The introduction by SAICA of an outcome-based approach underpinning continuing professional development (CPD) may have come at a time where their member body requires it most – but do we realise why this is so?
Saying that South African accountants are staring down challenging times could be easily construed as facing the proverbial ‘few bumps in the road’ that are likely to recede soon and magically disappear like turbulence experienced by an aircraft followed by the captain’s overly welcoming announcement of ‘all okay, folks, clear skies ahead!’ Many of us, as proud members of this noble profession, take some comfort in the fact that these challenges are not only a South African phenomenon, but seem to present themselves in many, if not most, countries in the world. Some are challengingly vocal about the fact that all professions face complexities from time to time and that this, too, shall pass. Be that as it may, opinions differ and whilst respecting each other’s views, perhaps some introspective reflection is not the worst idea at this time. Are clear skies really ahead, folks?
Perhaps you expect this piece to focus on professional failures, corporate scandals and embarrassments, ethical and other transgressions by accountants laid bare by the Zondo Commission of Enquiry into state capture, and pervasive breaches of public trust placed in both the accountancy and auditing professions, but, alas, it does not. That is merely its point of departure. Love or hate him, but Dr Phil McGraw taught us all at least (mainly?) one thing – ‘you cannot change what you don’t acknowledge’. If we can reach a point where we at least acknowledge the need to reflect and perhaps test the solidity of some of the pillars underlying our profession, we may be ready to navigate the way forward more easily.
Another elephant in the (board)room is the gradual yet reluctant realisation among accountants of the threat of redundancy through rapid technological advance. Social media and other professional platforms, such as LinkedIn, highlight the tremendous pace of technological transformation worldwide and how we are living the Fourth Industrial Revolution every day. Technology already replaces many roles and responsibilities fulfilled by humans before, including some of those by accountants. The challenge, however, lies not in whether we will allow this to be the case, as an attempt to resist it would be futile, but rather how we can leverage these technological advances to achieve increased sustenance and longevity as a profession.
Acknowledging the need for change, for many reasons, as well as the resulting opportunities so created could very well be the trigger we need to buy our subscriptions to the college of lifelong learning sooner than anticipated!
The 2020 year was indeed an active one for SAICA with regard to professional development of their members. As part of their commitment to ensuring that their designations retain their value, and perceived value, SAICA revised the underlying approach to their CPD model from an input-based to an outcome-based approach, effective 1 January 2020. The year 2020 also saw the finalisation of SAICA’s post-qualification competency framework, containing three main groups of professional competencies, being:
- Professional values and attitudes
- Enabling and future competencies, and
- Technical competencies
Reflection and deliberate introspection underpin the outcome-based CPD model, enriched by a whole new array of recommended competencies that professionals can choose from, on which to focus their professional development. Exciting to note is the addition of enabling and future competencies, a new category focusing on those skills that accountants should possess to perpetuate their careers into the future world of work.
In the background it is also important to keep an eye on SAICA’s CA2025 initiative, according to which tertiary institutions accredited to educate prospective accountants are redefining their curricula to instil a more robust, work-ready and versatile professional skill set within accountants destined to enter the world of work from the 2025 calendar year. Students are already being educated in terms of this new, vibrant and improved competency framework, thereby increasing the urgency of spreading the same gospel among those who already qualified as accountants before the winds of change rang in this new era of possibility, those who may be so invested in balancing their day-to-day work and private lives, that alerts to the brewing storm may very well be completely missed!
Interestingly, SAICA instituted a requirement for mandatory reflection about ethical values and attitudes in April 2021. In terms thereof, SAICA members are required to undertake deep annual reflection about personal, business, and professional ethics, including SAICA’s Code of Professional Conduct (CPC) – evidence of such reflection is to be included in the annual CPD Reflective Plan.
It is, however, not only important to note changes affecting our professional development, but also understanding the reasoning behind such. Doing so may very well lead us to also embracing the opportunities so created!
Leveraging change to sustain and prosper
Thus far we have acknowledged that the case for change appears to be rock-solid and that inevitable consequential change is occurring faster than imaginable. Inevitably, this leads us to the question: ‘Am I willing to embrace these changes and, even more so, leverage them to prolong my longevity and prosperity as an accountant and/or auditor?’
As is almost always the case, fear of the unknown breeds uncertainty which is often accompanied by consequential resistance. Perhaps by focusing on the advantages of embracing the challenge of change, which we could choose to see as an opportunity instead, could lessen such resistance and may very well be the start of a new era for healing the profession.
Broader skill sets
Albert Einstein famously said, ‘Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.’ It’s literally the best way to explain lifelong learning. Social media is littered with examples of ordinary people continuously achieving extraordinary new milestones. Realising the impact of lifelong learning and the importance of constantly adding new competencies to our existing skill sets, will not only ensure that our profession is represented by competent individuals, but inspire vital investments in ourselves as human beings. An exceptional eagerness to learn is commonly viewed by visionary business leaders as one of the most important professional skills to possess to ensure survival in the next decade. A static skill set is guaranteed to endorse a static career, which could prove to be fatal in an environment where rapid change is the only constant.
Gone are the days of slowly dying through a totally irrelevant CPD event merely to be able to log a few ‘vital’ CPD hours. The outcome-based CPD model no longer requires a minimum number of hours to be logged during a CPD cycle, as that would defeat its objective, and consequently empowers professionals to undertake learning activities that are of interest, career-enhancing, and relevant to their day-to-day professional lives, whatever these activities may entail. Probably one of the biggest challenges for SAICA members thus far in transitioning to outcome-based CPD has been to relinquish our primary concern about how many CPD hours can be logged by undertaking a particular CPD activity, diluting our focus of ensuring that the learning activities we choose significantly contribute to our professional development. Several sources of learning can contribute to such development, hence not limiting professionals to the traditional ways of learning but unlocking some fascinating other learning possibilities.
With an empowering new CPD model supported by a world-class competency framework, an abundance of guidance exists to assist with turning mere CPD compliance into vitally important professional growth. Following the steps below are guaranteed to provide a solid foundation from which to depart on your outcome based CPD journey:
View the steps in the Table here
CPD is only a grudge purchase when investing in the wrong product! An appointment with lifelong learning should be a recurring item in your professional diary, just like the cardiothoracic surgeon having to learn the new skill of performing open-heart surgery using a highly complex medical robotic device, or the commercial airline pilot having to undergo mandatory practice flying hours in flight simulators containing the latest aviation technology. Not only do we expect that of them, but we also demand it! The perfect (CPD) storm is upon us and perhaps possessing the competency of an adaptive mindset is exactly what will negotiate us to clearer skies, and a profession we can once again be superbly proud of, folks!
SAICA, Revised Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Policy, https://www.saica.org.za/initiatives/competency-framework/cpd-policy.
SAICA, Post-qualification Competency Framework – CA2025 Pathways to Relevance, https://ca2025.co.za/pathways-to-relevance/.
Anton van Wyk CA(SA), MCom, Managing Director, CPD Campus