Talk the talk: Elevating accountants with communication skills

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In the context of the contemporary accounting landscape, characterised by rapid technological advancements and increasing reliance on data analytics, the proficiency in communication skills has emerged as a pivotal competency for accounting professionals.

Beyond technical acumen, the modern accountant is expected to possess adept communication skills, facilitating clear articulation of complex financial data and strategic advice to clients and stakeholders.

The ability to forge robust professional relationships, present intricate information with clarity, and collaborate within multifaceted teams is increasingly recognized as a cornerstone of professional success in accounting.

Structured approach to communication skill enhancement

Communication skills are relevant to most if not all accountancy roles; in-house compliance accountants still needs to extract information from colleagues or get them to complete tasks by affecting them with words, tone of voice and body language.

Speaking is a bit like long-distance running, according to Alexandra Burnett, who runs a bookkeeping business. Most people can do it after a fashion, but not many can do it well without training.

If runners take the time to train and build up stamina, strength and technique, they will be much more effective over a longer distance.

  1. Self-Assessment: Practitioners should initiate by introspecting and assessing their existing communication capabilities, focusing on verbal, written, and interpersonal domains. Constructive feedback from peers and superiors can illuminate areas necessitating improvement.
  2. Educational Pursuits: Participation in specialized courses and workshops offered by esteemed educational entities and professional bodies can cultivate advanced presentation, negotiation, and conflict resolution skills.
  3. Cultivating Active Listening: Prioritizing active listening, characterized by complete engagement and thoughtful responses, is essential. This skill fortifies client relationships and promotes a collaborative professional milieu.
  4. Written Communication Proficiency: Given the frequency and importance of written communication in accounting, such as report drafting and email correspondence, honing this skill is imperative. Business writing courses and peer review processes are recommended.
  5. Public Speaking Acumen: For accountants, the ability to effectively communicate complex information in public forums is invaluable. Engaging in platforms like Toastmasters International can offer practical experience and feedback.
  6. Professional Networking: Active participation in industry events and conferences serves dual purposes: it offers a platform for practicing communication skills and facilitates learning from seasoned professionals.

Empirical evidence and professional endorsements

Harvard Business School Professor V. G. Narayanan underscores the significance of using accounting as a tool for communication, especially in garnering investor trust.

The ability to succinctly summarise and emphasise critical financial information is paramount in effectively engaging with stakeholders whose decisions shape the company’s future, she says.

Speaking to Accountancy Age, a senior accountant at a leading firm, credits her strong communication skills for her rapid career progression.

“Being able to effectively communicate with clients and colleagues has been instrumental in my success,” she says. “It has allowed me to build trust, convey complex information clearly, and collaborate effectively with diverse teams.”

A partner at a Big Four accounting firm also noted that accountants who can communicate effectively are more likely to be promoted and take on leadership roles. “They can navigate complex business environments, build strong relationships, and provide valuable insights to clients,” he said.

As accountants take on higher-level responsibilities and navigate complex business environments, the ability to effectively communicate with clients, colleagues, and stakeholders is crucial.

Mastering this area can significantly impact an accountant’s career trajectory and professional growth.

By assessing your current abilities, enrolling in courses or workshops, practicing active listening, improving your writing skills, joining a public speaking group, and networking with industry professionals, you can enhance your communication skills and set yourself up for success in the accounting profession.

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