Accountancy and finance businesses are prioritising employees with strong communication skillsets, as AI is used to enhance the technical and analytical skills of workers, according to the Reed Finance State of Skills research.
Using Google and O*NET data from the past 10 years for typical finance roles, Reed Finance developed the interactive online tool onhttps://stateofskills.reedglobal.com/. It found that written and verbal communication is prized by employers of finance professionals, with ‘oral comprehension’ (an understanding of what people are trying to say) and ‘written comprehension’ (understanding written ideas and information) ranked as the most valued skills. This is in comparison to traditionally assumed skills such as ‘economics and accounting’ and ‘deductive reasoning’ which are ranked as the fourth and 10th most important.
Reed Finance suggests that this is due to the future strategies of companies wishing to see finance executives take on leadership roles which entail not only technical soundness, but also an ability to inspire and work as a leader of teams – with ‘active listening’ and ‘oral comprehension’ some of the most important skills for a CFO to have.
As such, ‘human’ skills are prominent in successful candidates for roles such as management accounting and FP&A management. This may suggest that these workers have the skillset to take upon more senior roles.
Securing the right talent
Reed Finance found that the level of interest from candidates for the majority of roles in accountancy and finance had been consistent over the past decade, but there are some notable exceptions.
Interest in CFOs peaked in April 2013, higher by 111 per cent in comparison to January 2012. The trend is even starker for finance business partners. From only modest interest in October 2009 popularity has continued to increase rapidly over the decade hitting a peak in July 2018 that is almost 2500 per cent higher. The stark rise reflects a change in the industry towards finance professionals with strong communication skills informing and guiding the business.
Rob Russell, director at Reed Finance, says: “Businesses are in direct competition for employees that can bring ‘human’ skills to the table, not just technical accounting and number crunching. The influx of AI in the workplace is helping to enhance the numerical skillsets within these teams, so there will be greater time for high-level creativity. Companies want candidates that can communicate, secure business wins and manage teams so that they perform to the best of their ability. These changes to a more fluid, creative workplace are creating great opportunities for those within the finance sector.”
Software use is essential to success but becomes less important with greater seniority
The research conducted also investigated the tools that must be mastered for success in these roles, encouraging businesses to upgrade their software where necessary.
Rob Russell continues: “Every day working with businesses we find that tech is there to enhance the performance of individuals. While candidates should endeavour to keep up with the latest accounting tools on the market, businesses are increasingly looking for those that can win new business and demonstrate a return on investment.
“For candidates, developing the ability to take complex finance information they deal with on a daily basis and using it to answer the question, ‘what does this mean for the business?’ will set them aside from colleagues. This, coupled with commercial nous, has always been an advantage, but now it seems it is even more sought after as business leaders search for the candidates that can secure the future of their business.”