The Top Soft Skills Accountants
Should Cultivate for the Future

See also: Career Management Skills

Accountancy is often viewed as a profession built on hard skills. After all, aspiring accountants must pass a number of exams and undergo extensive training before launching their careers. However, just because it’s important to have an in-depth understanding of financial statements and be proficient in using accounting software, doesn’t mean that soft skills don’t come into play.

The future of accounting is changing and hard skills like mathematical aptitude are not as important as they once were. This is all because of the way that accounting and accounts payable software is automating many calculations and administrative procedures. As a result, accountants must cultivate their soft skills to secure their careers in the future, as it’s these skills that can’t be replicated by technology and are therefore more valuable to employers.

Here are some of the most important soft skills an accountant can have:

People Skills

Because accountants work so closely with numbers, communication and people skills sometimes fall by the wayside. However, accountants need to be able to work effectively with other members of the business, employees within their team, and clients.

Accountants are increasingly stepping into advisory roles and may need to give presentations or provide suggestions to the executive board of a company. In these situations, having an in-depth understanding of tax calculations and spreadsheets is of very little use if you can’t communicate your ideas coherently to others.

It’s important for accountants to be able to explain complicated terms clearly to executives who may not have a background in accounting. They must also be able to draw conclusions from datasets and present them in a way that makes sense to everyone.

Accountants must also demonstrate the ability to:

  • Listen carefully to the goals of relevant stakeholders before providing solutions.

  • Empathetically respond to clients’ worries while guiding them through their options.

  • Sensitively work alongside their co-workers, being mindful of everyone’s needs and backgrounds.

Approachability and Openness

Customer-facing accountants need to know not only how to communicate effectively, but how to appear approachable and open as well. Creating a safe space for clients to open up, ask questions and share their concerns is a key part of effective customer service. Accountants can cultivate this environment by encouraging clients to share their views and thoughts, always answering questions in full, never seeming hurried or irritated by simple queries, and having a friendly, welcoming persona.

Teamwork and Leadership

Accountants that are looking to further their careers by securing more senior positions must demonstrate strong leadership qualities. While once it may have been possible for accountants to work in isolation, that’s largely impossible in modern-day corporations. Accountancy often revolves around collaboration and the sharing of ideas, so all accountants should know how to both take instruction and delegate tasks to others.

A competent leader is one that is confident and self-assured while simultaneously being open to feedback and listening to the ideas of their team. Senior accountants must be able to provide guidance to more junior members of staff and train new hires, but they must also be open to correcting issues raised by their team in order to work synergistically.

Problem Solving

Creative problem solving is a valuable skill for an accountant. Problem solving isn’t necessarily something that can be taught, and while some people have a natural aptitude for it, it is a skill that can be developed with practice. Typically, more experienced accountants will be able to solve problems more quickly, as they’ll have past experiences to draw upon and base their solutions around. However, even newer accountants can begin changing their mindset and looking at problems from a new perspective.

Some of the biggest challenges accountants can expect to face include:

  • Cash Flow: Many businesses will encounter some kind of cash flow issue at one point or another, particularly during economic hardship. Accountants are often responsible for identifying why cash flow issues are occurring and proposing solutions that will solve the problem without hindering business growth.

  • Changes to Tax Laws: Most of the time, tax calculations are handled by accounting software, but accountants are responsible for understanding the law so that businesses can make the most of various thresholds and exemptions. When the law changes, accountants may be forced to move money around, reassess budgets and find new ways of saving money.

  • Financial Forecasting: While accountants use every resource they have available to create financial forecasts, the business world can be unpredictable and sometimes those forecasts don’t reflect reality. This may cause financial difficulties for businesses that expected to make more money than they did and it’s up to accountants to try and remedy the situation and understand what went wrong.

Ultimately, the type of problem an accountant encounters shouldn’t matter. Once you’ve developed your problem solving skills, you will be able to circumvent any manner of obstacles.

Growth Mindset

As mentioned before, the accounting industry is constantly evolving and moving forward thanks to technology. Therefore, accountants must be open to continuous learning and be willing to develop their skills even once they’re established as senior professionals. From becoming familiar with new types of software to adjusting to remote working practices, accountants will need to be open to all kinds of change in today’s economic climate.

One of the key parts of having a growth mindset is being able to learn from mistakes and failures – and being able to recognize them as such. Employers value accountants that can identify issues before they become a bigger problem and have a knock-on effect on the business.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Interpersonal Skills eBooks.

The Skills You Need Guide to Interpersonal Skills

Develop your interpersonal skills with our series of eBooks. Learn about and improve your communication skills, tackle conflict resolution, mediate in difficult situations, and develop your emotional intelligence.

How to Develop Your Soft Skills Today

The best way to develop your soft skills is to put your newfound knowledge into practice. Once you’ve understood which skills you need to work on, spend some time researching the ways you can improve. If you don’t have many opportunities in your current role to practice some of the skills listed above, try to take on some new challenges that will force you to leave your comfort zone and test unchartered waters.

About the Author

Aislinn Carter is a freelance writer and small business owner living in Hallandale, Florida. She has extensive experience in writing across a number of different verticals, with a specialism for business management and professional development related content.