L&D Symposium 2021

5 minutes

Michelle Ryan
Head of Program Design
Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand

5 minutes with Michelle Ryan

Q: What are some significant shifts in mindset and practise that you’ve observed as a result of the pandemic?
A: One that stands out to me is the significant increase in individual and organisational awareness of the criticality of adopting and fostering a lifelong learning mindset. While those of us working in L&D have been touting the importance of this for some time now, the pandemic has really accelerated the broader market’s recognition of its criticality.  The fast-paced digital economy now demands constant upgrading of skills that are required now and into the future. The World Economic Forum recently predicted that by 2022, 42% of core skills required to perform existing jobs are expected to change. So the imperative is here in a big way and the global research certainly support this.

Q: What, in your opinion, are some emerging trends around reskilling and upskilling post-COVID?
A: We saw in a recent report published by McKinsey and Company that 69% of companies have increased upskilling and skill building in their people as their primary method of closing skill gaps since the pandemic. This has overtaken external hiring as a strategy to ensure organisations are equipped with the capabilities needed to survive and thrive in an ever-changing landscape. To do this, organisations need to prioritise developing a view of their current workforce capability strengths and gaps so they can better understand where cross-skilling and upskilling (and redeployment) can occur. I think we will see (and are already seeing) an emergence of the development of capability frameworks and an increase in strategies used to assess current capabilities of a workforce through various self and peer assessment methods. While these are not necessarily new strategies, what is emerging is a heightened sense of urgency and a recognition of the importance of this as a core function of people and capability development.

Q: What are your organisation’s top learning priorities over the next 5 years?
A: As a member organisation and a higher education provider, my role is a little different in that I have three different groups of learners – our candidates or students, who are undertaking our qualifying CA Program, or the Graduate Diploma in Chartered Accounting; our members, undertaking Continuing Professional Development, and; our internal CA ANZ staff. Across the three groups there are some clear commonalities. In particular, a spotlight on the importance of those transferrable employability or professional skills and capabilities.

Our first priority is to help the 15,000 people entering the accounting profession to build “future” skills. As they’re entering a volatile and rapidly changing profession, they need to develop an adaptive mindset, to manage significant and ongoing transformation. This includes our recently relaunched CA Program, where we’ve embedded these professional capabilities to help our candidates not only gain the technical expertise they need to be Chartered Accountants, but also to develop these transferrable skills through real world, authentic learning and assessment.

We’re also helping our members build these same skills – but with a focus on employability skills, using our capability model to future proof their career. While there are a number of professional skills we’re developing in this model, two of the key ones we think are critical are an adaptive mindset and digital fluency. We see digital fluency as a key advantage in the coming years – the ability to embrace, understand and adapt as technology changes our workplace. Being able to use collaboration and use digital tools effectively is a critical skill, as is the ability to gather, analyse, synthesise and present data – so we’re focused on providing learning opportunities around these key skills.

Q: What are some of the ways your organisation fosters a learning culture?
A: Two key words that drive our strategy for engaging our learners is around relevance and choice. We’re really focused on creating authentic, real world learning experiences for our learners, with learning experiences deeply connected to their day-to-day jobs. Not only does this help learning transfer, but also has a lot of benefits around improving the learning experience, which ultimately, promotes a learning culture.

We’re also really focusing on that personalised learning experience to foster a life-long learning mindset. We have recently launched our Capability+ tool, which helps our members assess and reflect on their current and future skills. This tool identifies skill gaps and then recommends ways to fill these gaps, so our members can build their own learning path, helping to future proof their careers.

Q: What is one lesson you’ve taken away from this pandemic, and why is it significant?
A: One of the key lessons I have taken away from the pandemic is the value of prioritising emerging professional capabilities (or the soft skills) of the future in workforce strategy;

No longer is it okay to hang your hat on being a technical expert, now individuals need to be able to build on the foundations of technical expertise to solve problems, support clients and navigate increasingly complex environments which require so much more of the human element. For many organisations – and certainly in the context of accounting and finance – there has been a real tendency to prioritise the technical know-how. But with emerging themes such as an adaptive mindset, critical thinking, problem solving and decision making becoming increasingly important, we’ve really needed to re-think how we focus on delivering learning solutions that help with these capabilities without losing the technical context or focus.

Q: What are you most looking forward to at the L&D Symposium?
A: Seeing old friends, meeting with new ones and hanging out with a bunch of super-smart, super-passionate L&D people and enjoying the beautiful Hunter Valley.

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Tim Stuart-Harris
Tim Stuart-Harris

Commercial Director, Ashton Media

Ph: +61 (0)402 567 117