Building a digitally savvy workforce within the tax function
Fateh Amroune and Maria Stanisor of Deloitte discuss how tax professionals face the challenges and opportunities created by the digital transformation.
The struggle to source the right talent and the considerable changes to the actual nature of work have left many organisations recognising the need to upskill their workforce through the acquisition and development of internal digital skills within the tax function.
It has never been so important to acquire, design, build and manage digital products for tax professionals to incorporate into their day-to-day activities and in their interactions with their clients.
A strategy needs to be formulated around three key areas:
How to attract new talent with digital capabilities;
How to train the existing workforce; and
How to develop a cohesive working environment combining employees from both technology and traditional tax backgrounds.
Attract new talent with digital capabilities
Recruiting individuals with digital skills such as software developers, product owners, and data scientists is the cornerstone of building digital capabilities. These roles can create and maintain the necessary tax related processes and tools, while helping to establish a ‘digitally savvy’ workforce.
Recruiters also need to identify and recruit tax professionals with digital affinity. Although not the principal requirement, new employees must demonstrate the ability to thrive in a digital environment. Building strong ties with start-ups and tech specialists provides an additional and efficient means of boosting in-house digital capabilities.
Finally, the skills needed for the on-demand or ‘gig’ economy represent a trend that tax functions should add to their repertoire to create a workforce able to perform specific and well-defined digital and information technology activities.
Train the existing workforce
In a fast-changing digital landscape, adopting digital capabilities is crucial. At the same time, it is equally important to ensure continuous learning to keep the digital workforce up-to-date. A dual strategy is required: on the one hand upskilling ‘digital natives’ with tax knowledge and on the other, equipping tax professionals with the necessary skills to navigate a digital world.
A digital upskilling programme should not be limited to the traditional training approach (online or in person, with or without assessment). It should be designed as a comprehensive developmental journey that encompasses various elements, including traditional education, exposure, and experience (learning by doing).
Develop and retain a cohesive digital workforce within the tax environment
Developing and retaining a cohesive digital workforce starts with a shift towards a digital first mindset where employees are equipped with the right set of skills. Within the tax environment, designing a digital upskilling programme requires a holistic approach that takes into consideration potential new career paths and creates a supportive environment where talent can be nurtured and new skills developed, while keeping up with technological changes. Building an upskilling programme should be seen as a progression with clear milestones to create an environment of growth, employment satisfaction, and new job opportunities.
New skill sets bring new or significantly changed professions that consequently require new career paths. As such, the new generation of tax technology professionals, a hybrid between tax professionals and technology specialists, will require a separate career path with training to support both sets of skills; thus enabling them to define and build their career.
Workplace expectations are changing
Although technology has had a significant impact on the tax professions, these have not become obsolete; on the contrary, professions have evolved to provide an improved quality of services and expand service offerings.
Upskilling tax professionals to initially enable them to understand the implications of the tax digital transformation, so that at a more advanced level, they become aware of critical technologies, data visualisation, applied machine learning, and advanced analytics that will reshape their field of work. It is important that organisations understand how to leverage technology to achieve greater effectiveness of their tax function and keep pace with market expectations for real-time information.
In a fast-moving technological environment, the only constant is continuous change. Tax professionals are also faced with the challenge of seizing the opportunities created by the digital transformation.
Consequently, employers need to reconfigure their procedures for recruitment, learning, and career management to adapt to a new population of employees who have different views of their careers, bring fresh skills, and are open to embracing alternative methods of acquiring new skills.