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Soft skills get hard results

 Growth - Graph2 Why do we underinvest in “soft skills”?

Recent research and articles point to significant advantages of so-called soft skills for financial and accounting professionals.

First there is the research from the AICPA that identifies the weakest skills of CPAs by business decision-makers (small biz – public companies), investors, and even CPAs themsleves. This identified these top three skills:

  1. Leadership
  2. Communications
  3. Creativity

In a post titled Accountants Rank Soft Skills as More Important for Leaders Than Technical Skills based on a recent survey by Ajilon Finance talks about the need and benefit of investing in soft skills.

“The top three skills in poor economic times:

  1. productivity, or doing more with less (49%),
  2. motivating the workforce (44%) and
  3. pursuing growth opportunities (33%)

Soft Skills Beat Hard Skills: According to the survey, one-third (33%) of accountants feel an ability to inspire and motivate is the most important quality of leadership in the 21st century followed by communications skills (15%) and people management skills (13%), all soft skills. In contrast, accountants said that hard skills such as global knowledge/expertise, financial acumen and keen decision-making were more rewarded leadership qualities at their organizations.

Training still a non-discretionary expense: Despite the downturn, workforce training remains an important investment for many companies with 31% of survey respondents saying training is a non-discretionary expense at their companies. Other non-discretionary expenses include: workforce flexibility (27%), succession planning (26%), leadership development (25%) and enhancing the company’s brand (25%).

Accountants Say They Need Time, More Than Anything Else: When asked what they need most to be effective leaders, most accountants (29%) said more time. Only 14% of respondents said more money and 13% said more influence over others.”

Rita Keller offers this advice (criticism) in her post titled We promise them resources

“We promise them lots of resources and training, including training in the success skills (a.k.a., soft skills) which I heard one CPA firm leader call, “the fru, fru stuff.” Sure, firm leaders don't intentionally NOT keep their word, they find that they are spending a lot of money on this young group for the traditional stuff – Level I, II, III and maybe IV in how to be an auditor or tax professional and the budget does not then allow for the Success Skills.”

Then there is this post from CPA Success titled, Five Hot Finance Jobs for 2008 where they talk about soft skills for financial professionals.

“What do you think is more important for finance personnel — technical knowledge or soft skills? Speaking of so-called “soft skills,” they're in greater demand than ever. In fact, a recent survey found that 53 percent of CFOs actively seek candidates with extensive communication and interpersonal skills, even if those candidates are less technically adept than other candidates.

Is the CPA Profession investing enough in soft skills?

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