Gone are the days when accountants were regarded as just number crunchers. There is no doubt that the rigorous training and exam process equips young accountants with the technical skills necessary to start their careers, but in today’s fast-paced financial world, accountants are required to be so much more. Five fundamental soft skills are considered essential for the modern accountant to stand out in the workplace
Problem solving: Throughout their career accountants will come across varying and complex challenges. Accounting professionals who can think on their feet, quickly digest a problem and take action to offer potential solutions are invaluable to an organisation.
Communication: Accountants will regularly be required to explain complex concepts and principals to clients who may not have a background in accounting. An ability to simplify this technical information concisely and in a user-friendly format will be key to how you are perceived by both clients and other staff members. These important communication skills will not only apply to oral communication, but also to written communication. With email the most common method of communicating internally and externally in any organisation, skills in written communication is seen as essential.
Leadership : The best leaders will inspire those around them through example and effort. From graduate accountants leading an audit team, to a partner within a firm, there will be some level of leadership required at each stage of an accountant’s career. Employers will value someone who can step up, take control and be relied upon to take the lead when needed.
Time management: Time management will be key at all stages of an accountant’s career. As a trainee, accountants will be expected to study for a professional qualification alongside full time work. As experience is gained, the additional responsibility and requirements to meet client expectations will mean that effective planning of the workload and prioritising tasks is critical to ensure deadlines are met and that top quality client service is delivered.
Flexibility: The ability to embrace change and adapt to new ways of working, whether that is changes in the working environment or changes in technology, is seen as a valuable skill. Those that are set in their ways will get left behind. Employers want individuals that will move forward and adapt to changes as and when they arise.
In general, employers today are looking for well-rounded staff with both the technical skills and the soft skills necessary to succeed. The accounting profession is no different. Not everyone is born with skills discussed above, however these can be learned. Technical skills remain fundamental, but those accountancy professionals that develop a breadth of skills will go from strength to strength.