How accountants can attain the necessary hard and soft skills in order to succeed
The Institute’s 2019 Career Survey asked member and student respondents about the skills they need to develop for their planned career moves. The results show that across all respondents (QP students; and members in junior roles, middle and senior managements) the top five skills were a broadly similar mix of hard and soft skills.
This article covers these skills and how Accountants Plus use them to deliver the advice and support their clients and employers need, and how the survey respondents expected to obtain them.
Presentation and communication skills
Accountants are expected to know the technical details of the financials and how they are calculated. But it is one thing to know the details and another to be able to explain clearly and effectively to colleagues, employers and clients. Effective communication skills enable accountants to describe not just the financial results, but also any problems and related solutions. Through strong presentation and communication skills they can also help non-accountants to understand why the information being given is important for their business operations. By being able to present complex ideas, Accountants Plus can help a business make strategic decisions, or offer timely and relevant advice to clients.
Leading an organization’s finance function, managing a team of specialists or directing a team of auditors – across all sectors and specializations, accountants need to demonstrate strong leadership skills. This is why it was the second most important skill to develop for students, and the top for middle and senior managements. With many accountants working in teams comprising both accountants and other professionals, leadership skills can help with the effective delivery of tasks and allocation of resources. For organizations, accountants make great leaders due to their strong understanding of the numbers, their ability to grasp the big picture, and their reputation for upholding professional standards and their strong ethical codes.
Strong technical skills are key to career success as an accountant. Across roles in business and practice, accountants must keep up-to-date with the latest developments in financial, accounting and other reporting standards. But technical skills are not limited to just accounting knowledge. Accountants Plus must have the skills to use new technologies and leverage complex and unstructured data in order to obtain useful business insights. Accountants Plus should also consider developing their business intelligence and enterprise resource planning skills.
Relatedly, in the increasingly complex world, with many organizations having numerous data feeds and tools available to help analyse them, analytical skills are vital. The technical skills to use tools are not enough by themselves, as value is truly added by being able to interpret the results produced by them. With strong analytical skills, Accountants Plus can make high quality recommendations to help their businesses or their clients make the right decisions, and quickly respond to opportunities.
The increasing complexity of the business world requires accountants with not just strong technical or analytical skills, but also strong problem-solving skills. Problem solving is also one of the tasks accountants enjoy most, with a survey by Robert Half showing that over 40 percent of accountants say solving problems gives them the most job satisfaction. As trusted business advisors, Accountants Plus need to be able to identify problems, analyse them, and structure and implement solutions.
Developing the skills
The survey also asked how respondents expected to learn the new skills they need, and allowed them to select multiple options. Over four-fifths of both members and students expected to learn on the job, 50 percent of members and 36 percent of students through attending face-to-face courses or events, and 28 percent of members and 20 percent of students through reading reports, articles or books. Around one-fifth of respondents (23 percent of members and 15 percent of students) expected to learn through online courses.
Despite the preference for on-the-job learning, certain technical and management skills are most effectively developed through structured training programmes. To assist members and students, the Institute is expanding the range of continuing professional development (CPD) courses it offers to ensure they have access to the training they need for career success as Accountants Plus.
As well as face-to-face courses, the Institute has an increasing range of online courses available, including those from leading global professional development organizations accountingcpd, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, and the International Institute of Business Valuers.
Details about both face-to-face and online CPD can be found on the Institute’s website.