In today’s rapidly evolving world, the accounting profession is undergoing significant changes due to the rise of artificial intelligence and automation. While these advancements have and will improve efficiency and speed, it’s essential for accountants to recognize the crucial role that soft skills play in driving success and staying competitive for the long-term.
According to a
- Analytical thinking;
- Creative thinking;
- Resilience, flexibility and agility;
- Motivation and self-awareness; and,
- Curiosity and lifelong learning.
These skills are not technical or role-specific because adaptability to disrupted workplaces is crucial to every single profession.
Five essential skills to develop
1. Resilience. In an era where the accounting profession is facing a shortage of professionals, resilience is a critical attribute for accountants to overcome challenges and succeed in their roles. Plus, as AI takes over certain tasks and automates processes, accountants must adapt and redefine their roles to remain relevant and valuable. This transformation requires resilience to navigate the changing landscape, upskill in new areas, and find ways to leverage AI technology effectively.
2. Lifelong learning. The rapid pace of technological advancements necessitates the continuous learning and adaptability of accountants. Soft skills, such as a growth mindset and willingness to learn, enable professionals to embrace change, acquire new competencies, and stay ahead of the curve in the AI era. Those who wanted to stick to their typewriters were quickly outshined by those who embraced the computers. Lifelong learning goes beyond ticking the box to meet CPE requirements. It takes a whole different perspective on upskilling to learn and leverage the latest technology as well.
3. Ethical decision-making. Ethical decision-making remains critical for accountants despite AI-generated technical accounting recommendations. Accountants must consider the broader impact of their decisions when faced with complex ethical dilemmas. This involves differentiating between what is allowed and legal versus what is equitable and fair, balancing values and AI-generated insights.
4. Collaboration skills. Gone are the days when accountants were confined to their traditional role of crunching numbers. Today, they are expected to be strategic partners who provide valuable insights to drive successful business decisions, whether in public or corporate accounting. This involves nurturing partnerships with people across different functions, geographies and backgrounds.
It also requires effective data storytelling skills to humanize the data and break down complex guidance and technical requirements into actionable insights for decision-makers. For example, if AI provides outlines and scripts for accounting presentations, the presenters will still need to have great communication and emotional intelligence skills to connect with their audience.
5. Business acumen. Without business acumen, AI-driven accounting or finance recommendations are useless for decision-making. Accountants must understand their organization’s industry, market dynamics and strategic goals to evaluate business decisions effectively. Developing curiosity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills is fundamental to building business acumen.
In conclusion, as AI and automation reshape the accounting profession, the importance of soft skills cannot be overlooked. Skills such as resilience, lifelong learning, ethical decision-making, collaboration, and business acumen are essential for accountants to navigate the rapidly changing landscape. By developing and honing these skills alongside their technical expertise, accountants can thrive in an AI-driven era, achieving success and maintaining a competitive edge.
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