Communication and collaboration skills – the so-called “soft skills” – are becoming more important than technical skills when building successful accounting careers.
Technology skills now have a life cycle of only two to three years and accountants should focus more on the soft skills of collaboration, teamwork and communications as they build their careers.
That was the advice from Matt Tindale, the Australia and New Zealand managing director of professional network website LinkedIn, at the closing session of the World Congress of Accountants (WCOA) in Sydney in November 2018.
Speaking to the session topic of “Future Proof Your Career”, Tindale said that to stay relevant, professionals needed to “adopt an ethos of continual learning”.
“Over the last five years it has become clear that you cannot rest on the knowledge you have gained, because it is not enough,” he said.
Tindale explained that LinkedIn data showed that for accountants hired in the last 18 months, communication and strategy skills had become more important than technical skills, which were “important but fleeting”.
Accountants on LinkedIn
There are currently 6 million accountants on LinkedIn globally, Tindale said, and he urged them to look at the platform not as a place to post their resumes, but as a forum to interact and manage their reputations.
Research by LinkedIn found that accountants are two times more likely to engage with “accounting” content on LinkedIn than average users.
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While this is not surprising, the research also found that accountants are 1.7 times more likely to engage with LinkedIn content on robotics, chat bots and climate and meteorology.
This showed that many accountants were already aware of what was needed to adapt to the future.
Tindale shared the final WCOA session with ethics advocate Clare Payne, the chief of global strategy at Tobacco Free Portfolios, which lobbies institutional investors on ethical investment.
Payne said that it was impossible to “talk about the future without talking about trust”.
“Accounting is at the core of the accounting profession, but other parts of the finance sector don’t have ethical frameworks,” she said.
“Trust has shifted to individuals rather than companies, and this didn’t used to be the case.
“This is a good development, because it means that trust resides in you and your behaviour, but it also means you have to ask questions.”
Soft skills or technical skills? How accountants stay relevant in a changing world.