Soft skills are now as important as technical knowledge for accounting staff.

The accounting profession has evolved in recent years to produce a rise in advisory services that combine accounting proficiency and soft skills.

Technical and compliance skills are as necessary as ever: staying abreast of changes in cloud computing, the latest database applications and enterprise resource planning (ERP) programs will doubtless serve you well. However, an increasing reliance on technology – and automation, in particular – makes the ‘hard skills’ of accounting and bookkeeping less of a mark of difference than they were in the past.

Soft skills are where advisers can truly shine. According to a report from Development Economics, being able to demonstrate soft skills can boost lifetime earnings by as much as 15 per cent. That is because most business owners nowadays seek out advisers to help them with more than simply being compliant. They’re seeking a partnership to help them grow their business, develop long-term goals and address the many challenges that crop up.

Strive to be people-focused

Communication is the key to developing a strong rapport with clients, and the best type of communication involves listening.

Take the time to regularly speak with clients, rather than always shooting off emails. Ask open-ended ‘why?’ questions. This will allow the client to get to the crux of the issue they are facing, and will help you identify the right solution.

Avoid jargon wherever possible, and aim to tell the story behind the spreadsheet filled with numbers, rather than overwhelming them with financial terminology.

Be a lifelong learner

An appetite for continued learning is a sure-fire way of future-proofing your career. This is particularly the case as changes in technology are rolled out rapidly.

Employers will hold in high regard candidates who can demonstrate an interest in refreshing their skills or developing new ones, whether it be seeking out training in advisory techniques, undertaking practice scenarios or gaining relevant accreditations.

Develop strategic leadership skills

Advisers who can think strategically are well equipped to navigate uncertain times and will be in high demand. It’s in times of difficulty when the ability to anticipate, challenge and interpret will be absolutely vital to clients and colleagues.

Strategic thinkers have a curious mind and ponder the status quo by questioning long-held assumptions and modes of working. This is not an easy skill to master; it requires a conscious effort to remain open-minded and reflective.

Make collaboration an everyday habit

Many of us may now spend at least a portion of our week working remotely, but that doesn’t mean we work alone.

Collaboration can take many forms, and thanks to advances in technology, we are no longer required to work side-by-side to share great ideas. Scheduling time for genuine collaboration through planning and shared work – as well as impromptu catch-ups with colleagues and informal conversations with clients – will ensure that projects will benefit from diverse minds coming together.

Meeting project deadlines while working in silos will produce only short-term gains. It’s far more beneficial to invest the time in exchanging ideas and different approaches to problem-solving.

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