What are the Key Non Technical Skills that a Modern Accountant Should Possess?

It has been known for some time among industry circles that the most effective accountants possess more than the mere technical accounting skills. Both the CPA Australia and the Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia have mission statements which reference a number of non-technical skills.

What are the Key Non Technical Skills that a Modern Accountant Should Possess?

On top of this, we are now finding that there is a wealth of academic research available which has examined the key non-technical skills that accountants should possess. This research can be used to help public accountancy firms to write more effective job descriptions that target the appropriate talent in the marketplace. By appropriate talent, we mean individuals with the skills to perform at the highest level within an accountancy firm.

The most recent research into the ideal non technical skills for accountants was by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council. Before, we go on to talk about the research findings, it is worth outlining the background to the research so you will see this is a rigorous academic study.

The research was put together by a highly prestigious cross institutional team composed of representatives from the University of WA, University of Adelaide University of Southern Queensland, Charles Stuart University, Swinburne University and the UWE. The survey took into account the views of a range of stakeholders, including the Big 4, mid tier accounting firms, corporations, public sector, professional bodies, current students, recent graduates, other employers.

The research had some interesting findings and highlighted several non-technical skills as being most desirable; these were Communication, Team Work and Self Management, followed by Problem Solving, Initiative and Enterprise. Surprised? These may not appear to be the skills that have been traditionally associated with or demanded of accountants, but in the future a high performance accountant will need to possess these skills.
This research has been backed up and franked by another study by the School of Accounting Finance and Economics, Edith Cowan University. This survey looked at employability skills within their Master of Professional Accounting Program and once again took into account the views of professional bodies and employer groups. This survey identified four key non technical skills that accountants should possess. These are: Teamwork and Interpersonal Skills, Oral Communication Skills, Written Communication Skills, and Problem Solving & Critical Appraisal Skills.

The most important skills in both studies were Problem Solving and Critical Appraisal skills; therefore hiring managers in public accounting firms should be looking to screen for these skills along with the other skills during the recruitment process. This screening could be achieved by asking candidates to complete tests and practical exercises as part of the interview process so the candidate’s non technical skills can be assessed.
You can find more detail on the Edith Cowan University Study by clicking here, and you can find further data on the Australian Learning Council Study by clicking here.