The last 16 months has brought much change to the finance and accounting profession, with many firms being forced to adjust to the ‘new normal’. With this, the skills required for Accountants and other finance professionals to thrive in their roles have changed too. What was once a valuable skill to possess could have less importance in this new world and vice versa.
With the easing of lockdown restrictions, technological advancements within companies and accounting firms, and the rise of the hybrid working structure, GAAPweb have put together a list of the top six skills for finance and accountancy professionals to develop and nurture in order to excel throughout the second half of 2021.
Of course, there are essential technical skills required for Accountants to maintain and regularly update. Such skills are specific to each role and are almost always specified within the job description, but Accountants cannot just rely on being technically strong, in fact, it is a combination of technical skills with soft skills that really make candidates stand out. Soft skills, due to the ever evolving nature of the world around us, seem to be ever changing. It is our job as Accountants to keep up to date with the top soft skills sought by employers, in order to stand out on job applications and within our current roles.
Our top skill is without doubt flexibility. This is a skill that all Accountants have been forced to develop throughout the last 16 months, going from office working to remote working during lockdowns. But with the rise of the hybrid working structure, the ability to be flexible is more important than ever and therefore is our top skill to be nurtured throughout the second half of the year.
For those who will be required to spend part of their week at home and part of the week in the office, the ability to adapt to different environments is vital. Key to being flexible is demonstrating a willingness to adapt and manage change well. In order to do so, it’s important to recognise potential challenges so you’re well prepared to deal with these and subsequently manage transitions better.
The events of 2020 have taught us that resilience is paramount for overcoming challenging times. The ability to carry on through difficult situations is a skill that absolutely must be nurtured throughout the second half of 2021, as it ensures that we won’t fall apart when times get tough. This skill is particularly important for jobseekers who may have faced redundancy or furlough, to maintain confidence in their ability throughout the gruelling application and interview process.
Being technologically proficient is another key skill to nurture as many companies continue to adapt to this new way of working following the global pandemic. The repercussions of COVID-19, including working from home and liaising with clients virtually, has forced many accounting firms to modernise their technology. This includes adopting new systems such as cloud-based technologies. Accountants need to be able to keep up with technological advancements in order to perform their roles efficiently, and perhaps even have a keen interest in finding ways to modernise their practice. For jobseekers, technological proficiency also extends to being able to adjust and pick up new technologies quickly.
It may sound obvious but communication is probably more important than ever, given that the way we’re communicating has changed so dramatically over the last 16 months. Before the pandemic, many Accountants had the benefit of meeting colleagues and clients face-to-face, but with the rise of the hybrid working structure and working from home, for some it’s becoming harder to build rapport and relationships with colleagues. The ability to convey complex financial information and accounting principles in an easy to understand way has always been of paramount importance. However, having to do this virtually - sometimes with bad internet connection - or over email has added an extra layer of complexity. For this reason, nurturing excellent verbal and written communication skills is paramount to ensure the same level of service is delivered to your clients.
For many Accountants, our roles have become a lot more autonomous having spent the large majority of this year working remotely. Without the same level of supervision or direction from management previously received when working from the office, it’s important that Accountants learn to become more independent. Ways to cultivate autonomy include creating your own schedule, setting your own deadlines, asking the right questions when a task is set and ensuring you fully understand what is being required of you. Becoming more decisive and assertive also plays a massive part in becoming more autonomous in your role.
Despite emphasising the importance of being autonomous, nurturing interpersonal skills is also paramount to thriving in your role throughout the second half of 2021. As our roles become more independent, there are less opportunities to collaborate with colleagues, putting our natural ability to work well as a team and liaise with others at risk. For Accountants with client facing roles, the pandemic has also put a strain on client relationships. For jobseekers, being a team player is a soft skill that is listed on the vast majority of applications across all levels of seniority.
Those who do not actively work on developing their interpersonal skills could find themselves at a major disadvantage when office life returns to normal or could potentially risk losing valuable clients who value excellent customer service.
The second half of the year will no doubt continue to challenge the finance and accounting profession. To thrive in this ever changing environment requires great resilience, flexibility and technical proficiency. Adjusting to a more independent role requires developing autonomy, but this must be supplemented by continued work to develop communication skills and enhance interpersonal skills in order to liaise with colleagues effectively and maintain client relationships.
Ready to put your skills to the test? Search and apply for the latest jobs on GAAPweb today.