How valuable are human emotions in a digital age?

You’ll know that technology is shaping our present and future working lives, but what part does emotional intelligence play in this digital future?

A ground-breaking ACCA research report pinpointed digital skills and emotional intelligence as being among the skills that will equip you for future success.

The two skills are in fact linked. As technology continues to change our profession, emotional intelligence will become increasingly important in dealing with and adapting to those changes.

‘You’ve got to embrace it,’ says Ian Bryan, who heads up the business services department at accountancy firm Hawsons, one of our ACCA approved employers. ‘Anyone who doesn’t get to grips with digital accounting and the new cloud systems is going to get left behind.’

When we spoke to Bryan, he gave us an example of a tradesperson who had recently helped him out with repair work on his home and used a cloud-based accounting system to create and send him an invoice on their phone immediately after completing the work. Then using a mobile banking app, the customer is able to pay straight away. As well as helping them get paid more quickly, the new system makes it easier for the tradesperson to manage their cashflow.

So now that people can run their accounting system from their mobile phone, what does that mean for accounting professionals? Bryan says: ‘We’re becoming advisers rather than bookkeepers and processors.’ Clients will ‘still need our advice on producing statutory accounts, remuneration strategy, running their business’ as well as ‘producing key performance indicators and how they’re performing against those KPIs’.

This move towards providing advice rather than processing information reflects the growing recognition of how important emotional intelligence is for tomorrow’s accountants. It’s a skill which Bryan thinks has always been important, but people haven’t always realised just how important it is.

In the past, hiring decisions and career progression tended to be based on what you knew. Today, emotional intelligence is playing a bigger role in those decisions.

Silhouette of parent and child holding hands in front of sunset

Is this growing recognition of emotional intelligence the reason it was ranked as one of the most important skills by ACCA research participants? Possibly. Our research defined emotional intelligence as ‘the ability to: identify your own emotions and those of others, harness and apply them to tasks, and regulate and manage them’. This includes being able to:

  • communicate financial information to non-financial stakeholders
  • build and manage multicultural teams
  • seek advice from others
  • learn from mistakes instead of hiding from them
  • deal with confrontation constructively.

According to Bryan, ‘If you don’t have these skills, you’ll be left behind.’

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ACCA’s Ethics and Professional Skills module

Representing more than 200,000 fully qualified accounting professionals and 500,000 students worldwide, ACCA can help you to acquire and develop your digital and emotional intelligence skills.

Our fully interactive Ethics and Professional Skills module places you in the role of a professional in authentic business situations covering three core areas: ethics, professional skills and digital skills. This combination is designed to effectively prepare you as a trusted and confident finance professional for the digital age. To make sure it continues to be relevant and useful, the content for this module is updated regularly to reflect the changing environment. And the certificate and transcript awarded upon completion of the module can be used as valuable assets to prove your professionalism.

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