Impact of Digitisation on Accounting in New Zealand

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8th Feb 2020 Accounting Reference this

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Introduction

This report focuses on an analysis of current developments and critical issues facing organisations from an Accounting perspective.

The impact of digitisation on NZ businesses

The transformation to digital technologies, including artificial intelligence and automation is rapidly changing the number and types of obtainable jobs in the current workplace of New Zealand nowadays, according to a well-known national tech leaders group. The continual advancement in technology is abruptly expanding all other facets of life including finance, health, recreation, entertainment, education, communication, travel, and work. Hence, New Zealander’s are encouraged to keep abreast of this technological advancement. As per expert’s opinion, although it may be said that artificial intelligence and automation can increase productivity and alleviate the standard of living, it can also bring about temporary displacement to employees due to integration challenges. This is a way of getting rid of current jobs and creating a new one. Whilst other tasks will not be displaced, it would require another level of skills and capabilities.

A differing opinion released by the Artificial Intelligence Forum’s report states that automation proportionately yields more jobs. It has been proven in the past that the presentation of new technology results to creating more work opportunities than it impairs.

Despite the fear of losing a job from automation, New Zealand finance leaders state that it helped increase productivity by 68%, lessens the time spent to data entry and more on the execution of tasks (58%) leading to better decisions. Moreover, employees become more proficient in adapting to change (46%). According to Megan Alexander, GM of Robert Half, digitisation and automation can tap potential change to those companies who are willing to embrace and implement new technologies. Adapting to change will create an equilibrium between technology and the people. Finance employees capitalise on digitisation since it will greatly ease in performing their tasks. Digitisation gives them the opportunity to increase their skill set and their market value.

As for the company’s effort on keeping up with the fast-changing development in technology, they must shell out capital for equipment, software integration, and implementation. In addition to that, they must also give training to their employees. According to the worldwide survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), 80% of the respondents agree that the success of the organisation greatly depends on their capacity to handle the introduction of digital technologies and their approach of solving employees’ skill challenges.  45% of the respondents’ lack understanding on how to deal with digitisation.

Based on EIU report, there are three technology-driven trends that are altering the concept of work in the 21st century.  These are robotics, artificial intelligence, and crowd-sourced labour. Robotics was widely used in the car manufacturing industry and spread throughout other sectors such as farming and healthcare.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been incorporated in the software to perform tasks which were only handled by humans. The development of new techniques can perform jobs accurately and within a lesser period than the humans do. The last one is called the crowd-sourced labour. This provides flexibility to the workers since they are only hired to perform a specific task that needs urgent resolution. This approach allows the employer to keep their payroll and employee benefits at the minimum since they are on-demand workers and hired on a contractual basis paying only for the labour cost as required. Contractors like it too because they have control over what tasks to take on, they can work independently, and they manage their own time. On-demand workers can also choose to work from home whilst engaging with other workers across the globe.

As the economy constantly move forward, people are also striving to keep up with this fast-changing environment. In order not to be left behind we can only embrace change onward. It is a risk that the organization must take, analyze which strategies of workplace digitisation produce the best results and reap the great benefits not only for the employees and the company but as well contribute to the betterment of the environment and the society at large.

Employee skillsets required for 21st century NZ businesses

Employees are amongst the contributing factor to the success of the organization therefore it is very important to identity and equip employees with the right skills required to be able to compete with the market.  Globalization, innovation and technological advances are redefining what businesses need to do to compete successfully. Employee skillset not only positively contribute to the success of the organization but is also important in employee’s everyday personal development. Detailed below are several employee skillsets required for 21st century New Zealand businesses.

Firstly, there are a few basic skills some employers can gauge and look for when undertaking recruitment and interview process. That is, some organizations value punctuality, self-management, excellent verbal communication skills, listening skills, technical skills and how confident some interviewee respond. On the other hand, the interview process may not always be an affirmative tool to fully measure employees’ actual skills, further skills can be discovered and developed in the organization over years of experience, and these soft skills may include work ethic, problem solving skills, decision making skills, teamwork skills, leadership skills, negotiation skills, written communication skills and willing to learn are just a few.

Whilst, some organizations may prioritize the skills required based on the business; the effects of globalization, innovation and technological advances may also be a contributing factor that change values for 21st century NZ businesses by redefining what businesses need to do to compete successfully. Therefore, given the increase of technological development and growth of global competition, employees are adopting agile thinking skills. According to Holbeche. L (2015), agile thinking is about changing people’s mindsets, work culture, routine work habits, being flexible and being able to adapt, being creative, innovative and resilient and doing things fast without compromising safety, productivity, quality, systems integrity or cost. In general, the most agile organizations tend to be entrepreneurial startups that initially act as a powerhouse for innovation mainly because employee’s willingness to quickly adapt to change and meet customer expectations (Holbeche, L. 2015). 

Likewise, increase in overseas trading, extensive competition and increase in economic development has placed a great significance on investor confidence, therefore some organizations focus on upskilling and developing existing employees (Leigh, D. E., & Gifford, K. D. 1999). Being aware of any new international accounting standards, new regulations or laws, appear to have significant impact on the economy, thus employee upskilling whether through workshops, academic achievements, in-house trainings, secondments or on the job training can lead to a more knowledgeable workforce and add value to an organization. Upskilling can lead to an employee personal development which can in turn boost initiative, self-direction, leadership and responsibility skills. Upskilling existing employees reduce recruitment costs for the organization however, may also reduce the reliance on the external labor market.

Similarly, New Zealand businesses in the 21st century are becoming more multicultural; therefore, an important skill employee may adopt is cross-cultural skills because it strengthens employee’s effectiveness in interacting with other races they encounter in school, work and the community (Dollwet, M., & Reichard, R. 2014). Understanding & respecting other cultures communication and behavioral styles may lead to customer satisfaction, positive negotiation, problem-solving and exploring new markets with different cultures.

In conclusion, some employees in the 21st century may need to question how they can contribute to the growth of the organization and economy, that is moving away from habitual thinking and behaviors and being able to adapt to change for the betterment of the organization without compromising safety, productivity, quality, systems integrity or cost. Having a sense of individual self-motivation and drive towards the success of the organization can result in employees easily adapting.

 

 

Productivity and the challenge of increasing productivity in NZ businesses

“Productivity isn’t everything, but in the long run it is almost everything. A country’s ability to improve its standard of living over time depends almost entirely on its ability to raise its output per worker. Paul Krugman The Age of Diminishing Expectations (1994)” (Grant Thornton, 2014)

Our aspirations of better quality of life are still not being achieved yet.  “New Zealand’s low productivity growth is a long-term problem that has been an issue across a timeframe of generations” (New Zealand Treasury, 2018)

Opportunities for raising productivity lie in educating owners of SME’s in how to run & grow successful businesses and competing on the ‘global stage’.  Other opportunities also include increasing the hourly rate of pay (productivity is key to income growth).  According to the OECD, NZ performs about 30% below the OECD average in terms of GDP per capita.  (Meehan, Conway, & New Zealand Productivity Commission, 2013)

Although there are no ‘quick fixes’ for lifting productivity, there are important elements which are essential. One important factor that explains the differences in long term productivity and growth performance, is how countries perform in developing/utilizing skills.  

Skills matter for productivity growth.  Having higher skills enables one to increase the individuals’ productivity and that of those they work with.  Skills also have an effect on increasing the capacity to innovate and apply new ideas, as well as enhancing returns on capital investments, thereby increasing companies’ abilities to adapt to new markets and competitive challenges.  (Barker, 2017)

While it’s important to have specialised technical skills, it’s just as important to have “soft”

skills like attitudes and values, communication, problem solving, and especially teamwork.

Developing your skills is a life-long continuous process.  This contribution of skills to productivity also depends on how the skills supply is matched to changing demands i.e., tertiary education and training systems, as well as how companies utilize workforce skills effectively. (Barker, 2017)

We have a ‘work smarter, not harder” philosophy, but it doesn’t seem to be working.  What we actually need to do is:

  • Adopt new technologies e.g. ICT
  • Upskill our workforce
  • Invest in better managerial skills (business education)
  • Measure effectiveness
  • Be financially literate – “Too many business owners can’t read a profit and loss statement, don’t fully understand how their business makes or loses money, and don’t understand the real costs their business incurs. (Grant Thornton, 2014)
  • Investing in infrastructure – Productivity and infrastructure go hand in hand
  • Attract skilled New Zealanders living abroad back to the country

Figure 1: How skills contribute to productivity (New Zealand Treasury & MacCormick, 2008)

“Maximizing the contribution of skills to productivity in New Zealand requires continued improvement on many fronts.  It requires a long-term perspective, and well-designed and focused investments.   Issues of “culture change” seem to arise in many aspects of skills policy: taking up the challenges of globalization; raising expectations for educational success; improving teaching quality and the responsiveness of schools; adjusting to the changing faces of New Zealand’s population; and building firms that fully utilize the skills and potential of their workforce. “ (New Zealand Treasury & MacCormick, 2008)

 The challenge of operating New Zealand businesses with a multi-ethnic mix of employees

Business plays a very prominent role in the growth and to sharpen our society by creating a competitive atmosphere among people mindset and enhance the standard of living, however, when we talk about business then we often forget about the contribution given by the employees from different multi-ethnic backgrounds. Therefore, in my opinion, major topics like “diversity – the multi-ethnic workplace” plays a prominent and beneficial role for any growing business in New Zealand and the rest of the world.

Diversity in the workplace represents the people draw from their own diverse cultural background, working together and contributing their valuable diversity of thoughts, diversity of backgrounds, diversity of experience and diversity of education in the organization.  As we are living in a worldwide and growing economy where competition is significantly rising from every company throughout the world, concerning the following scenario many profits and non-profit firms need to be more innovative and diverse.  Firstly, New Zealand focus on attracting the migrant’s Investors to invest, however, it becomes effortless for some company because migrant customers are new in New Zealand, therefore, they don’t have to overcome them from any competing business, they merely have to win them at first glance by providing satisfactory services. According to (Mai Chen, 3 November 201, pg. 82) the business market has fundamentally changed with almost 50 per cent of Auckland already Maori, Asian and Pacific and expected to increase more 50% by 2038. 

Furthermore, having diversity as a core business strategy for some company there are advantages like increased adaptation, broader service range, more effective executions.  Secondly, in this era of globalization, many firms involve people to carry out services to their diverse customers which makes more sense from the market to service the market. Despite having less knowledge about the new culture migrant employees are good at understanding the important things to succeed in their birth country’s market.  Many businesses are taking innovative ideas from their diverse staff members to grow their Asian customers market to generate more profits furthermore, sometimes customers from different ethnic backgrounds may find difficult to speak and follow English. This result is that businesses should allow a staff member who can speak required languages. 

Managers should possess CQ or cultural intelligence so that can understand as well as deal with the staff members and customers’ requirements (, Mai Chen, 3 November 201, p 83) migrants worker are loyal, hardworking and always ready to do the works which local New Zealander will not do( As per [2.272] and [ 2.176] in the Xero qualitative study)

On the contrary there are some “challenges of diversity in the workplace” issues like lack of understanding of the law, rules and regulation of the country for examples blowing the horn or bribery are illegal in New Zealand. Countries like India, Philippines and Singapore migrants, in general, have good English proficiency, but that is insufficient, therefore, employers should give a proper understanding about the rules and regulations as well as the nature of the local customers to their migrant’s employees.  Secondarily, diversity is also driven by women in the workplace but still in some regions they are been paid barely than men according to the recent survey European women earn 16.5 per cent less than the average Europeans men, Asian women earn 22.75 less than Europeans males whereas Maori and Pacific’s women earn 33.98 less than the Europeans males. (Mai Chen, 3 November 201, pg. 82). Some migrants still encounter the problem like “discriminations in employment” due to their non-foreign sounding names whereas, Asian reporting the uppermost level of racial discrimination. (Mai Chen, 3 November 201, pg. 82)

 

In conclusion, a diverse workforce is a reflection of changing work and marketplace, however diverse works team brings high responsible value to the organization respecting individual cultural differences and will benefit the workplace by creating a competitive atmosphere and augmenting productivity and help to lead a better world. Diversity in the workplace will provide a fair and safe environment where everyone gets the opportunity and challenges. Management in firms should educate everyone about diversity and its issues including laws and regulations.

References

  • Barker, A. (2017). “Improving productivity in New Zealand’s economy”, OECD Economics Department Working Papers, No. 1419, OECD Publishing, Paris,. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1787/8071e193-en
  • Chen, M. (2015, November). Superdiversity Stocktake: Implications for Business,. Retrieved from https://www.superdiversity.org/wp-content/uploads/Superdiversity-Stocktake-Section3.pdf
  • Dollwet, M., & Reichard, R. (2014). Assessing cross-cultural skills: validation of a new measure of cross-cultural psychological capital. International journal of human resource management, 25(12), 1669–1696. https://doi-org.ezproxy.manukau.ac.nz/10.1080/09585192.2013.845239
  • Grant Thornton. (2014). The productivity problem: what we can do about it. Retrieved from http://www.grantthornton.co.nz/globalassets/1.-member-firms/new-zealand/pdfs/gtnz-productivity-240914.pdf
  • Half, R. (2018, February 1). Retrieved from https://www.roberthalf.co.nz/press/automation-beneficial-both-companies-and-finance-employees
  • Holbeche, L. (2015). The agile organization: how to build an innovative, sustainable and resilient business: (pp. 1-125). Retrieved from https://ezproxy.manukau.ac.nz/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip&db=nlebk&AN=1000088&site=eds-live&scope=site
  • Leigh, D. E., & Gifford, K. D. (1999). Workplace transformation and worker upskilling: the perspective of individual workers. 38(2), 175. Retrieved from https://ezproxy.manukau.ac.nz/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip&db=bth&AN=1777980&site=eds-live&scope=site
  • Meehan, L., Conway, P., & New Zealand Productivity Commission. (2013, September). New Zealand Productivity Commission. Retrieved from Productivity by the numbers: The New Zealand experience: https://productivity.govt.nz/sites/default/files/Commission%20Research%20Paper%20-%20Conway%20Meehan%20Productivity%20by%20the%20Numbers%20-%20Productivity%20by%20the%20numbers%20(final).pdf
  • New Zealand Treasury. (2018, March 20). Productivity. Retrieved from https://treasury.govt.nz/information-and-services/nz-economy/productivity
  • New Zealand Treasury, & MacCormick, J. (2008, April). Working Smarter: Driving Productivity Growth Through Skill. Retrieved from https://treasury.govt.nz/sites/default/files/2008-04/tprp08-06.pdf
  • NZ Tech. (2018, March 19). Retrieved from https://nztech.org.nz/blog/digital-change-expected-lose-create-many-jobs/
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit an Everis Report. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://eiuperspectives.economist.com/sites/default/files/Preparingdigitisationworkforce.PDF
  • Wolters Kluwer. (2015). The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the New Zealand Accounting Profession. Retrieved from http://www.wolterskluwer.co.nz/business-fitness/benchmarking/

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