You may have heard people talking about hard and soft skills in terms of employment. But what exactly are they, and how do they relate to the accounting profession?
Here, we’ll be discussing hard and soft skills, and why soft skills are becoming more desirable nowadays.
Specifically, we’ll be asking:
- What are hard skills?
- What are soft skills?
- What soft skills are desirable?
- Why are they desirable?
What are hard skills?
Hard skills are things that can be measured. If you’re good at maths, computer coding, typing, or you have specific qualifications and certifications, these can all be called hard skills.
Obviously hard skills are incredibly important for a lot of jobs, and especially in accounting with all the complicated bookkeeping and projections.
This article is not saying that hard skills in any way, but for a long time a huge emphasis has been put on the importance of hard skills while ignoring the significance of their softer cousins.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are personal attributes that are much harder to measure. They’re usually about people skills; how well you’re able to interact with people in a friendly and approachable way.
Everybody knows somebody who just seems to easily fit in with new groups of people, or can strike up a conversation with complete strangers. Well, those people probably have exceptional soft skills.
In the past, they’ve been valued in specific roles. Jobs in hospitality, human resources, and sales have always seen soft skills as a must have. If your accountant or IT technician had good soft skills, it was just seen as a nice bonus, but not essential for the job.
Now though, employers are beginning to see the importance of soft skills in every sector, including accounting.
What soft skills are desirable?
As an accountant, a lot of your day-to-day involves a lot of complicated financial jargon. Good communication skills allow you to explain things in simple terms to customers so they never feel confused or out of the loop.
It’ll also keep you in good stead if you’re ever branching out in your field. Good communicators are often sought after to give talks and seminars.
Empathy is the ability to recognise emotions in others. This is a hugely desirable skill for accountants as it will help you better figure out the needs of your clients, co-workers, and peers.
Playing nice with others is an incredibly valuable skill.
We’ve all been in a situation where this hasn’t happened. It may have been a group project or team exercise where the team just isn’t gelling – it can be a painful experience.
But it’s not just about being nice, good teamwork is about recognising your own skills in relation to others, and figuring out the best way for everybody to use their individual skills to better serve the bigger picture.
Most people don’t associate accounting with creativity. But being creative is a vital part of problem solving, something that comes up all the time in the accounting sector.
Clients come to you looking for solutions and advice. Being creative lets you think critically about their situation and come up with the best possible strategy.
Positivity and enthusiasm
Have you ever heard somebody talk about something they’re passionate about? Doesn’t matter what it is, their enthusiasm is infectious, and suddenly you’re just as excited about their hobby as they are.
This skill is transferable in any work environment. Being able to encourage and inspire those around you is a huge benefit that will increase productivity and quality of the work.
It’s also a vital skill when it comes to learning and developing. An enthusiastic person is somebody who’s always willing to learn and improve their knowledge. Bringing that kind of attitude to your work means you’ll never stop getting better at the job.
Some people are just born leaders, right?
Well… not exactly.
Some people are definitely more naturally adept at leadership, but it’s a skill just like any other and involves a combination of all the other soft skills we’ve mentioned so far.
Developing your leadership skills will inspire confidence in your clients, and will make you an obvious choice for progression in your company.
Why are they desirable?
Customer service is a huge sticking point for clients. When making a decision about who to use most people will factor in how they’re spoken to, and how they’re treated, when making a decision about who to use.
After all, they can always find another accountant but they can’t necessarily find one that makes the experience enjoyable.
Aside from people enjoying your company, good communication skills are invaluable when it comes to explaining complex accounting concepts to clients without confusing them. If you can do this, it will inspire confidence in your clients because they’ll know exactly what’s going on in their accounts.
Whether it’s a client related problem, or a problem between staff members, the ability to be diplomatic and resolve personal problems is a huge bonus for any business.
It will create a friendlier atmosphere in the workplace, meaning happier people all round. This can actually save you money in the long run. Happier employees means lower turnover, so you won’t need to spend time and money looking for new staff, and happier clients means repeat business.
In the tech driven age where more and more jobs are being automated, soft skills are proving irreplaceable.
We’re not saying an A.I. is going to replace accounting firms, but the natural progression of A.I. technology revolves around programming them to perform measurable tasks that require hard skills.
It’s much harder to programme an A.I. to be good at communication, empathy, and friendliness. Sure, there are some decent attempts out there, but their people still prefer talking to other humans.
Developing your soft skills makes you far more vulnerable in the long run because you’ll always have skills that are difficult to replace.
Combine your soft skills with Countingup software
You can save time on manual admin and help your clients keep organised records with Countingup’s free accounting software.
Countingup’s free accounting software has been built specifically to help practices manage self-employed and sole trader clients. While your clients get an excellent value business current account with in-built accounting software, you can save your practice time on manual admin.
Countingup helps your clients keep organised records so that you receive structured data in real-time. The MTD-compatible software enables you to review and manage accounts efficiently, with direct access to clients’ real-time organised data.
Find out more here.