As the use of automation grows within the accounting sector, CPAs must have the skills to do what robots can’t — in other words, accountants need to develop their soft skills.
Soft skills are non-technical skills related to how you work, such as communication, leadership and time management. You can have the right technical, hard skills to perform your work well; however, if you can’t deliver on time or communicate effectively with clients, these technical skills are rendered useless.
Continue reading to discover the value of soft skills and learn which are the most desirable soft skills in accountancy.
Accounting soft skills can transform average competent accountants into outstanding performers.
Most clients will expect you to have the technical skills for the job, but developing your soft skills means you can build strong relationships with clients and become an indispensable partner for them.
Furthermore, as an accountant’s role evolves into that of a trusted advisor due to the rise of automated tools, soft skills will ensure your firm is ready to tackle future challenges head-on.
Advisors need to manage relationships, empathise, and problem solve; regardless of accounting proficiency, you will find it difficult to position yourself as an advisor without these skills.
According to research by Randstad Financial & Professional, more than three-quarters of (76%) of accountancy jobs advertised demand candidates who can demonstrate strong soft skills. Soft skills are becoming an increasingly important commodity in the accounting field, particularly:
Communication, both verbal and written, are vital components of a successful career as an accountant. Your clients are probably not up to date on financial terminology and the ins and outs of spreadsheets. Therefore, you must be able to communicate the meaning behind the numbers clearly and simply, without relying on industry jargon.
Effective communication also includes active listening. By being patient and listening to your clients concerns, you can fully grasp what they need from you, instead of jumping to assumptions.
Improve your communication skills by asking your clients whether you’ve explained yourself clearly, reviewing written messages before sending them and limiting the use of complicated jargon.
Problem-solving and critical thinking
The pandemic proved that the financial landscape is all but predictable for businesses. Clients’ financial situations can change rapidly, meaning accountants must be on hand to offer solutions as and when issues arise.
Critical thinking also enables accountants to analyse data and identify any areas of concern, taking on the role of a strategic partner by offering a clear roadmap of how to weather any financial storm.
Try to approach scenarios with a professional curiosity. Observe, ask questions and listen to gain a fuller understanding of the situation, and use this to guide your decision-making process.
Accounting professionals are often required to work autonomously on tasks, such as completing an audit. The ability to lead is a quality every accounting professional should have in their toolkit.
As the main support for businesses during financial difficulties, accountants must make timely decisions confidently to lead a business back to economic stability. Accountants at every level, therefore, need to be able to take initiative.
Leadership skills can form organically over time. However, you can also enrol in a leadership course to get immediate guidance and gain self-confidence as a leader.
Accountants are no longer quietly crunching numbers in the background; they’re client-facing strategic partners, so they need to be able to engage with clients effectively.
Improving your customer service skills will encourage client retention and, by being approachable as well as technically skilled, clients will generate positive word of mouth, improving your firm’s reputation.
The saying “people buy from people” stands true for accounting services. Sending speedy replies, rewarding loyalty and asking for feedback are simple ways you can create an unforgettable experience for your client.
COVID-19 forced firms to tackle digital transformation head-on, and the need for adaptability has never been so clear. With new technologies and new ways of working coming to light (e.g., decentralised offices), accountants need to embrace changing environments to remain relevant and competitive.
Being adaptable also builds resilience, making accountants more adept at handling — and finding solutions to — whatever challenges they may face.
Time management and organisation
Accountants often have to juggle several projects at once. The ability to multitask and effectively manage your time ensures that you can meet deadlines.
Due to the cyclical nature of accountancy work, there will be busy periods that accountants need to be prepared for, for instance, tax season and end of year audits. Poor organisation and time management skills could cause unnecessary stress, and you could risk tarnishing your reputation if important deadlines are missed.
To help keep track of deadlines and upcoming meetings, take advantage of digital tools like online calendars with reminders. You can also implement automated processes for repeatable tasks like client invoicing to streamline your workflow.
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