It’s been a few years since we last spoke with Scott Wiley, president and CEO of the Ohio Society of CPAs (OSCPA). And in that time, OSCPA has made significant progress in many of the areas we previously touched on, particularly around workforce development.
This week on Leading Learning, Jeff reconnects with Scott to discuss how OSCPA is working to solidify their role as a trusted partner in the success of the future of the profession. They talk about OSCPA’s workforce development initiative, ways they are meeting member needs, and how they’ve evolved as learning providers.
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Listen to the Show
Read the Show Notes
[00:18] – A preview of what will be covered in this episode where Jeff interviews return guest, Scott Wiley, president and CEO of the Ohio Society of CPAs (OSCPA).
[01:55] – Introduction to Scott and some additional information about his background and work at OSCPA.
He talks about the role of OSCPA as the backbone that helps support their members, which consist of over 85,000 accounting and finance professionals who work in and across the state of Ohio. Whether that’s on the efficacy front, providing them with the learning and development they need to be competitive in today’s complex and ever-changing business environment. Or being the ones who are creating the pipeline to the future of that profession.
In his years at OSCPA, Scott says he’s been really focused on these things including what the future of the business community looks like – and more importantly the accounting and finance profession – and how they can create the shift to get there. They believe the future is about understanding the challenges and opportunities that are in front of their people, and if they can better understand those, then he says they are uniquely poised to understand them and help create solutions. So it’s about understanding how to create and deliver value.
It’s important for us – and all associations – to think about how we move from a rearview mirror perspective by our members into their line of sight.
[07:35] – We talked a good bit about workforce development the last time you were on the showand the role that associations can and should play in workforce development. How has your thinking about workforce development evolved over the past two to three years?
Scott shares that workforce development is at the core of everything they do and it’s probably the most important thing they’re doing to shape the profession. He says they are doing this in three lenses:
- For the profession. Accounting is on the front end of the change that’s dramatically shaping the other business world. In large part because it has to be since the people who work in that space are the ones that have to advise and guide on the disruption, change, and transformation they’re facing—which means they’re going through it first. And while they aren’t new to it, the pace of change just keeps coming. So accounting and finance professionals are working in/navigating that transformative space and OSCPA’s role is to make sure they have the infrastructure and grounding they need to be successful.
- For the professional. The World Economic Forum is suggesting that by 2022, every learner is going to need an additional 101 days of learning just to stay relevant and on top of their game. So at OSCPA, they are thinking about how to make sure people (not just new to the workforce) are prepared to up-skill their talent. Much of that, Scott says, is in the digital space.
- For the future of the profession. They are increasingly finding with the people they talk to that talent is their top priority, challenge, and also the thing they are most invested in. And their access to talent is only growing.
Despite all the talk about the role that AI, machine learning, and bots are going to have, talent is still the name of the game. And the companies and firms that are investing in it are the ones that are differentiating themselves.
OSCPA is playing a role in making sure they have access to future development. Since his last interview, Scott shares they have now grown the workforce development initiative to the largest of any accounting association in the country. They are now thinking about what they’re doing from a diversity and inclusion standpoint and how to bring certificate programs to the market to make sure they’re preparing that talent.
And they’re doing this in a co-creative environment with employers to be able to shape what their needs are, but also to inform what they’re doing. This is creating an opportunity to even better strengthen the relationships they have with employers. Scott says they are still learning but they’re much more nimble in terms of getting that value into the market for the talent, and also for those that who are on the hunt for it.
Sponsor: Community Brands
[12:42] – If you need a platform to help you deliver value to the talent and the talent seekers in your market, be sure to check out our sponsor for this quarter.
Community Brands provides a suite of cloud-based software for organizations to engage and grow relationships with the individuals they serve, including association management software, learning management software, job board software, and event management software. Community Brands’ award-winning Crowd Wisdom learning platform is among the world’s best LMSes for corporate extended enterprise and is a leading LMS for association-driven professional education programs. Award-winning Freestone, Community Brands’ live event learning platform, is a leading platform for live learning event capture, Webinars, Webcasts, and on-demand streaming.
Connecting with Future Members
[13:45] – You mentioned that you’re going into high schools and colleges. What are your specific initiatives there and what are you doing to connect your future members and learners in those environments?
Scott discusses how they are really thinking about this in terms of a ten-year continuum. But he’s found that associations get bored really easily and when thinking about a ten-year trajectory and building a continuum you need to think about how to keep your board and staff focused. You also need to think about how to demonstrate resilience and what to look at in terms of benchmarking.
He says they are about two and half years in now and have about 2,500 high school students. They are going in and building relationships with students, parents, and teachers while keeping in mind the exposure students are getting to the accounting profession (and it’s related opportunities) as well as their competition with STEM. The high school program is really trying to encourage people to look at accounting programs in college. So in some ways they are serving as on the ground recruiters for the accounting programs the universities are offering. And they are focused on getting the talent they recruit to get employed in the state of Ohio, which he notes is a big challenge.
[18:20] – A further discussion about the value in getting to people in that initial ten years of the career continuum. And that all education providers are not so much in the education business, they’re actually in the career business. Scott adds that when we think about a career, we have to recognize that there are few majors that really tie into the professions and this is important for people to recognize. Today there aren’t many professions that have built that type of workforce development. What they are doing is innovative but he says it’s also about how they can create the opportunity that’s going to transform this business environment and future.
Sponsor: WBT Systems
[19:59] – If you’re looking for a partner to help you transform your business environment, we suggest you visit our sponsor for this quarter.
WBT Systems develops the industry-leading TopClass LMS, which delivers transformative professional development experiences for education and certification programs. With a single point of support from in-house integration experts, TopClass LMS easily integrates with a wide variety of systems to provide efficient administration and a unified learning experience. WBT supports organizations in using learning technology to help drive growth in membership, increase revenues, and enhance the learning experience. WBT believes in truly understanding your challenges and partnering with you to ensure the success of your education programs.
Meeting Member Needs
[21:03] – You have been putting a great deal of effort into understanding how the business of your members has been changing – and then working to adapt your own business to serve them better. Can you say a little more about how you’ve been engaging with members, what you’ve learned, and how you are responding?
When it comes to better understanding the needs of their members, Scott says the way to do that is to talk to them and ask them. So they’ve done a lot of external market research to understand the market, which has been extremely valuable. But the thing that’s been the most valuable to them over the last 24 months is getting out into their locations, sitting down with their leaders and staff to just talk and ask them about their challenges and what they see as their opportunities.
By better understanding these challenges and opportunities he says they can begin to think about what that means for OSCPA’s business and how they are positioning their internal capabilities to meet those. Scott has found that all too often, associations are focused on selling a product, conference, etc. and making people feel like they need something versus truly understanding where their business is going. And because the business environment is changing so rapidly, they need to be much more intentional about what it is they do, where their focus is, and what their strategic capabilities and competencies are.
In doing that, they’ve also begun to think about who it is they need to work with to make sure they are bringing those capabilities and competencies that aren’t at their core to the market. Scott acknowledges they are never going to be everything to everyone but what they are and what they have is grounded in trust. Their aim is to be the most trusted business advisor to the trusted business advisors and knowing who they are, what they have, what they need, and how they can get it to them has been critical.
[24:30] – What’s the response to that been or what’s the return been? Have you found that in return, you’re getting higher demand for what you’re offering? Are you getting people more engaged with what you’re offering, or are you actually able to grow as a result of doing this?
Scott points out they’re only 24 months into this so part of the listening is finding the similarities and coming back—so they are in the early stages of this effort. The early indicators have led them into a more mobile friendly environment. From a technology standpoint they are trying to better leverage best-in-class products and use technology that’s already available. They are also launching their own customized learning solutions business to really focus on human performance consulting.
Scott talks about the value in the trust and the relationship they bring to the market—and this doesn’t apply only for OSCPA, but to all associations. He says not to underestimate just how important your relationship, brand equity, and the trust you establish with your people is in helping meet their needs. This is one way associations are uniquely poised to do this.
So far, the response has been positive and what he’s heard from people involved in the co-creation process is that if OSCPA can do it, they will want it. But the issue for associations is whether or not they can execute so they’ve invested heavily in their internal competencies and capabilities to focus on this.
[27:41] – What are some other ways your business model (as it relates to the business of learning) has been evolving? I understand from Josh Goldman – your VP of learning, who we also interviewed for the podcast– that you are reexamining what you choose to build yourself versus partnering to create or licensing and adapting from external providers. What are some other examples of how you’re evolving as a learning provider?
Scott shares they had to recognize they can’t be all things to all people. They’ve done a pretty thorough product and portfolio analysis of their entire learning portfolio to focus on what it is they are trying to accomplish. And they found they’re trying to make sure that the profession is ready for the future they are going to encounter and nobody really knows what that is. But they know they have to be agile, nimble, and to be thinking about themselves as relationship individuals/trusted business advisors.
OSCPA is focused on giving people the skills and competencies they need in these areas (rather than just technical skills) and they’ve significantly thinned down their portfolio to only include things that support this. And since there is still need for these technical skills, OSCPA is working with other providers who can offer this to bring it into their market. Because they are facilitating this, they still view it as a business opportunity. In doing this, they are doing less custom development and they can focus more on developing that performance consulting solutions skillset, which they think is critical for the future of the profession.
Scott also talks about the idea of creating certificate programs to help meet people’s needs and demonstrate they have the capabilities, competencies, and skillsets that are going to be relevant in the marketplace and meet the needs of a changing business environment. Another initiative is in the past 24 months, they’ve spoken to around 250 employers (top businesses in Ohio) to understand their challenges, opportunities, and to find solutions. Scott notes that it’s here that you go from being in that rear-view to being a front lens.
[34:00] – What are some of the key trends you are tracking right now that you feel could impact your organization down the road?
Scott says the trends they are keeping an eye on are around what’s happening in the workforce (global trend), particularly how we’ve got fewer people doing the work of more. Also, how people who can leverage the new efficiencies (technologies, methods of work) are finding their way to success.
And one that shouldn’t be underestimated is the preparedness for an ambiguous environment—this is the differentiator for talent. Scott says you have to understand the macro and micro trends in your environment and demonstrate to your people that you’re watching these trends.
[35:57] – What is one of the most powerful learning experiences you’ve been involved in, as an adult, since finishing your formal education?
Scott shares about his experience as a parent and as being on his team at OSCPA. He talks about how at OSCPA they are in unchartered territory and how the work they’ve done has been both incredible and rewarding, but also painful at times.
[38:28] – How to connect with Scott and/or learn more:
[39:03] – Wrap-Up
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[41:05] – Sign off