What employers of the 21st century are looking for – Top skills companies want to hire

February 5, 2020 | Rouba Zeidan

Global media has been going on about digital disruption and how it has transformed every sector with forecasts predicting the annihilation of some 70% of jobs this year.


IMA (Institute of Management Accountants) has also been part of the conversation, actively emphasizing the urgent need for reskilling through requalification and certification within the management accounting profession, as a means for professionals to remain relevant to their industries, sectors, and firms. This urgency is mirrored by more than 62 percent of the business executives surveyed by McKinsey who believe close to half of their staff will need to be retrained as automation and digital technologies become part of their operations. With hard skills becoming obsolete in as little as twelve months, what are the actual skills professionals need to possess to make the cut?

Though the role of accountants is gradually losing ground to the machine, our profession is becoming more important than ever, provided we have the right “human skills”!


Employers want to be surrounded by resilient professionals who thrive in fluctuating workplace ecosystems and demonstrate an ability to not only adapt to change but to also anticipate the game plan for the next chapter. The driving value during such challenging times requires the capacity to make sense of the data at our fingertips. This emphasis on data was affirmed in a recent IMA Pulse survey, in which close to half (45%) of the respondents confirmed the prevalence of data-centric business models within their organizations.


Data can help management accountants gain clarity over organizational performance. The process of data analysis generates much-needed insights that in turn guide executives to optimize efficiency and performance. The task requires the ability to think – critically – under pressure, and in real-time. We often underestimate how seldom critical thinking is done in a workplace amid our busy 12-hour days fending fires. Organizations looking for finance professionals who can tackle the demands of the business while taking the time to leverage data to inform future business strategy; basically, turning information into intelligence.


Leveraging information to improve performance is no easy task since many of the challenges companies face actually have no precedent. Thus, developing new ways to drive value and success requires a significant amount of originality – a skill ranked high in importance among employers in the “Future of Skills: Employment in 2030” report. How well professionals leverage digital transformation to make strategic decisions is key to demonstrating value. If anything, this is a golden opportunity to be part of the process of unlocking enterprise value while progressing from employed finance professionals to valuable business partners.


Unlocking enterprise value relies predominantly on people who are integral to driving innovation within organizations. Being able to collaborate seamlessly with peers across functions and hierarchies of organizations is key to uncovering new streams of value. And the thing about people is they need to be inspired to innovate. Researchers believe cognitive and interpersonal skills will be key in the future. Though they may be difficult to measure, such soft skills are a fundamental element of the successful workplace ecosystem.

If anything is evident, it is that the number-crunching days are way behind us. Digital disruption has transformed our role from accounting professionals to a much higher advisory level. Today, our most critical mission is to become life-long learners who balance both hard and soft skills to remain at the forefront of market changes and ultimately drive true value inside organizations. That is the bottom line of what employers are actively looking for and desperately need – not just to survive, but to thrive!