“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.
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.
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