Ep. 97: Eli Amdur - Explaining What Today's Business Environment Means for Your Personal Development

Eli Amdur, Career and Executive Coach, Journalist, and Keynote Speaker, joins Count Me In to help listeners navigate through today's business environment and how to develop the skills required for the future. Eli has helped countless clients and contacts develop their leadership skills and provided career advice, most recently a number during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this episode, he addresses some of the issues he sees from his perspective about organizational decisions being made, what the long-term implications of those decisions may be, and what individuals can do to continue developing the skills needed to be "ready" for the "unpredictable". With some real-life examples and cases, Eli paints a great picture for listeners to take a step back and look at the importance of upskilling, reskilling, and preparing for what's next. Download and listen now!

Contact Eli Amdur: https://www.linkedin.com/in/eliamdur/
Email Eli Amdur: eli.amdur@amdurcoaching.com
Eli Amdur Website and Contact info: http://eliamdur.com/
Eli's Blog: http://eliamdur.com/index.php/blog/

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
Adam: (00:05)
 Welcome back for episode 97 of Count Me iIn, IMA's podcast about all things affecting the accounting and finance world. I'm your host, Adam Larson, and I'm happy to bring you our latest episode on the work environment and personal development, Eli Amdur, Career and Executive coach, Journalist, and Keynote Speaker, joined my cohost Mitch to talk about recent business decisions, what they've meant to those in the workforce and what individuals can do to best prepare themselves for the future. I'm sure you will enjoy this conversation. So let's go listen.

Mitch: (00:34)
What is your perspective on the current business environment and how would you rate businesses in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Eli: (00:51)
Mitch, good question. First, let me say, thanks for inviting me here. I'm happy to be with you and your membership. Current business environment, for sure, it's unlike any we've ever experienced. It's, it's being, it's being influenced by as many serious, conditions as has ever existed together at one time in an  economic meltdown, massive job losses, COVID-19 social and racial and gender unrest. We're doing, we're experiencing as much as we've ever experienced before. What I'm afraid of is knee jerk reactions on the parts of employers, entire industries, even government agencies, but it's, it's natural, but it's something that I think is way overboard. For instance, the thing about working remote. Well, we didn't have a choice on that. We understand that. And having technology that permits us to do it is a pretty awesome thing, but companies already having said that we're going to work remote until 2022. They're getting out of lease deals, they're selling office space. I think they're making decisions that one day soon, they're going to be kind of sorry, they've made as, as suddenly, and as, I should say thoughtlessly as they have made them. I don't think enough thought has gone into it.

Mitch: (02:37)
Well, what are the potential outcomes of these decisions? You know, it's something you're afraid of. It. It might be a little thoughtlessness, but you know, as far as businesses and their sustainability longevity, why might these decisions may not be the best ones for the business?

Eli: (02:52)
That's a, that's a great question, and I think it's because we're reacting to things we can see immediately. We're not holding off on our decisions. You know, I'm very fond of saying, and I've said this for many years, going way, way back to like corporate leadership roles. That if we thought about the consequences of our decisions before we made them, we would make better decisions. So yeah, COVID hits and we got to get everybody out of each other's ways. Otherwise the transmission of the disease will be increasing, which it is now anyway, as you know, but the things we can't see are things that have now become a little clearer to a lot of people, both workers and leaders, and decision-makers in organizations. And that is that we're missing the interpersonal connections that we so very much we rely on and enjoy during our work days and our careers. We are social creatures. We rely on belonging to groups. In human history, those groups have taken all kinds of shapes, like a corporate division of religion, a fan club, a, a community we need that. It is one of the most basic of all human needs. Abraham Maslow pointed that asked to us very well. Once we get done with our physiological needs, for food, clothing, and shelter and things like that, and our longer term security needs the most basic need of all his belongings. We're missing that, people are lonely. They don't like being alone. They want to be part of a team where somebody slapped somebody on the back or shakes hands and  nods approval in a conference room. And those, the lack of those things tend to decrease the effectiveness and the efficiency of performance, but not, not enough companies are realizing that yet. There's still an element of their technology and their ability to work remotely.

Mitch: (05:00)
Now, obviously there are circumstances that are preventing businesses from reopening and people being able to gather in the manner that you're discussing. there are going to obviously be those who have their concerns going forward. Long-term so what can businesses do? How can businesses accommodate the needs of the human being of their employees, keeping in mind their safety, most importantly, but also being able to offer this human interaction and this gathering so that they may be able to feel slightly more accomplished and, and achieve all the benefits that you previously mentioned.

Eli: (05:37)
Well, let me answer that two ways in the very, very short term, nothing. We've got to continue doing what we're doing, because we don't have a way to prevent this disease, and we don't have a way to treat this disease. And with the spikes that are going on predominantly in the United States, more than any other country, now we're headed into the third wave and winter time, it's, it's serious business. We're going to have to sacrifice something and that's our belongingness, our togetherness, our interaction. So in the short term, until there is a vaccine that is safe, effective, and plentiful, because we don't know if it's going to be a one time, or if you have to do a second booster, we don't know that any of that yet. Until that time, there's just very little we can do other than continue to reach out remotely as much as we possibly can, but go longer term, and I can't tell you exactly what that long return is. It's going to be six months from now. Is it going to be eight months? Don't know, but I can tell you that there's, there are indications that companies have already realized this. Recent news has shown that in the world of big tech and I referred to the big four, which is Google, Amazon, Facebook, and, Microsoft have taken up new leases on a couple of million square feet of office space in Manhattan. So they apparently have given this some thought and Facebook is a company, but that early on in this pandemic said that they have that their employees could work remote until 2021 and 2022, but they're buying up office space. I think they know what's going on. Maybe they're getting good deals because of the situation, but, they're going to be calling employees back into work, and I think they understand the thing about the consequences of their decisions. And so I think what companies can do is to let their employees know and their vendors and their customers as well, we're not running away, we're not going to be a one 800 don't bother me.com type of business. but that they are indeed intending to get back to working closely together and to strengthen the interpersonal bonds. If I were to advise corporations and not just big tech, but all corporations, that's exactly where I would go.

Mitch: (08:11)
Now, how about logistically more specific to our audience? Right? We work for accounting and finance professionals at large, you know, their role was already changing prior to this pandemic. And then you add the remote aspect to everything, you know, their jobs have shifted. What can you recommend as far as, you know, accounting and finance professionals, accounting and finance organizations to, you know, best again, accommodate these needs while maintaining the safety of their employees?

Eli: (08:41)
Well, couple of ways to answer that, and I'll try as hard as I can. First of all, much of the work that an accounting and finance professional does, can be done remotely. We know that. But if you're working for a firm, whether it's a small bookkeeping firm or a very large accounting firm, you still need that interaction, and I think what the companies, the employers can be doing in advance is to plan for what that  is going to look like when we do get back together again and let their employees know in a very transparent way, what they have to look forward to. One of the, one of the characteristics that I'm seeing when I talk to employers, when I talk to employees, when I talk to people who have been furloughed or laid off, or just completely dumped out on the street, or people who are working productively is that there's an atmosphere of being forlorn employers need to be able to assure their employees, that this is not the way it's going to continue to be, but why we're doing what we have to do, let's just do what we have to do. I think that's a clear message. And I think that there are very few people who wouldn't get that message, because if we're always together, we feel better about it. And sooner or later, we'll get back. Look on my, on my career coaching, when I wear my career coaching hat, I can tell you that since April 6th, when this thing really took hold, I've had 34 clients of mine who either during COVID or just before COVID, or before COVID really gripped us, landed jobs. Now that tells me something interesting. It tells me that employers, when they realize they need someone to fill a job, whether they can do it in person or not, they're going to fill that job. So  the element of despair needs to be combated with an element of optimism saying that if my company needs me to do this, if I have to do it alone in my, in my office at home or my basement or whatever, it's just not going to be a forever thing. I think the morale issue is something that employers have got to strengthen and let everybody know that the minute we can get back, we will.

Mitch: (11:16)
Now let's take a step back and talk a little bit about the skills, right? Whenever it is that we returned to the office, the environment's going to be different. There are going to be changes, but as you said, much of the job that we're doing right now, can be remotely can be automated. So as far as accounting and finance professionals, you know, moving forward through this pandemic, into the future, what are some of the skills or qualifications that you would recommend? You know, our listeners really focused on to best prepare themselves for that new norm.

Eli: (11:46)
I'm going to answer that question two ways. I want to talk about skills, but I want to also talk about where those skills are going to be applied. So you're right, a lot of what an accounting and finance professional does can be automated, but we have been through plenty of historic, current and waves in which automation was feared as something that would take away everybody's job, and it did just the opposite. The most recent of which of course was one that the PC in 1981, the IBM 51 58, if you remember that wasn't the first PC, but it was the first successfully marketed PC. Everybody was running around like chicken little saying the sky was gonna fall on PCs and computers go take away all our jobs. Well, here it is 40 years later and PCs have created 40 million jobs. What they did was they didn't eliminate jobs. They shifted them. They moved them over, and automation technology does that. Robotics is what everybody's afraid of today. But by the same token that a robot using ultraviolet light can clean a room to within 99.99% of infectious bacteria and other germs, and take away the need for somebody to come in and swab that room down for the three, you got it in 50 bed hospital to be able to do that. They're going to need a hundred to 150 of those robots. Well, who's going to build them. Who's going to program them. Who's going to sell them. Who's going to train everybody on them. Who's going to maintain them, and who in the accounting profession is going to recognize the companies that are making those products and say, that's where I'm going. So that's the second part of my answer. If you give some thought and do a lot of research to where jobs are going to develop. So let's say in artificial intelligence or algorithm development, or quantum computing, I'm trying to pick the very high tech jobs.  An accountant or a finance professional may may say, well, I'm not a quantum computing scientist, but the companies that are doing that are going to need the same kind of services that I'm providing, let's say to a waste management company or to a sports promotion company or whatever. And so the question then becomes none. What skills do I need? Which, which are skills that are much more soft than hard, decision-making, interpersonal skills, creative thinking, problem solving, but they're also, who's going to need them, and then you start getting into these very attractive lists, like clean energy companies, garbages energy storage companies, dealing with quantum computing, nano technology, smart homes, urban planning, ocean literacy, things like that. The question is, and for the job seeker, the job seeker has to do this for herself or himself. Where are those future jobs? I mean, I can get into that conversation with you, Mitch, but you and I don't have that kind of time today. So the question is good, or the answer rather is you're going to need to develop your soft skills more prominently now than the hard skills that you've already proven that you have. And then you're going to have to say, who's going to be paying me to, to bring those skills to the workforce.

Mitch: (15:27)
It's a really good point. And, you know, I think the next step here is, okay. So as far as my personal development, much of my skills, technical skills probably will not change. We certainly need to upskill in the soft skills, as you said, potentially a little bit of rescaling, but as far as personal development and moving forward, what should our listeners really do on their own? What should the employers and the various organizations be doing right now, whether it's virtually or planning for the future, how do we really get these employees ready for this change for this transformation and be able to adapt to these new work environments and these new roles that could be coming?

Eli: (16:08)
Yeah, you know Mitch every time you ask the question, because I say to myself, that's the best question he's asked and that you you've, you've done it again. From the employee's point of view, there has to be a commitment to, on going professional development. You cannot sit on what you've got. Now for the really skilled high level accounting person or finance person that means taking those courses, workshops, professional development webinars, and seminars that will teach you skills if you better already have them in planning and management. Because if you want to sit and do accounting work all day long day after day after day, you're going to be automated out of there. But if you, if you learn those things that are necessary to help lead businesses into the next year or the next decade and the next generation you're going to be doing that, you're going to be taking courses that may not have anything to do with your hard skills. What's it like to do business with the European Union for argument's sake, which is our largest trading partner. What are the cultural differences? What are the, what are the social necessities needed to do that kind of business? So, what the individual has to do is make a commitment to ongoing professional development. I have clients who have been smart enough, and I wish I could say it was my idea, but it was theirs. But I'll tell you what it is, who budget their annual household, the building to the annual household budget courses at their local community college. Now community colleges are treasure troves, and we all know that. To take courses in accounting, finance, computer science, urban planning, allied health, et cetera. They are  are all over the place. Every community, every County has one they're inexpensive, they're available, they're frequent. But my many of my clients that I'm talking to now are committing a certain part of their annual budget to learning Now, once you commit to it and you put money to it, it's going to happen, and you're going to stay up to snuff. Now, how much better do you think your resume looks when under continuing professional education, it shows that you are in progress of taking this course. You know, maybe it's a six, Six Sigma course, maybe it's a lean manufacturing course. Maybe it's a course that teaches you about the industry you're in not the occupation that you own. Now, I think there has to be a commitment on the part of employers and higher education to work together for the employers to tell community colleges or colleges and universities, look, this is what we see. We're going to be meeting over the next 10, 20 years as far as workforce development. How can you and we work together to, how can we tell you what you want, what we want you to build and how can you go about building it? And there'll be a wonderful relationship between the university or the community college and the employer. This is going on around the country, by the way. Technical colleges are doing that very, very well. I also think the government has to get involved, but the sad fact is that stategovernance, subsidies of private, of public colleges are down in all 50 States. And I think that it's going to come with government support to build those curricula that will help the businesses and the institutions of higher learning, attract the employee who is committed to doing the professional development. So you have a four-way partnership here, the individual, the corporation, the institution of higher learning and the government to whatever extent it is capable of doing that. That's a big, it's a big answer I just gave, but it's the answer to a very good question you asked.

Mitch: (20:30)
Well, I certainly appreciate that, and you know, all the backstory there, I think it certainly paints a good picture for, you know, what the question was intended to answer. So, you know, we started this conversation talking about the current business environment and we transitioned to the future of work, and now we've kind of got into some career development. So to wrap things up, I'd just like to give you an opportunity to, you know, share your insights or your perspective on, you know, anything else that you would like to share about career development, personal development, the future of work, and you know, what our listeners might be interested in knowing as they prepare to take the next step in their own careers.

Eli: (21:07)
Well, okay. So, you just asked me to talk to you for about two hours, Mitch.

Mitch: (21:14)
Well, we'll try and keep it as short as the last question.

Eli: (21:18)
As far as career development is concerned, there are, there are employers that do a good job of supporting that, but the employee has got to accept this as his or her responsibility. No one is going to do it for you. When you get help, where you get support when you get reinforcement. Yes, but no one is going to do it for you. A couple more points that while jobs are changing, they're not going away. You've got to look at where the jobs are going to be. And I mentioned before, lots of areas like nanotechnology or smart homes or vertical farming and things like that, you can do what you do now for a company that may not be growing into the future for a company that is doing exactly that. So we're, we're in more than ever before a job shift economy. I recently wrote a column that it was entitled, Everything I Ever Learned about the Job Market, but that, that the end and the completion of that was I learned during a recession because good times make poor teachers, but when things get tough, our learning mechanisms at our survivor mechanisms engage. What I've learned is this, that we're facing a new world. The job market is going to be different from now. None of us knows exactly what it'll look like a year and three years and five years from now, but it will be different. And for those who are saying, well, I'm 62, I'm 64 years old. I don't need to know about that. Oh yes, you do. Because it's happening that fast, and if you are going to be in the market in the job market for three years or more, you would better understand that second point is you better be ready for anything, because if anything can happen, it will. Whoever thought that Ford motor company, the company would basically started the auto industry, wouldn't stop making sedans, and they had. Unthinkable. If that can happen, anything can happen. Another thing is that that being ready by burning up on your skills, understanding where the workplace is going readiness will, will become more important than expertise, but you still need to be an expert at something you got to get really, really good at something, but you got to get ready for anything.

Closing: (23:46)
This has been Count Me In, IMA's podcast, providing you with the latest perspectives of thought leaders from the accounting and finance profession. If you like, what you heard, and you'd like to be counted in for more relevant accounting and finance education, visit IMA's website at www.imanet.org.
©Copyright 2021 Institute of Management Accountants. All rights reserved.