Generic skill profiles of future accountants and auditors – moving beyond attributes

25 Jan 2022

PURPOSE : This study investigates perceptions regarding generic skills future entry-level accountants and auditors will require. Such soft or pervasive skills are necessary to operate effectively in the future world of work. Prior research mainly explores generic skills from an attribute-based perspective, while this paper combines it with an activity-based perspective in generic skill profiles of accountants and auditors. DESIGN/METHODOLOGY/APPROACH : Following a mixed methods research approach through focus group discussions and a survey involving more than 3,000 professional accountants and/or auditors, the study uses data from the Southern African region (South Africa, Zimbabwe and Namibia) to determine views on the competency needs of future accountants and auditors. An exploratory factor analysis was conducted to determine whether categories of generic skills for future entry-level accountants and auditors differ. FINDINGS : Four generic skills factors emerged as essential for future entry-level chartered accountants (CAs): digital, decision-making, organisational and business acumens. Three generic skill factors emerged for future registered auditors (RAs): digital, practice and commercial acumens. The results show that generic skill profiles of CAs and RAs, who are members of an accounting body differ and that both the context, related to an activity-based perspective, and individual or internal abilities, related to an attribute-based perspective, matter. RESEARCH LIMITATION/IMPLICATIONS : The study extends generic skill theory by identifying broad categories of generic skills (referred to as acumens) for future accountants and auditors. PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS : Insights from this paper facilitate a comprehensive understanding of the generic skill profile approach, combining attribute-based and activity-based perspectives, and this could assist accounting educators, practitioners and professional bodies to better prepare entry-level accounting and audit professionals for the workplace. ORIGINALITY/VALUE : The study identifies broad categories (digital, decision-making, organisational, business, practice and commercial acumens) within generic skill profiles of CAs and RAs and shows that generic skills do not operate independently and should be viewed as an interdependent set or constellation of competencies.