Accountants tend to get worried about artificial intelligence (AI) becoming good at traditional “human” jobs. But robots replacing humans isn’t inevitable in accounting, nor is it the most likely scenario. While AI is changing how we get work done and who does it, technology isn’t replacing people—at least not in knowledge jobs like accounting. Instead, it’s complementing and augmenting human capabilities.
Collaboration between technology and humans—i.e., collaborative intelligence—has incredible potential for transforming how accounting firms recruit, hire, onboard, train, manage and retain employees.
Putting collaborative intelligence to work in your talent strategy
Human resources and talent strategy are all about connecting with current and prospective employees on a personal level, and that can be tough to do in a large firm. Collaborative intelligence allows HR teams and talent professionals to focus more on people and less on paperwork.
Starting with the recruiting process and all the way through onboarding a new hire, HR departments traditionally require applicants to re-enter the same information multiple times. These repetitive, tedious tasks can leave job applicants and new recruits with a poor impression of your firm.
To alleviate some of the monotony, firms can use robotic process automation (RPA) to help candidates transfer information from their resumes or LinkedIn profiles into digital forms and more efficiently complete paperwork. This information can also be sent automatically to background check and new hire forms, so candidates and HR professionals don’t have to re-enter the same information over and over.
HR teams and recruits can have more face-to-face time when they reduce necessary but intellectually unengaging data entry work. That face-to-face connection is crucial for hiring the right people. While algorithms can assess factual data such as skills and analytical ability, humans are better at evaluating whether a person has integrity, good judgment, creativity, and emotional intelligence to work well on a team.
Many firms had to make leaps and bounds in their use of technology to hire remotely during the pandemic. Even as some people return to the office, we believe the benefits of remote recruiting and work-from-anywhere policies are here to stay. But to make remote hiring, onboarding and ongoing collaboration work, firms need to digitize the employee experience.
Your talent processes aren’t digital or remote-friendly if you mail a stack of paperwork to their home or have people print an email attachment, sign it, scan it and send it back. Fortunately, numerous HR platforms allow your firm to digitize HR workflows, replacing scanning paper documents and email attachments with a unified digital onboarding workflow.
While such systems require an investment in new technology and processes, digitizing the onboarding process saves valuable time and resources. Your HR team, freed from the busy work of manual onboarding, can shift their attention to higher-value initiatives, such as working to optimize employee engagement.
Training, learning and development
HR departments are increasingly tasked with creating agile and adaptable training and development programs that meet the individual needs of employees and prepare them for the future of accounting. This includes less technical skills training and more teaching human skill sets such as critical thinking, communication, cultural awareness and emotional intelligence.
AI can help personalize employees’ learning and development journey by customizing programs based on job roles, existing skillsets, career goals and skills gaps. When the training is customized to each employee, it’s possible to match content and program recommendations based on individual employee needs, which leads to better outcomes.
Organizations are also putting AI to use in their talent retention strategies. It’s no secret that the last few years have put tremendous strain on the people in our profession. Pandemic-related stressors, extended deadlines, the blurring of work and home life, increasing client service demands and a whirlwind of legislative changes pushed many accounting professionals and their support teams to the breaking point. Plus, it’s harder to monitor employee burnout in a remote environment.
Fortunately, many organizations are now using AI to predict employee fatigue, burnout and overall engagement. These tools can analyze employee data, collect insights and build smarter, more personalized workloads and schedules, which helps empower people to take control of their work/life balance. Ultimately, these improvements lead to more productive conversations between firm leaders and their team members, which results in improved performance, increased engagement and reduced turnover.
Without AI and RPA, talent professionals will struggle to have the time and resources needed to support their teams properly. By incorporating collaborative intelligence in your talent strategy, talent professionals can focus on taking a more human role and delivering a better employee experience.
Human characteristics like leadership, teamwork, creativity and social skills are essential and can’t be duplicated by machines. However, technology is vital as it increases speed, scalability and analysis. Together it’s a winning combination, so strategize now to ensure success.
Could your firm’s HR and talent leaders benefit from a peer network?
The Boomer Talent Circle is a community of talent leaders from forward-thinking firms who are committed to aligning human resources and firm strategy at the highest levels. Apply now to start shaping your firm for the future.
Jim Boomer, CEO of Boomer Consulting, Inc., is an expert on managing technology within an accounting firm. He serves as the director of the Boomer Technology Circles, The Advisor Circle and the CIO Circle. He also acts as a strategic planning and technology consultant and firm adviser to CPA firms across the country. Accounting Today called him a “thought leader who can help accountants create next-generation firms.” Jim is a prolific writer with a monthly column in The CPA Practice Advisor and has been published in a number of industry publications including Accounting Today, Accounting Web, the International Group of Accounting Firms and several state society publications.