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5 minute read

How Job Redesign Reshapes Success in Singapore’s Accounting Landscape

Adaptation is the key to survival in today’s rapidly evolving business landscape. Nowhere is this truer than in the field of accounting. The traditional role of accountants – once characterised as bean counters and once limited to record-keeping and financial reporting – has evolved over the years. Gillian Woo, director of the Creative & Professional Services Division at Workforce Singapore, shares more.

Accountants are responsible for ensuring compliance with tax regulations and financial reporting standards. They are also tasked with being trusted advisors to business decision-makers, providing insights into financial data that help in strategic decision-making and even mitigating risks.

The role has expanded to encompass financial analysis, forecasting, and risk advisory, among other things. With the advent of technology, routine tasks that were once labour-intensive and error-prone—such as data entry—can be automated, allowing accountants to focus on more strategic and value-added job functions.

With the changes to the demands on accounting roles, employers are now challenged to help existing accounting professionals in their organisations acquire these enhanced skills and capabilities to thrive in their new career paths. Job redesign can support this.

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How two accounting firms embarked on job redesign

The journeys of two accounting firms in Singapore – both small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which took steps to respond to changes in their accounting functions through job redesign – serve as inspiring examples of how keeping an open mind can yield positive outcomes.

These progressive employers partnered with Workforce Singapore and their appointed job redesign consultants to reshape their workforce through the Accountancy Job Redesign Initiative.

Accounting firm Tan & Teh adopted Robotics Process Automation (RPA) to streamline financial statement preparation and audit performance processes, leading to increased productivity.

As a result, their accounts assistant, who was formerly handling only bookkeeping, can now take on financial statement compilation and basic tax computation work under this redesigned job role. The company also plans for their accounts assistant to assume higher-value-added audit and accounting procedures as part of his career development.

SCS Global also saw improvements in productivity after automating the audit engagement monitoring process using RPA.

This change freed up the audit manager’s time spent on monitoring various deadlines and lowered the firm’s risk of non-compliance with the Singapore Standard on Quality Management. SCS Global also automated analytical procedures, which allowed their audit senior associate to be more involved in strategic work, such as client relationships and team management.

The adoption of RPA provided time savings for both firms, allowing them to channel efforts towards onboarding more clients and resulting in increased revenue.

Redesigning for efficiency

The accounting industry in Singapore, like anywhere else, has weathered challenges over the years.

Increased competition, changing regulatory landscapes, and client expectations have all contributed to the need for adaptation. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic greatly highlighted the importance of agility and resilience in the face of unforeseen disruptions.

Despite it all, the industry has leveraged the concept of job redesign to overcome these challenges, thrive and innovate.

In essence, job redesign involves restructuring work tasks and responsibilities to optimise processes and workforce allocation, improving productivity, and better supporting business transformation priorities.

It also aims to create higher-value jobs that are more fulfilling for employees and contribute effectively to business goals. In the accounting sector, it means moving beyond the traditional accountant’s role and redefining job scopes to align with the profession’s changing demands.

While the success stories of the two accounting firms are commendable, it is important to recognise that for job redesign initiatives to work, employers need to have open communication with employees, dedicated training, and a clear vision for the business’s future.

Job redesign is not without its challenges. Resistance to change, the misconception that it leads to job displacement, and a lack of awareness about its benefits can hinder the success of the job redesign implementation. Addressing these challenges requires leadership commitment, ongoing communication, and support mechanisms to help employees adapt to their new roles.

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The success of job redesign initiatives in the accounting industry is a testament to the benefits they offer.

SMEs in Singapore, in particular, can learn from these experiences and consider adopting job redesign strategies in their transformation processes. It is crucial for business leaders to recognise that job redesign is not just about cost-cutting but also helping their employees transition to higher-value or expanded roles within the organisation to unlock the potential of their workforce.

Building the future together

The accounting industry continues to evolve, driven by emerging trends and technologies like cloud accounting, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and data analytics that will reshape the profession.

Accountants will need to adapt and embrace these technologies to stay competitive. Job redesign is, therefore, not merely a buzzword; it is a strategic imperative to leverage technology and create higher job value to further strengthen the accounting profession in Singapore.

Teo Ser Luck, president of the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants, echoed how embracing AI and adopting technology such as RPA can benefit the industry in the long run.

He said that embracing AI allows professionals to harness technology, enhance productivity, and ensure the future relevance of the workforce, and this lends greater interest and value to the work of accountancy professionals.

Small and medium practices that have implemented technology to automate repetitive work procedures have seen increases in their productivity and enabled their staff to perform higher-value work, which is crucial in contributing to the growth and development of both their staff and business.

Additionally, the industry can attract new talent by showcasing the exciting opportunities for innovation and impact that a career in accounting offers. The perception of accounting as a “boring” profession must be dispelled, highlighting the dynamic and evolving nature of the field.

To meet the projected demand of up to 7,000 new accounting jobs by 2025, mid-career hires can augment the existing workforce and their transition into the profession can be eased through Workforce Singapore’s (WSG) Career Conversion Programme for Accounting Professionals. These individuals from diverse backgrounds can bring fresh perspectives and skills to the industry.

As part of the government’s broader effort to work with Singaporeans, WSG also established a group of volunteer career advisors in the accountancy sector who can provide peer support to help individuals, particularly mature mid-career workers, make more informed decisions for smoother career transitions.

These advisers can provide sector and occupation-specific career advice, including what companies in their sector look out for and the skillsets that could be of value to the company.

The accounting industry in Singapore certainly holds a bright future with technology, innovative job redesign strategies and a diverse talent pool. Let’s pave the way so that the industry is one of those at the forefront of business and workforce transformation.

This article was originally published on The Business Times.

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