ve learnt and all the silks you’ve developed. And then think about what you stand for. What are your values? All of this comes together to form your personal brand. Authenticity is a key ingredient of any successful brand. Do not try to be someone else. You are who you are. Find ways of articulating who you are and what you stand for. Be genuine and you will be more confident, more believable, and more credible. Your profile and activity on LinkedIn needs to stand out so recruiters find you and think you are a strong candidate. Make new connections, share content, comment on posts and publish your own posts. During online events contribute to the debate, ask questions and have a view. All of this will build your profile and make you more visible. 3. Tailor every application This can help differentiate you from the competition. Recruiters spend minutes, sometimes seconds, scanning CVs and applications. Look closely at the advert and, if you have it, the role profile. What are they specifically looking for? What are the key priorities of the role and essential requirements in the person spec? Make sure your CV or application highlight your achievements, experience and skills that match. That might mean amending your personal profile, changing the order of the bullet points under each role, describing an achievement in a little more detail. Ultimately, you want the recruiter to immediately see you are a good fit and put your CV on the “yes to interview” pile. And don’t forget that before a human being has seen your CV or application, a recruitment system will probably have scanned it first. This is where key words play a critical role. Again, look closely at the advert or role profile. What are the most important aspects and make sure you weave those words or phrases into your CV. For example, you may talk about Account Management whilst the employer may refer to Client Partner. Tailor your CV accordingly. This will all take time but the effort that will pay off. CABA provides free lifelong support to past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, ICAEW staff, and their close family members We provide a range of career development support including career coaching, CV and LinkedIn reviews, contact us today to find out more. https://www.caba.org.uk/
Redundancy can be a stressful and upsetting time for everyone. Even if you’ve seen it coming, it’s often a shock. You may feel anger, disbelief, embarrassment, anxiety, guilt, or that you've been unfairly treated. It's important not to deny these feelings, as they are perfectly normal. They can manifest themselves in different ways such as tension, lethargy, irritability, anxiety and a change in eating habits. If you’ve recently lost your job, or are worried about being made redundant, here are 5 top tips to help you prepare yourself for your next chapter. 1. Talk about your situation For many people, work is more than just an income. It offers status, a daily routine and a sense of purpose, together with an interesting and challenging activity. For some, their social life can also revolve around work colleagues. This is a lot to lose. If you’re stressed or in despair, it’s so important to talk about how your feel with other people, such as your colleagues, family and friends. Sharing your thoughts and feeling with others will allow you to process your emotions and come to terms with what’s happened. As research professor Dr Brené Brown says, shame cannot survive empathy. So, by leaning on the support from those around you, and allowing them to be there for you, you’re bound to feel a sense of release. 2. Establish a new routine People who’ve been made redundant say they find it helpful to establish a regular daily routine. This often means getting up as if you’re going to work, getting dressed and focusing on finding new paid employment. Having some structure to your day will help keep you positive and enable you to keep track of what you've done today and what you need to do tomorrow. For some ideas on how to bring some structure to your day, check out our coping with redundancy guide which contains some handy tips. 3. Don’t take it personally Redundancies are rarely, if ever, personal. But sometimes it’s hard not to take it that way. As someone who’s being made redundant, you might feel undervalued and overlooked, which can affect the way you view yourself as a professional. A diminished sense of self-worth can have a big impact on how you tackle the next stage, as you may feel like you’re not good or skilled enough to apply for positions at a similar or higher level. This is why it’s so important to practice self-compassion as this will help you to re-build your confidence. Reminding yourself of all you’ve achieved so far and remembering that you’ve got plenty of moves left to play. Don’t leave it too long before you start looking at what’s next - whether that’s applying for your next job, or, if finances allow, taking some time out to think about how you might use this as an opportunity to realign yourself with your life goals. 4. Re-invent yourself When we’re young and still in school, we sometimes feel as if the whole world is open to us and that we can pursue any profession. This feeling of possibility tends to lessen the older we get as the number of financial and personal obligations we have grows. However, don’t forget that it’s never too late to re-invent yourself. No matter what age you are, redundancy can actually be an opportunity for you to take a positive step forwards in your career, whether this means applying for a similar role but for a company that better aligns with your values, or going down a completely different path and exploring another sector completely. For those wondering what their next move is, we offer career and personal and professional coaching services as well as personal and professional development courses. Contact us today to find out more. 5. Tend to your financial wellbeing Losing a job can do terrible things to our financial wellbeing. You might be worried about how you’re going to pay your bills this month or if you’ll have enough money to look after your family. These feelings often weigh heavy on us, making us feel caged in and like we are running out of options. Much of this is down to feeling like you don’t have any ownership of your future. Remember, financial wellbeing is about control - control over your day-to-day decisions and long-term goals. While you may feel like you’re at a loss of what to do when you’ve been made redundant, there are ways of regaining a sense of agency. The first thing to do is to take stock of your finances and create a budget. One you’ve got a better idea of what you’ve got coming in and out of your accounts, it’s easier to make rational decisions that will positively impact your situation. You should also look into what help is out there for you, as there are many support services in place for people who are experiencing financial difficulties. CABA offers a range of financial services to its members and their families, including financial assistance, debt management advice and benefits counsel. The importance of perspective Staying hopeful is all about perspective. It may seem devastating and scary right now, but it will pass and things will get better. And remember, you don’t have to struggle alone. Contact CABA today. CABA provides free lifelong support to past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, ICAEW staff, and their close family members. If you’re worried about the impact of the pandemic on you and your family, find out how CABA can support you.
Of course, the pandemic took us all – governments, organisations and individuals – by surprise. However, many of us have now moved from the ‘crisis’ phase of dealing with the pandemic, into a more considered ‘new normal’. As we navigate the bumpy path ahead, it is worth remembering that some of the long term, negative effects of the pandemic may not be unprecedented, and can be mitigated. Failing to invest in learning will damage your talent pipeline and future growth For many, the financial crisis of 2008 is within memory – the lessons from then are fresh and still relevant today. The experience of those organisations that emerged resilient, offers today’s leaders examples of actions to take to ensure growth in the long term. It also acts as a good reminder to ensure we don’t repeat any mistakes – such as neglecting to foster a learning culture. Failure to invest in learning has long-lasting consequences on talent pipelines. In recent years, many of the professional sectors we recruit for have felt the after-effects of a past failure to invest in training and development. Employers that cut back on training during the last recession were – and continue to be – faced with a chronic shortage of skilled workers, and they haven’t always been able to capitalise on opportunities as a result. In times of great change, upskilling is vital. In order for our organisations to remain future-ready, our workers’ skills must remain relevant and we need to ensure they have the skills to be adaptable and productive. Investing in learning, development and training allows organisations and employees to have the knowledge and skills not just to keep up, but to thrive in a rapidly evolving world of work. Unfortunately, training fell from many organisations’ list of priorities as leaders worked to resolve the immediate challenges wrought by the pandemic and in some cases, it still hasn’t been put back onto the agenda. It is these businesses that need to take note and take action now. Not only do they risk not being able to shift gears quickly enough when the market returns, but they risk a disengaged workforce and will struggle to attract the talent they need. Opportunities for learning and development are key priorities for professionals when considering a new job. It’s something most candidates ask about at interview, and that most employers claim to offer their employees. Continuous learning and the opportunity to upskill are no longer the preserve of junior staff, but more experienced professionals will be equally aware of the impact of digital transformation and how rapidly their skill sets need to continue to evolve to keep up with an ever-changing workplace. So, a shortfall in learning and development has negative consequences for the future availability, attraction and retention of talent, as well as innovation and business growth now. But, what should leaders do to build a positive learning culture within their teams and organisations? 1. Learning can’t just be left to your employees It is too easy to suggest that continuous learning is solely the responsibility of the individual – but that is only part of the puzzle. Instead, leaders should look closely at areas of skill shortages within their own organisation and target their team’s development accordingly. Crucially, think ahead: you know where your skills gaps are now, but will they be the same in 12 months or five years? Then, align your learning and development programmes with this bigger picture view. 2. When it comes to training, think flexibly Furthermore, leaders should look at how they offer training opportunities to their staff. Training doesn’t have to – and in these socially distanced times, shouldn’t – mean spending a whole day in a meeting room. Instead, training should be flexible and virtual. It should be able to fit around how your employees work and be adaptable enough to suit everyone’s individual learning preferences. With new technology and cloud-based e-learning platforms, such as Hays Thrive, employees can undertake training when and where they want, in a way that suits them best. The appetite is there from professionals, so managers should be thinking about what online training platforms might suit their teams. 3. Promote your own learning journey It is vital that you ensure these learning opportunities are accessible, visible and – most importantly – encouraged. Too often, employers offer some learning opportunities, but candidates are not made aware of them, and they are not taken up by current staff. Promote these opportunities to candidates throughout the hiring process. Shout about them within your organisation. Continually stress the importance of upskilling not only to the growth of the business, but for the career progression – and indeed career satisfaction – of individual employees. And here, leaders must lead from the front: remember to be open about your own upskilling journey – show your employees that you take your own learning and development seriously and you’ll inspire your team to do the same.
Your CV is an important document to get right. Be mindful that your CV alone will not get you the job, but it should get you noticed and hopefully get you in front of a decision maker giving you the opportunity to sell yourself. There are a few things to bear in mind when you are crafting yours: Who will be reading it? Are you applying to a recruiter advert, a role advertised by a company or are you sending it directly to a company that you are interested in? Whichever it may be, think about whether the recipient will understand the jargon and acronyms of your chosen profession. It needs to be obvious why you are relevant for this piece of work. Is it simple to navigate and logically presented? If your CV is consistent throughout in its layout it will be easier to read and your relevance will be obvious. Interim assignments will usually need to be shortlisted quickly. Structure: There isn’t a perfect format, but I thought it might be useful to share as an insight, when I read a CV, what I am looking for. Having the following information in the template really helps (Example below). Avoid a lengthy personal statement, (use your application cover letter or email to highlight three or four examples of why you are relevant against the brief). The length of the CV is a personal choice, too long and the relevance starts to blur, too short and you may not have given the reader enough detail / context. Example CV: CV: Name: xxxxxxx M: xxxxxxx E: xxxxxxx Location: xxxxxxxx Availability: dd/mm/yy Academics: School name Location Years (YY-YY) GCSEs + A’levels Grades University Name Course Grade Years (YY – YY) Prof Qual: Membership body Qualification Year attained (YY) Further Studies: MBA Business School Year Attained (YY) Professional experience: Company name Location Dates (MM/YY – MM/YY) Title: Interim XXXXXXX Narrative: The main business activity of the company, size by £T/O, Reach (domestic/international), funding structure (Privately owned, VC,PE,PLC). Reason for engagement: Outcomes: (Repeat above format for each of the assignments that you have completed). Whilst the template is simple, it should be enough to encourage a conversation with whoever is advertising the opportunity. I would recommend avoiding flashy fonts and unusual layouts as they can distract the reader from the content.
Please start by giving us a short summary of your career to date and what role you are currently working in. I am a Director and part-owner of Amberside Advisors, a project finance advisory practice with a specialism in renewables and infrastructure projects, such as offshore wind manufacture, green gas and EV projects. Amberside Advisors trains its own analysts and modellers and supports its junior intake to achieve chartered accountancy qualification. I was previously a partner at Grant Thornton, and prior to that worked in a number of finance manager roles with public sector agencies, having initially trained with KPMG in Manchester. I am also deputy chair of the Herts Local Enterprise Partnership which co-ordinates economic, innovation and skills spending for the County of Hertfordshire, where our business was founded. What is Neurodiversity in the workplace? Neurodiversity refers to the different ways the brain interprets, and processes information and all workplaces are neurodiverse whether they have realised it or not. Most people are Neurotypical, meaning they interpret and process information in a fairly standard way as expected in society. However, approximately 1 in 7 people are Neurodiverse or Neurodivergent meaning they interpret the world differently. Neurodivergent people are sometimes characterised as being Autistic, ADHD, Dyslexic, Dyspraxic or have other sensory processing conditions. Employers are beginning to realise that given the right environment neurodiverse people bring a number of strengths to the workforce and any adjustments made often benefit all employees and ensure companies are fully inclusive. What are the advantages working with a neurodiverse workforce? There are many advantages of having a neurodiverse inclusive workforce and employers are beginning to realise what an asset neurodiverse employees are, something we have recognised at Amberside for some time. Neurodivergent employees often demonstrate a different way of looking at things and this level of creativity and out of the box thinking can be a real competitive advantage. Some neurodivergent people are able to hyper focus on their work tasks and others have strong analysis skills due to their ability to process large amounts of information. It is these attributes that we look for in employees we recruit at Amberside as we know neurodivergent employees often excel in specific areas which highlight their strengths, meaning in the right role they are an extremely powerful asset. In accommodating neurodiverse employees I know there are a number of ‘spill over’ benefits for the entire workforce including: improved recruitment and retention from a wider pool of talent. a psychologically safe environment for all employees to feel they can be themselves much better-quality management and supervision practices allowing employees to feel empowered to disclose their neurodivergence improving understanding and communication between employees positive company image demonstrating a real commitment to diversity and inclusion What challenges have you come across? The main challenges we have had to overcome have been around communication between employees as well as management of neurodiverse employees, particularly when Amberside was a much smaller company. Our initial approach was to employ someone with the ability to help us to improve in these areas. Improvements included better supervision for employees, particularly those who needed a bit more support, changes to processes and a guide on ways of working written in conjunction with neurodiverse employees, flexible working practices for better work-life balance, a relaxed dress code, a mentoring system and more. With your workforce being more neurodiverse than most, do you have any advice to fellow ICAEW members for recruiting a more diverse staff? As a specialist boutique practice working on infrastructure projects at the cutting edge of what is investable, we have long known that we require a neurodiverse workforce to help us deliver the high quality specialist work Amberside is known for and keep us at the forefront of innovative thinking and continuous improvement to meet our clients’ needs. I would advise employers to improve their understanding of neurodiversity and review their environment and working practices. A specialist company who understands business and finance can help do this, we use a HR & Neurodiversity specialist to continually support our practices and help us improve our working environment and support our workforce to ensure we do gain the benefits of a neurodiverse organisation. We have also engaged a specialist recruitment agency to help Amberside specifically recruit neurodiverse individuals. The package we offer recruits is strong both in terms of career development and working environment. Amberside has come a long way in becoming a neurodiverse inclusive workplace and we continue to review and reflect on our practices.
Due to the reports of increased poor mental health as a result of the pandemic, this year, World Mental Health Day seems more relevant and important than ever. Of course, for those suffering, there are some fantastic resources out there, reminding us of the things we can do to help ourselves keep mentally healthy during these difficult times (and beyond). For example, the UK charity, Mind has a list of seven ideas to help, including connecting with people, taking care with news and information, and practical ways of helping to manage anxiety. How changing lockdown and social distancing restrictions impact our mental health In addition to these approaches, we need to recognise the very specific stresses relating to what’s going on right now, with the ever-changing lockdown and social distancing restrictions being experienced around the world. Whereas in the early days of lockdown we knew the rules and had a sense of how long they would last, many of us are now in a very different scenario. Rules can vary dramatically by country, by town, by school and by household. One minute we may be planning to meet with friends, the next we might be banned from mixing with other households or receiving a phone call from the ‘track and trace’ service, being told to self-isolate. From a work point of view, we might be planning a face-to-face team meeting, designing a social media campaign or forecasting client demand – things that we may approach very differently depending on current lockdown rules. Things are more uncertain than ever, and we need to find ways to keep going whilst protecting our mental health. In ‘normal times’, many of us manage the stresses and strains of our daily lives very effectively – we plan, we organise, we prioritise, we prepare, we look forward to special events and occasions. These behaviours give us a sense of certainty, control and optimism – things that are all really important in maintaining our good mental health. But in a world of ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions, planning, prioritising and preparing can feel impossible, pointless even, which can negatively impact our mental health. The three ‘cons’ of maintaining good mental health during this time So, how can we help ourselves? How can we support our team members? What additional strategies can we use? Here are three things we can do: 1. Contingency planning. One way to manage the uncertainty is to develop your plan as normal before working out which bits may be disrupted by current unknowns (such as a change in lockdown or social distancing rules). Each element of your plan could have a parallel plan, a ‘Plan B’ based on a different way of achieving the same (or similar) outcome. This works along the lines of ‘if this happens, I will do this, if that happens, I will do that’. This can work at home, for example, if you are inviting friends round for a meal, the main goal is to spend time together and have a shared experience. If there’s a ban on meeting in people’s houses, you could meet in a restaurant, if restaurants are also closed, you could get a takeaway from the same place, buy the same wine and set up Skype/Zoom/Microsoft Teams or FaceTime so that you still have a shared experience. At work, contingency planning is well established, but may need to be more openly used and talked through. For example, which of your accounts are at risk of reducing or cancelling orders if the restrictions change or persist? What would you do in each scenario? What would you do if key members of your team contracted COVID-19 and were unwell for a significant period of time – how would you cover the work? What would you do if a face-to-face meeting was cancelled because of lockdown? You may not be able to ‘plug and play’ the same agenda etc., but if you’re clear on the overall purpose, you should be able to find a contingency that creates a sense of control and can enable you to be confident that you can still achieve your aims – boosting your mental health. 2. Continuity of routines. Having just read about contingency, it might be a bit strange to read about the other end of the spectrum – continuity. One challenge of changing lockdown rules is the disruption to our routines, the things that give rhythm to our lives. You may no longer be going into an office and getting your favourite coffee, you may have kids that are starting school at different times, your gym may be closed… It can feel as if everything that is or was familiar to you has been upended. Within this, it’s very helpful to identify some routines and stable points in your day (or week) that you can rely on. It might be getting up at the same time and going for a walk, it might be a weekly call with friends, a daily check-in at the same time with your team… things that you can rely on that create a stable framework, even if the rest of it is in chaos! 3. Control. Lots of mental health advice shows how important it is to take control where you can. For example, many people find watching the news makes them feel anxious and overwhelmed. If this is the case for you, then try not to feed your anxiety, but take control and limit how much you watch the news and when (just before bedtime may impact your sleep). You can also take control of positive things in your life – if speaking with friends makes you feel better, then make sure it’s in the diary (with a contingency in case you can’t meet up!). On the work front, control is also important. You may need to speak with your manager to agree how you can work through these uncertain times and what support you need from them. You may need to speak with your team to agree some ground rules about when you are and are not available to help them, and to have an open discussion about how your needs and availability will change in different forms of lockdown. You won’t be able to control everything, but if you identify your main stressors, you may be able to do something to reduce them. So, to help you with the challenge of the ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions, we suggest the three ‘cons’ – contingency, continuity and control. And remember to keep hold of another important ‘con’ – to connect! This is always important, if we’re in lockdown, in the ‘next normal’ or moving between the two. About this author Maggi is an experienced consultant and coach with international experience across a wide range of sectors including professional services, financial services, retail and FMCG. She is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist and combines research and practice to develop practical solutions to drive business improvement. Maggi has been a consultant for over 20 years, specialising in talent strategy and talent development. She has a reputation as an insightful consultant, helping clients to reduce the ‘noise’ around an issue so they can focus and act on key issues which will make a difference. Maggi is on a mission to help organisations, leaders and individuals to liberate talent. Her first book ‘From Talent Management to Talent Liberation’ has recently been published.
Accountancy and finance organisations were impacted hard by Covid-19. ‘Business as usual’ took a back seat as organisations handled the immediate impacts of the pandemic and huge numbers of professionals switched to working remotely practically overnight. Priorities shifted, and areas of focus, like equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I), could easily take a back seat. Months on from our first lockdown, we have started to gauge the impact of the crisis on things like ED&I – which we have explored in our new Hays Equality, Diversity and Inclusion 2020 report. So, should ED&I still be a priority? We found that over three quarters (71%) of those in accountancy & finance said that when looking for a new role, an organisation’s diversity and inclusion policies are important to them. Furthermore, nearly two thirds (63%) said they would only apply to an organisation which has a public commitment to ED&I. To professionals, the importance of ensuring diversity was never lost, and while employers immediate focus may be shifting, they can’t lose sight of the importance of ED&I to talent attraction. 68% also said their company should have a position on topical D&I issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement, proving that even now, it is expected for employers to have a clear stance on key issues which speaks to their company values. To fail to do so risks alienate key talent at a challenging time. The impacts of flexible working Our Hays Equality, Diversity and Inclusion 2020 report also explores flexible working and how it relates to ED&I, as this has taken on whole new meaning in today’s climate. The rapid uptake of flexible and remote working practices has had an impact and now almost three quarters (71%) of those working in finance are working flexibly and encouragingly, 87% of professionals agreed that access to flexible working practices can help their organisation gain access to a more diverse talent pool. However, respondents noted drawbacks that this flexibility has, such as feelings of isolation and blurred boundaries between their work and home lives. Furthermore, over a third (37%) believe that working flexibly can limit career progression. What employers need to do In order to not let ED&I take a back seat to today’s other challenges, here are three key recommendations for employers Make a commitment to ED&I: A diverse and inclusive workforce is no longer a unique selling point to prospective employees. Employers wanting to attract and retain the best individuals need to make comprehensive ED&I policies a core part of their talent acquisition and retention strategy. Promote ED&I initiatives to jobseekers: ED&I policies including flexible working options need to be promoted at key points in the jobseeker journey, such as in job ads and on your organisation’s website, to avoid lowering your engagement with top talent. Tailor your flexible working options: Flexible working isn’t one-size-fits-all. Employers need to realise that it offers huge advantages for some, but drawbacks for others depending on their role, working style and personal circumstances. Try to be mindful of and accommodating to this by remaining open to flexible working for all employees, not just those who are parents or carers. How employees can take responsibility Responsibility doesn’t stop with employers however, all professionals need to play their part in creating a more equal and inclusive workplace. Here are our recommendations for how employees can help keep their organisation’s ED&I agendas on track. Look for an employer’s commitment to ED&I: If you are job searching, make looking for ED&I policies a priority. Organisations who are committed to ED&I are invariably more enjoyable to work and are more likely to thrive in our rapidly evolving world of work. Think about your working preferences: What do you need to work at your best? Consider what your ideal working arrangement would be and discuss this with your employer. An organisation that truly fosters a diverse and inclusive environment will work with you to figure out a flexible working arrangement which best suits you. Stay adaptable and practical: Try to remain adaptable and practical in light of your employer’s situation and the current circumstances. When discussing ED&I initiatives or flexible working, approach the conversation constructively and focus on how both you and your organisation will benefit. It’s only by working as a whole and keeping ED&I commitments front of mind will employers and employees create a working culture that welcomes and celebrates diversity, opening the door to many highly skilled professionals who can help get your organisation through this significant period of change. For further insights into how flexible working can help facilitate equality in the workplace, request your copy of the Hays Equality, Diversity & Inclusion 2020 Report. About this author Karen is a Director and recruiting expert at Hays Accountancy & Finance. She provides strategic leadership to a team of 400 accountancy and finance recruitment professionals across 100 UK offices. With 20 years of finance recruitment experience, Karen has a track record of recruiting top finance talent for businesses across a range of industry sectors, and is a trusted industry voice on career planning and market insights.