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The classroom.

It was once the main destination where people consumed educational information, but in today's online world, things have changed and bookkeepers are slowly becoming more open to learning in new ways.

Managing Director of K2E Canada Inc. and IPBC board member, Alan Salmon recently conducted a survey that measured how bookkeepers and accountants learn.

It was sent to 10,000 contacts and 990 responded.

The results were fascinating.

During this informative interview, you'll learn...

  • What is the number one online educational tool for bookkeepers

  • How active bookkeepers are in social media groups

  • Whether bookkeepers still consume traditional forms of media

To learn more about Alan, visit here.

To explore his Excel Magic webinar series, click this link.


Michael Palmer: 01:19 Welcome back to The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. I am your host, Michael Palmer, and today we have a guest returning to this highly anticipated show. Alan Salmon has over 27 years of business management experience, education and journalism experience as the Managing Director of K2E, he is responsible for the Canadian operations of this international consulting group, which provides professional development and technology education firm for accountants across Canada and the United States as well globally. And now he's back and it's a really interesting topic today. Alan, thank you for coming back. 

Alan Salmon: 01:59 My pleasure, Michael. I'm always glad to talk to you. 

MP: 02:03 Yeah, and so for those who haven't had a chance to listen to the episode that you were previously on, can you share your, a bit of your background to give our listeners a little understanding of, of who you are more than what I just shared? 

AS: 02:17 Certainly. And let's focus on the bookkeeping community. I've been bald, been involved with bookkeepers for most of those 27 years, most of the time teaching seminars on technology topics. For example, there is an interesting discussion going on right now. I asked the folks on a number of Facebook groups to find out if anybody had any pictures of the original accounting program in Canada, which was Bedford accounting. And that's generated some amazing experience. And I remember that well back in 1985 would you believe? So from there for the last five years, my focus in the bookkeeping world has been on the Institute of professional bookkeepers of Canada. I served in as an advisor for eight years and for the last four years I had been on the board and it's been really exciting working with the bookkeepers on IPBC. They're a dedicated group, but the board is amazing. And they produced some amazing paybacks for bookkeepers in Canada. Their CPB designation is now recognized as the gold standard 

MP: 03:39 That it is. That's great Alan. And it's a wonderful organization. And I know in our previous conversations we've had the founders of IP or some of the founders of IPBC on as well as their, their former CEO. And we, we heavily recommend that every listener listening belongs to some form of an association for the industry. It's such a powerful, uh, experience to go and be around other people that are committed to their own success. So again, we echo that again and I think every episode, but wherever you are in the world, if you're in Canada, the gold standard really is the IPBC, the Institute of Professional Bookkeepers. So if you don't, if you're not belonging to that, you don't know about it, please go check it out. There'll be links in the show notes, but as well there are other ones in every country. There's going to be an association that you can belong to. And I think it's a great segue into what we're talking about today, which is you've done a lot of research on how bookkeepers and accountants learn and you've done extensive research on this and you've written a paper on it. And that was the purpose to have you back, is to talk about what this means to us, what you found out and how our listeners can take advantage of, of your learnings. 

AS: 04:57 Like all of the research is always been a passion of mine. And I've done many, many surveys. So my latest one that we launched in May was called a road with no end. And I don't know about to the Lauren, I think back to when I graduated from college, I said to her, ah, I don't have to go back to school and how 100% wrong I was, I have consistently learned ever since that day. And uh, I guess I'll be learning until the day I die. So as I said, my latest research work was conducted in May and we surveyed our database, which is about 10,000 contacts and asked them 30 questions. And out of that, we got 990 responses and that if exceeded our initial expectations. 

MP: 05:54 Fantastic response. 

AS: 05:56 Yeah. That number of respondents give us a very clear picture of where bookkeepers and accountants are in the world of digital learning. And if we look at the metrics first, that response rate of 990 has a confidence Serravallo 99% and the margin of error of 4% the respondents represented a cross-section of the population with representation across Canada and into one of the territories, all the major cities. And we filtered the data because we could do that. And we looked at the comparisons of how bookkeepers and public practice rated the questions and how bookkeepers in industry and government and doctor profits did and surprisingly there reward many differences. However, when we did that same filter on age because we asked age groups, there were a number of differences, not surprisingly from those under the age of 45 and just all, let me focus here for just a moment on the demographics. 

AS: 07:10 The median range was 44 to 45 to 54 slightly more respondents from business and industry than from public practice and they made up just over 60% of all respondents. Respondents were equally, almost equally divided between female and male. But what's interesting when you filter that same question for those under 45 no, that number drops to 30% male, 65% female and five chose not to account. And that has some significance because if you go to the stats from a stat scan, the population I have accountants is almost split as of their survey last year.

MP: 08:10 Wow. So what, what's your big takeaway from all of that?

AS: 08:20 Well, I summarized it as follows and that is the overall results of the survey show that bookkeepers and accountants are not rushing to embrace the digital world of wondering except in the area of webinars which now surprisingly are stepstone from classroom to due to the learning. CPA Canada did a survey in 2012 and asked the same question and the results were 180% in variance from what I discovered. In other words, in 2012 there was a high percentage that wanted what we call bumps in seats where 

AS: 08:59 as you were speaking I am. I'm actually thinking of how powerful that is from the perspective of both the learner and our listeners and as well the people that are bringing them information. And I actually started thinking about how with our own community, how we can better serve them. So I was, I was actually consuming your information as you were actually giving it thinking, wow, there's so many pieces of information that could be get delivered. And the fact that more and more people are finding it more valuable is both valuable for them. And for the people bringing them the information. 

AS: 09:36 Now you've touched on two populations, the provider and the receiver. There's a couple of other worlds that are involved now. 

MP: 09:47 Interesting. 

AS: 09:48 Uh, you've touched on how will you structure your professional development in the 21st century, but the governing bodies like IPBC and CPA Canada have got to balance this to make sure that the learning is delivered efficiently and the standards are maintained. 

MP: 10:08 Yeah, it's absolutely because in a classroom you are, you have a bunch of things that exist to ensure it goes a certain way. Whereas online it's, there's a lot of gaps, there's a lot of gray areas. So what's, what are your, what's your thinking around the challenges they're faced with? 

AS: 10:25 Well, there are some very easy ways of confirming that people are awake and not doing email. One is when I do my mini webinars in my excel magic, every month I get a report that shows me the percentage of people that maintained interest and so on. And certainly in the public webinars that we do, William, we include what is called Polling questions. So roughly every 10 minutes there's a multiple choice question and it's basically to test if you're still looking in because the questions, there's no score on it. But if you miss more than 25% of the polling questions, you don't get your CPD. 

MP: 11:14 Interesting. Very good. And that's from the perspective of the person delivering the insuring that that contents been consumed. And then from a listener's perspective or a consumer of that information, I guess the, their, their desire and demand would be that education helps them move forward, helps, you know, gives them, because if it's not an engaging, if it's not interesting, but yet they need to sit through it, they're going to want better information, maybe more consumable or are entertaining or interesting. And so I think it's, what's neat about it is that it puts pressure on both, I mean, it, and there are lots of benefits to it, but as well, it puts pressure on the, the person that's consuming that education to actually consume it in a new way. But there are lots of benefits that go along with that. But as well from a people producing that education for people, the onus is on them to make sure that it's, it's good, it's engaging, that it fits with the way people are learning online. Otherwise, people will disengage and they won't, nobody's going to win out of it.  

AS: 12:19 Right, right. And two more factors, and again this is something we are just adding this year is a test at the end. And the second thing, or there's a huge payback is let's state the excel, uh, many webinars that I do call, Excel Magic, every month of the week after we've done the live. Then we provide every registering with a recording of the Webinar, my notes for the Webinar and my teaching files for the Webinar so they can go back to her heart's content. And if I did it too fast or there was confusion there because they've got three types of resources to enable them to make sure they get it. 

MP: 13:07 That's fantastic. And I think that leads to that engagement is that again, there are different learning styles. Some people perhaps miss something, they can always go back and get what they need. From your, your past content information and they can do it on demand. They don't have to show up at a specific time. 

AS: 13:26 You're absolutely right. So Michael, what I was going to say is perhaps we should now focus on some of the key takeaways from the survey. 

MP: 13:36 Yeah, let's, let's dig into it. 

AS: 13:38 All right. First of all, uh, the high percentage have the IPBC CPB or a CPA, and that's not surprising because that's who we targeted. And consequently, a high percentage of them require CPDs. And here's a follow up on the point that I was going to make. We ask them Garang cow, they preferred to get their CPE PD credits and we gave them four choices, webinars, classroom conferences, and reading. So their first choice was webinars, 41% by classroom, 26% conference is 25% and readings and so on. 

MP: 14:25 When they opted into that, was that a one or, or nothing? Or could they choose multiple? 

AS: 14:30 Yeah, we actually asked them for their first floor choices. Got It. And it doesn't change. The budget should go across.

MP: 14:44 Interesting. Yeah. So I'm, I'm actually, I'm just fascinated that conferences would be so low because it's a, it's kind of a, an immersed learning opportunity for people from a time perspective though. It could be too great.  

AS: 14:58 Yup. Interesting. All right, so now let's dive into this is we ask questions like, do you read paper, newspapers, digital newspapers, paper magazines, and digital magazines? And I will share with you have a survey respondent reading habits. Let's focus first on paper newspapers. The jury was out there, they were split 49% on a read paper and 51% a don't. And interesting the number one paper that came across, not surprisingly, was the globe and Mail and their community newspaper. Now when we go to digital newspapers, 52% are now reading them online. If we go to paper magazines, 56% still like flipping the pages. But now when we go to digital magazines, only 30%, I have found that to be a useful source. 

MP: 16:07 Hmm. It's interesting. While I like the, uh, it's fascinating the, the fact that people are consuming a good chunk of local community newspapers. Now mind you, a lot of them are moving to digital versions of that, but then when it comes to magazines, they're not necessarily consuming digital magazines. 

AS: 16:29 That's right. 

MP: 16:30 Wow. I think the audience would be very interested to know how they can, hmm. Shape their behaviors I guess on this information. But as well it's, it's fascinating. More so for me listening to that, just in terms of how a community is actually consuming information. It's, it's fascinating. 

AS: 16:53 Okay, so now Mike, only if we move on to um, what I call Groups, these would be Facebook groups like yours. These would be LinkedIn groups. There's some interesting information here. Now understand that we did not ask the question, do you have a LinkedIn profile? Cause if we had probably 90% of the respondents focused on do they belong to any groups? Only 26% are the respondents belong to LinkedIn groups. And if we go to Facebook, the numbers almost the same. Now everybody has a Facebook profile. But in terms of groups like yours, only 24%. And that's interesting because if you look on the other side a coin and you look at marketing gurus, they're all saying, you know, social media is the way to go. But that survey certainly does not prove that statement. 

MP: 18:03 Yeah, it'll be what I've really curious to see is what this would look like in a year from now. And, and you know, as we, as we move through, there are so many changes happening in the way people are consuming and, and, uh, participating in these networks. Uh, I think there's going to be changes happening all the time. And, and it's like groups today could be something else tomorrow. So I think what's nice about this is you created a benchmark that will be very interesting to be refreshing and looking at how are things changing moving forward. But that is a shocking number that, you know, of the people that did the survey, I would say that all very high percentage, as you say, would either be LinkedIn or a Facebook user, but yet only 20% 26% of them are actually leveraging groups. So it either means that there's going to be a lot of growth in groups or this is not something that's valuable to the majority. 

AS: 18:59 And speaking of baseline, you're absolutely right. We intend to do this on an annual basis. So this time next year we'll have comparative data, which should really prove interesting. 

MP: 19:10 Yeah, I think so. 

AS: 19:11 And the same numbers or same reaction is when we ask a question about Twitter and we asked the following, do you follow business people, our technology people on Twitter? And the answer is 10% do, 90% don't. 

MP: 19:29 Not. That does not surprise me because we've been working on our Twitter feed and we're, you know, getting information out on it. And, and uh, and for me personally, I've never been a big fan of Twitter and the way that it works and how it operates. And I, I think that it's very interesting to hear that it's a sort of very powerful information. And the question out, it's like 10% do, 90% dealt, there are millions of people on that platform. Why do you think this is? 

AS: 20:01 Well, for me, I don't find the time to do it. And I know a great friend of mine, Jennifer war, why is the pervert real Twitter? I don't know where she finds the time to do, to tweet as often as she does. I just don't have the bandwidth in my day. 

MP: 20:18 Yeah, I would agree. It's, it is a lot of time. And I think if we looked at Jennifer, we'd probably see that that's her platform of choice and the one she uses and the ones she gets value from. And that's it. And then if we looked at your behaviors, there's, you've got your choices of how you spend your time in the day and it's not Twitter. 

AS: 20:36 And speaking of that, um, and we asked the questions on Facebook and Linkedin, we also asked them who they followed and retrospect, that was a dumb question because guess how many different responses we got. 

MP: 20:52 Not a lot. 

AS: 20:53 990 cause everybody has their own, you know, particular that thing that they want to follow. 

MP: 21:01 Yeah, yeah. 

AS: 21:03 No you're not going to like the numbers from the next one. We asked do you listen to technology and or business podcast, what do you think the response was? 

MP: 21:14 I'd say it's extremely low. 

AS: 21:16 Yeah. And you're absolutely right. 21.4%. Yeah. 

MP: 21:27 It's not surprising. That one's not surprising. If you asked me that before we started The Successful Bookkeeper podcast, I would have, I mean I would have thought that it would be a lot higher, but I think it's interesting where we're podcasts around, I think it's an interesting, uh, point in, in the technology where people are just starting to wake up to that this, this even exists because podcasts have been around for a very long time. However, the ability to consume them has not always been that favorable. And now, right now it's incredibly easy to consume podcasts, but yet the t I think the user interface on apple for listening to podcasts is very clunky. It's very difficult and confusing. And I'm not sure about android, but for myself with iTunes, I'm not surprised. It takes time. You have to actually go in and figure out the user interface, and I've had lots of our bookkeepers that are listening, asking questions like even to leave a review is, is complicated to leave a review and that's how other people find out about things. 

AS: 22:30 So I think it's going to be interesting, as the groups. I'd love to see where that number is in 12 months and we're definitely gonna have an anniversary show when you have that one out because is it growing? I love podcasts and one of the reasons why I started it for the successful bookkeeper is that I, I found out about it not that long ago, maybe 12 months to two 18 months ago I started going, well, I always knew podcast existed, but I started listening to somebody shows and there were so valuable that I just kept. It became a part of my behavior. So whenever I'm in the car, I'm not listening to news or music or anything like that. I'm either listening to a book or I'm either a podcast and mostly the most of the time now it's podcasts. So whether that's going to change in this community for bookkeepers greatly, we don't know we're going to find out. But that's really interesting 

AS: 23:21 and I would agree with you on a personal nature because of my physical condition, Michael, I go to bed early, I'm in bed at eight o'clock and when am I in bed? I do one of two things. I have a wonderful device called a Microsoft surface that lives in bed 24 hours a day with me, which means because of its lightness, I can do a little bit of work. But my preference now is that I'm four or five times a week in the evening. I'm listening to recorded podcasts particularly yours. 

MP: 23:57 Well thank you, Alan. That's great. Sorry, I had a little bit of heads held swelling there. Um, but I think that's going to be interesting for, and I'm, I'm actually gonna ask that question of, of some of our listeners are where are they listening to it? Like you're listening to it in bed. You're, this is part of your behavior now to listen to podcasts and The Successful Bookkeepers being one of them. I'm curious though, what else are you listening to? 

AS: 24:24 Oh, some very, um, involve technology ones that, uh, take it to a high level, like the new Microsoft update for windows 10 for example. I'm in the midst of that. Uh, and then the future of accounting programs, some very carefully colleague sells stuff. 

MP: 24:47 Beautiful. I think that's very revealing. Your very interested in technology and not just on the surface, very deep, deep technology. And for most people that content would just be way over their heads. But for you, you're a part of a very, uh, I'm not going to say small group cause it could be a massive group, but there's a very defined group of people who want that level of information and you can find it through these podcasts, which is amazing really. And so I think that once people start waking up to the power of podcasts, because there's so many of them and they're, you know, you find what you like and it's free, uh, and you can get to the level of information that you really want and you can flip and choose what it is. I mean, if the people you're listening to right now stop producing valuable content, you'd find somebody else to listen to. So again, I think it's, it'd be really interesting to see where these numbers go. 

AS: 25:43 I agree, Michael. And the beauty of it is that you've, um, identify my likes in podcasts, but every single one of your listeners has the ability to create a learning platform or schedule that meets their particular needs. 

MP: 25:58 Yeah, that's, that's what's so exciting about it. Absolutely. And, and so let's continue on with the survey and some of your other findings. 

AS: 26:07 Yeah. I don't want to bury all your listeners and numbers, but here's three more that are interesting. We asked the question, do you read technology slash business blogs nowhere the number goes significantly higher because the response there was 36% and then the one that really surprised me, uh, out in the whole survey questions. Do you watch youtube videos and what do you think the response was, Michael? 

MP: 26:39 Well, this one, I am on the edge of my seat. 

AS: 26:42 53.1%. 

MP: 26:44 Wow. Wow. 

MP: 26:45 Going wow. The other way. Wow. I thought it would be significantly higher than that. 

MP: 26:51 Really. I think even like based on the numbers you've, you've put out write blogs, podcasts, Youtube. I'm actually, uh, I'm intrigued by that. That's very interesting cause I consider that to be, I mean, what's, what's the, what's the highest number of all of the survey questions around how they're consuming digital content. Is Youtube the heights? AS: 27:15 Yep. 

MP: 27:16 Wow.  

MP: 27:22 Just thinking about what we're doing and how we're producing content and the different things that we're doing. I mean, we don't do that much on youtube, if anything. I mean, we post these podcasts on youtube, but we're not producing videos per se. Uh, so it's something to, to look at. That's what the listener 52 was at. 52% are looking for. 

AS: 27:43 That's correct. 

MP: 27:44 Now is that they're looking forward or is that they? Is that what they've sort of, because youtube has been around for a while. There's a lot of behaviors already established around that platform and I mean, Google's done a great job of having an embedded everywhere, but that's the way they're consuming it right now. Whether or not it's where they want it or not, it is how they're consuming it, which is very interesting. 

AS: 28:06 Right. And that's the last number I want to throw at you. I'd like to sum up, 

MP: 28:11 Yes, please do 

AS: 28:12 A real summary of the findings and it goes like this, Michael. The big picture clearly shows that bookkeepers and accountants are slowly moving to embrace the digital world of learning. Starting with webinars. The reversal of their preference for in-person seminars in just five years represents significant shifts in the professional development paradigm. Further, millennials appear to be abandoning the world of print in favor of video delivered through online platforms such as youtube. 

MP: 28:45 Wow. You know, I sum it up with this, it, you know, it was how you started the conversation was about lifelong learning. And I think for me, Alan, it's been interesting just to know these numbers and, and to see how things are changing, but as well, it's inspiring to those that are lifetime learners. And I think the people that would listen to a podcast like this are people who are committed to expanding their profession, becoming better at what they do and growing their business and they're committed to moving forward, which education is a piece of that. And the exciting thing is that there's, there's so never in our history as there been such access to information and content and, uh, the ability to educate yourself from anywhere, anytime on the planet. 

AS: 29:35 Right. And what, uh, just to add a wrap to this, when I do my fifth and last keynote at de IPBC Ignite Conference, the focus is going to be on a lifetime of learning. And I've got some amazing flashbacks to show and some forecasts, so we're, it'll be going in the future. 

MP: 29:58 Beautiful. Well, that is exciting. And if for those of you who have not yet purchased your ticket to the IPBC conference this year in late September, early October, I believe, get on it, it's going to be fantastic. And as Alan has already mentioned, he is, that is a, a sample of what is there. It's what's latest and greatest, what's happening, where the trends were, things growing and you're gonna meet a lot of amazing, wonderful people there as well. People like you, people that want to grow their business, people that are committed to being great bookkeepers and a, and you can say hi to Alan and say you heard them on The Successful Bookkeeper podcast if you haven't met him yet. Well, Alan, this has been really interesting and I think for the listener, uh, there's a lot of changes happening in education and change is happening all over the place with technology. But this gives an insight as to where the, where the crowd is moving and what people are doing. And so thank you for, for being and taking the time to share this with us. 

AS: 30:57 You're most welcome. It's been a pleasure, Michael. 

MP: 30:59 Absolutely. Now, where can they, if they want to get more information, Allen, on this specifically or to get in touch with you, what's the best way to do that? 

AS: 31:07 Oh, a starting point is my short email address, which is Allen, a l a n @ k 2 Yeah, I think you know Michael, that my other passion is excel and the listeners should know that every month I run to what I call excel magic mini Webinar, which is 30 minutes. It's at lunchtime, eastern daylight time and it's free. And if they're interested, you go to our website, which is Click on the burning tab and click on excel magic webinar series and that'll take you to the next pre, which are coming up a week after next and our sorry, next week and then two in July. 

MP: 32:07 Excellent. And we'll have a direct link right to that page. If, if you're listening right now, just go into the show notes, click on that link, it'll take you right in and you can find, find your way. And thank you, Alan. This has been great. And I again, will, we'll have you back, I'm sure for a bunch of other topics, but for sure when this survey gets done, again, that'll be interesting to look back on. Great, Alan, thank you for being on the podcast. That wraps another episode of The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. To learn more about today's guest, they get access to all 

MP: 32:40 sorts of valuable free business-building resources. You can go to until next time, goodbye