People & Leadership

3 soft skills that can lead to future success for your practice

Discover why developing and using soft skills can help your accountancy practice, clients and employees thrive.

There have been numerous buzzwords floating around the accountancy industry in 2023, such as automation, AI (artificial intelligence), and digital transformation.

It’s clear it is developing rapidly in line with technological advancements.

However, we don’t have the full picture of how these developments are affecting the industry.

With daily tasks such as data entry and forecasting becoming increasingly automated, your role as an accountant will change, with you having additional time to offer more value to your clients.

The challenge now is for you and your team to lean into the skills that make you irreplaceable, the skills that make us human.

Communication, collaboration, problem-solving, adaptability and creativity skills will foster a human-led approach and offer a premium service within the industry.

In this article, we explore three skills that future-focused accountants should hone to drive their practice’s success.

Here’s what we cover

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Client communication

Client communication is fundamental to the success of modern accountancy practices.

Building strong relationships with your clients through frequent and personalised conversations ensures they’ll come to you first when they need advice.

In a nutshell, that’s the future of accountancy: becoming trusted advisors. The word advisory may be another buzzword that thought leaders like to use. However, it means nothing more than to offer advice.

You can nurture talent and cultivate an advisory-focused culture within your practice by focusing on your team.

Every new client touchpoint is an opportunity to support your clients and build trust.

Changing a few working habits in your practice will help to develop the client communication skills of your team. Try the following:

  • Invest time and resources in your junior colleagues. Find ways to encourage them to communicate with your clients, even if they don’t have all the answers. Once they’re used to contacting clients, they’ll have a habit for life.
  • Go old school. Pick up the phone. Give your clients a call and check-in with them regularly, even if there isn’t any pressing work outstanding. A quick conversation with them to ask how their business is doing could lead to them reaching out for support with something. Adapt to your clients’ preferred communication methods.
  • Be proactive and share the information that matters. Accountants were phenomenal during the height of the pandemic by sharing news about government support to actively help their clients. Today, consider acting in a similar fashion. Share important financial information, developing news, and tax deadlines with your clients, and what these details could mean for their businesses.

Technological advances in automation present opportunities to spend more time in front of your clients, offering advice and supporting them where you can.

With more client-facing time, you’re likely to engage with the problems business owners face every day, giving you a strong advantage because you better-understand the landscape.

Problem-solving skills

The questions and concerns clients raise are becoming steadily more complex.

While compliance underpins the work you do, supporting your clients as they navigate challenges is an increasingly crucial part of daily life at a practice.

How can you encourage your team to develop their problem-solving skills and become competent advisors?

Use the following options:

Training and workshops

Organise regular training sessions and workshops focused on problem-solving techniques, critical thinking, and analytical skills.

Invite experienced professionals or hire external trainers to provide insights and practical guidance. Increasingly, we see individuals dish out this crucial info for free.

Get your team looking for webinars on the likes of LinkedIn and key accounting bodies, and encourage them to share their findings on your platforms to not just follow but own the conversation.

Mentorship programmes

Establish mentorship programmes where your senior accountants can mentor junior staff members.

When a junior member gets stuck with a problem, encourage them to work through some solutions themselves before approaching their mentor.

And remember, your junior staff can also mentor senior members.

After all, they could share knowledge about social media, the latest tech, and other trends that could be beneficial.

Mentorship allows for knowledge transfer and provides a supportive environment for skill development It also has the bonus of improving your employee-brand reputation, too.

Knowledge sharing

Encourage the sharing of case studies and success stories among colleagues.

This can stimulate creative problem-solving discussions and inspire others to adopt innovative approaches.

Recognition and rewards

Acknowledge and reward employees who consistently demonstrate strong problem-solving skills. Recognition can motivate others to emulate similar habits in their work.

These don’t need to be extravagant rewards – a small token of gratitude can be appreciated far more than its financial value.

Client feedback

Encourage colleagues to seek feedback from clients regarding the quality of their support. Positive client testimonials can serve as powerful motivators for skill development and should be shared within your team.

Incorporating these strategies into your practice’s culture can create an environment where your team members are motivated to enhance their problem-solving skills, benefiting both clients and the practice’s reputation.

Download our free client meeting checklist

Give your regular check-ins purpose and structure to maximize your time with clients.

Download now

Teamwork and collaboration

Collaborative working is a hugely exciting development in accountancy technology as tech solutions often offer collaborative spaces for individuals to work, both within practices and with clients.

Technology solutions can break down bottlenecks, particularly in the advisory space. Traditionally, practices have had a minority of their team working as advisors.

However, with advisory and forecasting tools, practices can open advisory work to the whole team.

Everyone can view a client’s profile and consider how they would approach them. The forecasts and scenarios you build for a client can easily be understood and interrogated by other members of your team.

Similarly, automated data entry has ensured accountants and bookkeepers can work closely with their clients to ensure their ledgers are up to date, meaning clients can benefit from a live flow of data.

Offering timely insights and advice will ultimately enhance their financial decision-making.

As technology continues to advance, commit to leveraging accounting technology for collaborative work.

By embracing technology-driven collaboration, you can provide clients with unparalleled service and support while streamlining internal processes such as client onboarding, data entry for bookkeeping, and compliance, for greater efficiency and productivity.

Why not try:

  1. Cloud-based collaboration tools: Leverage cloud accounting software and collaboration platforms. These provide real-time access to financial data, making it easier for team members and clients to collaborate seamlessly from anywhere.
  2. Task assignment and tracking: Use project management tools to assign tasks, set deadlines, and track progress. This helps in managing workloads and ensures that no critical tasks are overlooked.
  3. Clear communication channels: Establish clear communication channels within the team and with clients. Ensure that everyone knows how and when to reach out for questions or assistance.

Final thoughts on soft skills for accountants

Due to rapid technological advancements, the roles of accountants are evolving.

However, your value remains undeniable.

As automation and AI continue to streamline routine tasks, focus on honing essential soft skills that set you apart as an irreplaceable asset in your business and the wider financial world.

Embrace these soft skills—client communication, problem-solving, and teamwork—to thrive in an industry that’s undergoing rapid transformation.

By combining these with technological advancements, you’ll be able to offer exceptional service, strengthen your client relationships, and drive your practice towards unparalleled success.