The Importance of Soft Skills In Accounting

THE IMPORTANCE OF SOFT SKILLS IN ACCOUNTING

By George A Demetriades MBA FBIM CMC

“The role of an accountant has changed from someone who traditionally had little business interaction with their clients to more of an advisory role”

As the use of technology in accounting increases and compliance is outsourced, firms are looking to focus more on offering advisory services to their clients. In order to be successful, one needs to be technically able but also possess the necessary soft skills to assist their clients with their needs.

When speaking with Partners and HR about their recruitment needs and the reasons for not finding a suitable candidate, a common response is that the candidates presented are technically able but are lacking the “softer skills” required.

Interestingly, a recent survey conducted in the US showed that from 500 Senior Executives surveyed, 55% stated their most significant challenge in recruiting accountants was finding applicants with the necessary soft skills beyond technical training. Despite changes in accounting standards only 23% stated that shortage of technical skills was an issue. This highlights the lack of importance firms have traditionally placed on soft skills or non-technical skills training.

It is almost a given that qualified candidates at a senior level should be technically proficient. What will often be the difference between candidates is the level of their ‘softer skills’.

Part of the reason for this is the difficulty in identifying these skills as in most cases, they will differ depending on the role/business. It can be difficult to articulate what these ‘non-technical’ skills are. Some of which are below.

  • Communication skills – do you have the capacity to really listen to what’s being said and convey what you’re trying to get across?  
  • Simplify technical terms – the ability to express technical concepts in a user-friendly way, especially to a non-finance audience.  
  • Management skills – not only the ability or capacity to manage a team as a line manager, but also to manage relationships with individuals and teams outside the finance function.  
  • Influencing skills – are you able to negotiate with people and build relationships through positive and open communication?  
  • Problem-solving – your ability to think laterally and find solutions which address a business issue.

Soft-Skills-Pyramid

With the changing accounting landscape greater importance will be placed on these skills. Whilst not necessarily being taught in the class room, staff will learn these skills on the job if given the chance. Giving staff responsibility in a ‘safe-to-fail’ environment will help teach them, allowing them to improve on areas that are perceived as weaknesses.

It can be tempting to cut non-technical training, especially for staff at a junior level who might not have a client facing role. It is therefore critical that firms understand the importance of developing their greatest resource – their people.

Accounting Firms belong to  the  service industry and their  clients expect them to be well-rounded business advisors, so these soft skills competencies will help them  to communicate effectively with their  clients, building  long lasting relationships.

The Training & Development  Department  of Planet Interactive Consultants  is  offering   the following range of  In-House Soft Skills seminars.

SOFT SKILLS SEMINARS

  • Effective Time & Self Management
  • Team Building &Leadership
  • Work Related Stress &Workplace Health Promotion
  • Evaluation of HR Performance  – Management ,Motivation and Empowerment  of Human Resources
  • Advanced Communication Skills
  • Workplace Coach Training
  • Executive Team Coaching