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Soft-skills gap costs accountants 571 million a year

Soft-skills encompasses the personal qualities and attitudes that allow people to make a positive contribution to their workplace. Traits often included within this set include communication, decision-making, empathy and teamwork.

The study also found that 96% of accountants believe decent career progression for accountants is dependent on a good grasp of soft-skills. Less than half of accountants surveyed (just 46%), however, feel soft-skills were sufficiently emphasised in their training. Two thirds of them believe they would be paid 8% more in basic salary (the equivalent of &pound4,700) if soft-skills had been adequately emphasised.

The findings come in tandem with the 30th anniversary of the preeminent paper in the area of emotional intelligence Wayne Payne’s 1985 doctoral thesis A Study of Emotion: Developing Emotional Intelligence, which is credited with the first use of the EQ (emotional intelligence quotient) concept. EQ, having an awareness of one’s feelings and using emotional information to guide behaviour, is closely linked to soft-skills.

Dave Way, managing director at Marks Sattin, commented, “Being a good accountant and a & lsquo;numbers person’ is now taken as read. The A-players of the accountancy world also need to be outstanding communicators and proactive in driving relationships. This is reflected in the policies of the Big Four accountancy firms, which have all made significant strides in 2015 toward shifting the focus of recruitment towards interpersonal skills – as well as providing enrichment programmes for employees which focus on developing these.

“A robot can analyse data, but only an emotionally proficient person can sensitively manage a client relationship, deploying empathy, and apply creativity to crack tricky problems. These skills help accountants progress in their careers, but also future-proof their jobs against the emerging white-collar fear – that as technology becomes more advanced employers will increasingly look to machines as a people replacement.”

An improving outlook

Looking ahead, Marks Sattin say the situation is improving, with accountants believing training in soft-skills is becoming more thorough. 83% say the training is better than it was ten years ago and 55% believe it is better than it was five years ago.
Way emphasised that training had become better, commenting on the procedures that are now implemented by the Big Four accountancy firms. He said, “In 2015 Deloitte initiated a & lsquo;CV blind’ policy for new recruits, hiding the school and university a candidate attended. Earlier this year EY pledged to scrap minimum A-level and degree requirements for graduates this takes the emphasis off academic pre-conceptions and turns it squarely on the interviewee and the skills and personality they demonstrate. KPMG has a CV blind policy at telephone interview stage and PwC no longer uses A-levels as a recruitment threshold. These represent substantial progress toward placing emotional intelligence at the front and centre of professional development.”

The concept of emotional intelligence mentioned takes its roots in the work of Howard Gardner: Frames of Mind: the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, published in 1983.


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