Megan Breen | October 2020
This article was current at the time of publication.
With many people now working outside the office, building peer-to-peer communities online to stay connected and abreast of changes in the financial services sector has never been more important.
While attending industry events and presentations is a great way to exchange information and knowledge, the opportunities for these are virtually non-existent during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, online interaction has become a vital medium to continue networking and learning.
To assist with this, CPA Australia recently launched a community hub – CPA Member Connect – for members to build local and global networks in a closed, private and secure environment.
Members can benefit from the experiences of peers, seek career tips and share ideas that could go on to shape the future of the profession. The platform is a part of CPA Australia membership and can be accessed by signing up and logging in from any device.
Members can also ask questions, or search for a topic of interest and join a discussion. They can also share videos, podcasts and other relevant attachments that might benefit other members.
“Like never before, this year has shown us the value of maintaining connections,” says CPA Australia CEO Andrew Hunter.
“With CPA Member Connect, you can search for members who share similar interests locally or, in fact, anywhere in the world.”
Going digital to communicate
When COVID-19 began disrupting businesses, many people had to rapidly turn to digital communication to replace face-to-face interactions – as well as seek information on the rapidly changing environment.
For accountants, the volume of information being released on changes to legislation that needed to be digested and conveyed to clients and employees was enormous. Connecting online with other practitioners for advice and to share knowledge was crucial for many to work through the initial stages.
For KDC Accounting principal Kerri Dickman Selby FCPA, using digital platforms such as Facebook provided some support through closed groups, where practitioners shared issues and provided solutions, as well as insights into how to sustain mental health during the crisis.
“I think one of the best things that have happened during the COVID-19 environment has been the way practitioners have reached out and supported each other by sharing information and content,” Selby says.
“It was also a good way to provide and access emotional support – there were some good discussions about mental health, for example.”
However, while Facebook has been a good interim solution, Selby believes CPA Member Connect offers a more streamlined way to share information.
"One of the drawbacks of closed groups on Facebook is it is difficult to go back and find the thread of a discussion,” she says.
“From what I have seen of CPA Member Connect, its functionality will be much easier and you'l be able to easily locate a discussion and follow it through. It is going to be a really useful way to learn and share knowledge.”
With more people working from home and face-to-face conversations limited, CPA Member Connect will provide members greater opportunity to broaden their networks.
“There are so many clever people in the membership that we will probably gain some really good insights, and it will save a lot of time and a lot of conversations, particularly if people are not in the office,” Selby says.
“With CPA Member Connect they're going to be able to connect with people they haven't had access to before.”
World of opportunity
As well as providing the opportunity to raise a new topic, CPA Member Connect encourages members to continue a conversation following a presentation or an online forum, such as a webinar.
SEIVA managing director Brent Szalay FCPA says the platform will be particularly useful to solo operators as it provides access to the wider community.
“It opens up a world of opportunity for so many members, especially the ones that are on their own,” Szalay says. “For example, it will give people a way to see other members' points of view and to learn about any new changes to legislation.”
Szalay recently ran a series of webinars following the My firm. My future report, designed to help members prepare for challenges and take advantage of opportunities to build a sustainable business. He says CPA Member Connect is the perfect platform for such conversations to continue post-webinar.
“I'm excited to start a channel on this platform that our community can build on and continue the discussion following the webinars,” he says.
“I'm sure there will be some really interesting conversations to come out of it and the questions people can post will keep the conversations going for those interested.”
Selby says it is also another way for members to share their concerns and ideas with CPA Australia.
“Having a platform within the professional body means we will all be able to connect so much more easily. I think it is a great idea because it will also allow members to help CPA Australia understand what those issues are and the help or information needed.”
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