Accounting is a broad career field that serves as a key component and foundational element of business. The specific skillsets and experience that an accountant must have varies based on the position. However, there are a handful of skills that have become increasingly crucial to the accounting role, as businesses have adopted more modern practices over time. These competencies, discussed below, are widely applicable to accountants regardless of business industry, type, or size.
According to IGI Global, “Technology literacy is the ability to effectively use technology to access, evaluate, integrate, create, and communicate information to enhance the learning process through problem-solving and critical thinking.” In other words, technology literacy entails a number of other valuable skills that can be facilitated and demonstrated through technology.
As accounting moves past its early days of manual entries and organizing paper receipts, accountants can accomplish much more in less time through digital tools and software. Especially with the rise of automation within accounting, the goal of many accounting teams has shifted from generating reports to providing strategic analysis. In fact, with analytics software, cloud computing, and ERP systems being able to provide more data-based insights, accountants need to know how to make intentional business decisions by interpreting that information.
Soft skills, such as relationship building, serve as the glue that ties technical capabilities to excellent job performance. Even if an accountant has specialized skills and a robust professional background, they may not be able to achieve workplace objectives without a foundation of positive relationships.
According to Indeed, not only do strong relationships make the workplace more enjoyable, but can also boost creativity, collaboration, and employee retention. This leads to increased organizational productivity as well as a reduction of the costs associated with employee turnover.
Business advisory entails providing guidance regarding business strategy, risk assessment, and growth plans at each phase of a business. Business advisory is increasingly growing in demand, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that required businesses to constantly pivot and adapt. It’s one thing for an accountant to execute the work—such as completing the month-end process, reconciling accounts, or ensuring compliance. It’s another, however, for an accountant to truly understand a business’ financial data and be able to problem-solve and make informed suggestions for the improvement of the organization.
Industry Experience Outside of Accountancy
Exposure to a variety of industries provides experience that can add to the accountant’s ability to problem-solve and make business decisions. An accountant that has worked in different industries can better apply practical experience to new challenges for improved results.
Additionally, while different industries have distinct accounting needs, the knowledge acquired when working in one industry can easily transfer over to others. For an example, an accountant that works within a supply chain company can gain valuable experience surrounding inventory management and ecommerce that can then be applied to other roles.
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has deemed project management one of the core competencies for the next generation of accountants. And, for good reason! Project management is crucial to effectively utilizing company resources, such as time and budget, and helps to ensure that deliverables and outcomes are achieved in a timely manner. On top of that, project management helps accounting teams to define an action plan, keeping the focus of their work on project objectives and achieving KPIs.
The Bottom Line
The one constant in business is, unsurprisingly, change. As the economy fluctuates, and as new technologies become available, accountants in the workforce need to constantly be aware of the skillsets necessary to stay afloat. The willingness to stay on top of business trends and develop new professional competencies strengthens another key quality to professional success—adaptability.