10 Professional Skills Accountants Want Most

Top skills

As the economy continues to improve, your highly skilled finance professionals know they have options outside of your business. That’s why retention and understanding what your workers want out of their jobs is more important today than ever.

Building skills and taking on more challenging projects is the top desire of employees, cited by 31 percent of respondents in The People Puzzle: Building and Retaining a Talented Accounting and Finance Team, a new report from Robert Half and the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).

The skills today’s accountants need to succeed go far beyond traditional “accounting skills.” So here are the top 10 proficiencies (including soft skills) CPAs surveyed for The People Puzzle told us they would like to develop in the coming year.

  • Management: In addition to building company loyalty, helping your employees hone their management and leadership skills is essential when it comes to developing a succession plan.

  • Public speaking: True, your bookkeepers and staff accountants may not be delivering many speeches. But at some point, most accounting and finance professionals find themselves making presentations to clients or coworkers. Additionally, helping your staff work on public speaking will simultaneously boost their persuasion skills and confidence.

  • Tax knowledge: Rules and regulations when it comes to taxes are constantly evolving, so it’s essential your employees evolve along with them.

  • Budgeting: Prepare your team to be able to explain outcomes, defend projections and prepare reports.

  • Valuation: Part of making solid decisions during critical events such as mergers and acquisitions or portfolio expansion depends on having strong valuation skills. Helping your entire staff understand not just what assets are worth, but how that value is determined, will deeply strengthen your organization as a whole.

  • Microsoft Excel: Offering your employees the opportunity to take a quick refresher course or a more advanced Excel workshop to hone their skills will boost their efficiency and help your organization save time and money.

  • Analytical skills: They’re not just for financial analysts anymore. An accounting staff that can take the next step by analyzing statistics to draw meaningful data and help shape decisions will lead to a more productive and efficient company.

  • Communication: Think both verbal and written. From face-to-face meetings and phone calls to emails and even social media posts, understanding how to effectively communicate ideas is one of the most essential soft skills for any employee. 

  • SQL: Companies want employees who can create customized reports using Speaking Standard Query Language (SQL) in macros and Excel, as well as manipulate relational databases. It’s not enough to use canned reports. While they used to turn to the IT department for this, financial professionals need to understand what the company needs in the reports. Setting up a workshop for any team members who are unfamiliar with the fundamentals of this database programming language will boost your organization’s competitiveness.

  • Auditing: With compliance laws constantly evolving, having an accounting and finance team with well-developed auditing skills can help you prevent fires before they start, not to mention streamline your company’s policies and procedures.

Which professional skills do you most want to see in accounting and finance professionals? Share your thoughts in the comments below.