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Communication Let Me Down
Many people associate finance and accounting with numbers. They refer to accountants as bean counters, number crunchers, and professionals who spend their working day immersed in ledgers and spreadsheets, staring at column after column of numbers. However, 48% of the job adverts for accountants in one recruitment website referred to the need for excellent communication, presentation and listening skills. Another source reported that 97% of employers rated communication skills as important as the core skillset. The Associate of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) recently stated communication is the core activity of the accounting profession, transmitting information clearing and concisely to internal and external stakeholders. This is why most accounting firms test applicants’ competencies in communication skills as part of the recruitment screening process.
Poor communication may lead to: bias and distortion; omission of important details; organisational noise- when the message is confused by matters unrelated to the topic; information overload; barriers to understanding. Poor communication may cause substandard decision making, ineffective control, loss of clients, unsatisfactory business management, and ultimately to disappointing annual company results.
Key communication skills which accountants are expected to demonstrate include:
· Listening- to learn to identify and prioritise the important issues in any conversation.
· Talking straight- so issues are discussed clearly and concisely with colleagues and clients.
· Persuading others-particularly in accounting firms when winning new business is important.
· Teamworking- accountants seldom work alone for any length of time.
· Presenting- so accounting information can be presented in many forms to a range of different stakeholders.
Two of the Big 4 Accounting Firms recently provided additional training to younger recruits, claiming that because of the Covid lockdowns, these had had fewer opportunities to develop and improve their communication and teamworking skills at an earlier stage.
Now these lockdowns are hopefully over, those students still at university can proactively improve their communication skills not only during in-person seminars and tutorials but also in situations outside the classroom. Extracurricular activities could include team sports, volunteering, debating, chairing a Student Union society, or part time working. Placements during the summer or for a whole year could be a perfect opportunity to improve communication skills within a professional setting.
It is important students use their time at university to develop their soft skills, improve their CVs, and increase their employability. Employers in accounting and finance want to recruit applicants who can work well with people as well as numbers.
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