In the past few years, I’ve witnessed a startling change in the importance of soft skills for accountants.
Soft skills are personal strengths like sensitive communication, creative problem-solving, and ethical decision-making, which can help you work well independently or in a team, connect with people, and respond appropriately to complex situations. They’re nuanced, not black-and-white, and are usually developed through experience.
Hard skills are the ones you typically develop through education, such as mathematical and compliance skills.
More and more employers, when I ask them what they want in an accountant, mention soft skills first. Young graduates are asking why their studies haven’t taught them these sought-after skills. And experienced candidates are realising that their technical expertise is no longer enough.
The driver of this sea-change is digitalisation. Soft skills set humans apart from software. They’re the things our AI friends can’t do. Humans aren’t born knowing how to do these things either–but we can learn.
As technology advances, technical accounting skills are becoming commoditised–most employers can find plenty of people who can handle the technical tasks. This has contributed to the rise of financial advisory services, combining technical accounting skills with soft skills.
The ability to make the numbers, and the reasoning behind the numbers, make sense to a layperson is incredibly valuable. It’s what enables accountants to build real relationships with clients and add real value to a team.
Businesses no longer just want an accountant to keep them compliant. They want an advisor who can understand the challenges they face and help them solve their problems, avoid their worst fears, and achieve their greatest dreams. The best number-cruncher in the world can’t do that without developing soft skills.
Happily, it doesn’t cost a penny to start learning. In my experience, the most important soft skills for accountants are these:
Top 10 soft skills for accountants
1. Communication: The ability to effectively convey complex financial information to both financial and non-financial stakeholders is crucial. Strong communication skills enable professionals to present financial data clearly, write concise reports, and engage in effective discussions.
2. Analytical Thinking: Finance and accountancy roles often involve analysing data, identifying trends, and making strategic decisions based on financial information. Being able to think critically and draw insightful conclusions from data is highly valued.
3. Problem-Solving: Finance professionals encounter various challenges in their roles. Being adept at identifying problems, exploring solutions, and making informed decisions contributes to successful outcomes.
4. Attention to Detail: In finance and accountancy, precision is vital. Paying close attention to details ensures accuracy in financial reporting and analysis, minimising errors and potential financial risks.
5. Time Management: Meeting deadlines for financial reporting, audits, and other tasks is essential in a fast-paced financial environment. Effective time management allows professionals to stay organized and deliver quality work on time.
6. Ethical Decision-Making: Finance and accountancy roles involve handling sensitive financial information. Demonstrating integrity and making ethical decisions are critical to maintain trust and credibility.
7. Adaptability: The finance industry can be dynamic, with changing regulations, market conditions, and technologies. Being adaptable enables professionals to thrive in uncertain environments and embrace new challenges.
8. Collaboration: Working well with colleagues from different departments, such as sales, marketing, and operations, is important in finance and accountancy roles. Collaboration fosters teamwork and leads to more comprehensive financial insights.
9. Confidence: Confidence in one's abilities and decisions instills trust in others and enables finance professionals to take calculated risks when necessary.
10. Resilience: The finance industry can be demanding and stressful. Resilience helps professionals bounce back from setbacks and stay focused on achieving long-term goals.
Over the coming weeks, I’ll be explaining how you can develop each of these ten skills in yourself or in your team. Check back next week to discover more.