For several years now, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics have been supporting accounting firms in a variety of ways. Their inherent value is clear, so where does that leave the human element?
The good news is that AI is not going to take jobs away from people. On the contrary, it’s freeing up humans to focus on more client-facing and creative tasks. Here, we explore five key AI trends to monitor.
1. Automation doesn’t mean AI will take jobs away from humans
Well before artificial intelligence become a standard addition to most workplaces, fearmongers predicted a future where robots replaces humans and unemployment rates soared. But those concerns were misplaced, and instead we are seeing industries thrive with the support of AI and predictive analytics.
Technological change will continue to occur – and at a rapid pace. And instead of being replaced by robots, unemployment rates pre-COVID were at their lowest since 2012 in Australia, and at their lowest for half a century in the United States, according to the seventh edition of Deloitte’s Building the Lucky Country series. Even with coronavirus still affecting the country in mid-2021, Australia saw unemployment drop below 5% for the first time in 10 years.
Automation and other AI solutions won’t take away accounting jobs. They will support growth, productivity and profits. This is something that Adam Irwin, Managing Partner at Pitcher Partners Sydney, is seeing on a daily basis.
“If we can free up time on repetitive tasks, then that provides our people with more bandwidth to complete other work,” he says. “Equally, it gives them some space to turn their mind to helping their clients in other ways, or to look for newfound opportunities.”
2. Soft skills will be more in-demand than the ability to perform repetitive tasks
Before technology became a staple of our work lives, we were taught that hard skills were the key to career success. From having a trade or degree to sales skills and language proficiency, these hard skills are now being overtaken by soft skills – at least in the eyes of hiring managers.
Firms want accountants with interpersonal and introspective qualities – soft skills like problem-solving, empathy, leadership and communication skills, which can’t be learnt or improved without real-world experience. For accountants of the future, there is a very real need to adopt soft skills over the more traditionally attractive hard skills.
3. Females are in a powerful position
With the automation age upon us, women will be in a prime position to “seize new job opportunities and avenues for economic advancement”, according to research by McKinsey & Co. In fact, women, rather than men, are in the best position to build their careers in jobs where AI and automation are taking a leading role. In ‘non-routine jobs’, women are dominating the employment landscape. The same can’t be said for men.
According to the Deloitte study, it’s men who “dominate jobs most susceptible to automation”, particularly manual occupations that involve repetitive tasks. This includes traditional accounting roles where time-consuming, repetitive tasks no longer need humans to take care of them.
4. The rise and rise of knowledge workers
What is a knowledge worker? A simplistic definition is someone whose main job is to think for a living. These knowledge workers are employed across a diversity of sectors, and things like strategy, management, ethics, communication and teamwork skills are their bread and butter.
From programmers to engineers, scientists, architects, lawyers and accountants, the vast majority of jobs created in the coming decades will be positions for knowledge workers. And while the evidence shows that many of these jobs will be heavily impacted by automation – that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With AI and other technologies able to take the repetitive tasks off their hands, they will have more time than ever to use their knowledge to drive businesses forward.
5. The professional employment landscape will change forever
With AI and predictive analytics causing industries to seek out more knowledge workers, these changes are also impacting the professional landscape. According to data collected by the National Skills Commission, ‘professionals’ is already the largest employing occupation group in Australia, accounting for approximately one in four workers across the country. These include, but are not limited to, business services, health, education, engineering and accounting.
While there will always be a need for trade and retail workers, the future of employment is professional – and AI is driving this change.
The value of AI and predictive analytics is clear for all to see. The firms that embrace these tools, rather than shunning them for traditional work styles, will stand head and shoulders above the competition.
To find out more about APS software, visit aps-software.com.