Speaking to New Accountant on the sidelines of Xerocon earlier this month, Xero managing director Trent Innes said the topic of soft skills has dominated conversations in accounting firms when it comes to finding the right talent for the business.
“There’s nothing soft about soft skills,” Mr Innes said.
“I hate that they’re calling them soft skills because it actually makes it sound not important, but it’s actually become super important.
“It’s probably become more important than the technical knowledge, because historically a lot of the technical knowledge you learnt was going to last you for the whole of your career.
“It’s more about being able to find talent, you know across all the ranges, and not just the skills like how to use Xero, or how to provide accounting cloud-based services, or bookkeeping services, but in the sense that [accounting firm principals] are looking for people coming through now that have got better people skills than they have.”
Mr Innes’ comments are backed by recruitment specialists Hays, with their 2019–20 salary guide finding that close to one-third of employers indicating that soft skills have the highest impact on the effectiveness of their organisation.
Of the 3,400 organisations in Australia surveyed for the Hays Salary Guide, almost two-thirds — or 62 per cent — of those who intend to add permanent staff to their organisation this financial year want candidates with problem solving skills. Another 58 per cent want strong communication skills and 47 per cent want critical thinking skills.
“Technical skills aren’t all it takes to get a new job this financial year,” said Nick Deligiannis, managing director of Hays in Australia and New Zealand.
“While technical capabilities ensure you can do a job, it’s soft skills that allow someone to share and discuss ideas, forge effective relationships with stakeholders, work with others to solve problems and accurately look at information to come to the best conclusion.
“It’s these soft skills that allow someone to function well in a workplace. They distinguish candidates who otherwise possess similar technical skills and so play a vital role in your job search and subsequent career progression.”
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Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.