Accountants are quite on top of the list of the core experts required for the day-to-day operations of most profit-making businesses. From budgeting to financial reporting, tax preparation, and recording routine transactions, accountants perform a range of essential business activities. The advent of globalization and great reliance on data has led to an increased demand for accountants.
However, the fact that accountants are in high demand does not mean that there isn’t fierce competition in the accounting industry. Those that must thrive amidst this competition must possess and master certain hard and soft skills. Also, given the introduction of digital accounting into the business world, there are specific fundamental skills that accountants need to embrace in 2021 to stay on top of their games. Let us discuss ten key skills that you as an accountant should embrace in the current year.
1. Global Mindset
With the rate of digitalization experienced by the world, geographical and cultural borders are gradually thinning out on the business front. International partnerships and collaborations are also becoming the order of businesses. Hence, employees, including accountants, need to develop a global mindset to thrive in today’s business environment.
In developing a global mindset, you need to understand and work under diverse business cultures and environments. Having a multicultural, intellectual mindset means that you can grasp and master new ways of doing business. And while you’re progressing at your use of results-oriented accounting tools, you should also be open to novel ways of responding to accounting situations.
You also need to develop psychological and social skills. This means that you should be willing to go the extra mile to accommodate and work harmoniously with people from business cultures and environments other than yours. Moreover, you should be able to engage the stakeholders and communicate and collaborate with them to achieve tangible business results.
2. Spreadsheet Proficiency
Spreadsheets are the livewire of accounting. Without them, it would be impossible for businesses (irrespective of industry) to work with numbers. Even the most advanced accounting software either uses spreadsheets to perform most of its operations or supports integration with platforms like Microsoft Excel. Therefore, mastery of spreadsheets should be the most fundamental skill you must acquire as an accountant.
For one thing, spreadsheets allow you to manipulate voluminous data easily and analyze them accordingly. Hence, you should be able to navigate your way around functions like VLookup and HLookup, Index Match and Pivot Tables, amongst others.
Spreadsheets are also useful tools you can use to predict and foster business growth. It would be an added advantage for you as an accountant if you can appropriately wield the invaluable power of spreadsheets to grow your employers’ business.
3. ERP & Cloud-Based Accounting Software
In recent years, business management has taken a whole new approach, with most ventures opting for cloud-based as opposed to installed software. As a result, accounting operations have moved from paper invoices, budgets, and receipts to comprehensive ERPs and cloud-based accounting platforms. Also, given that accounting operations require that data be entered from several of these platforms, ERP ensures that accurate reconciliation is achievable.
Therefore, this new look of accounting warrants that accountants are well-equipped with the right skills to perform specific operations on digital platforms. These skills are necessary because ERP and cloud-based software give you greater control over your business data through streamlined automation. They also facilitate detailed report generation by ensuring that you can promptly and securely access previously entered and processed data.
4. Dashboard Reporting and Project Management Software
As an accountant, you need to be able to track and complete projects within stipulated deadlines. If you work with firms that process accounting tasks in their hundreds daily, you must be vastly skilled in dashboard reporting and project management software.
Software like Monday, Tableau, Trello and Google Analytics helps you track your tasks and projects for maximum efficiency. With a single click, these products keep you updated on the financial happenings around your business. They are also useful tools for balancing elements like time and billing in your accounting (tax preparation) endeavors. Do not also forget that they aid collaboration among you and the experts in other related departments, so you should be able to use them well if you’re going to make any progress in your accounting career.
5. Remote Working
Remote working is gradually taking over most business activities across the globe, especially after the COVID-19 outbreak. Businesses are constantly looking out for ways to reduce physical contact at their various fronts. From the recently established cashless policies in several economies to the introduction of digital accounting, and the need to reduce the environmental impacts of physical transactions, it is obvious that remote working is the future of work.
Consequently, accountants need to be able to adapt to this new face of work. You must be able to cope with the reality that you no longer need to sit behind a desk in an office complex to complete your job. This means you must combine your expertise with the various tools businesses now use to foster remote working. It would be best to collaborate with a third party from a remote location without losing your relevance.
6. Platform (Software) Integrations
In mid-sized or large organizations, a single software is sometimes not enough to manage all the operations simultaneously. Instead, businesses use a range of software, such as payroll software, billing software, merchant service software and website builders. Hence, in addition to mastering the use of accounting software, you also need to hone the skill of integrating different platforms. This skill is necessary because, at the end of each financial transaction on these individual platforms, there is always a need to reconcile and balance up the company’s accounts across all platforms.
Surprisingly, communication is one of the core skills you need to excel as an accountant. Like every other aspect of life, accounting thrives on clear communication between the parties involved as it is crucial if accounting operations are to yield results.
Companies make budgets, balance accounts and compute tax payments for growth and sustainability. Consequently, the results of these activities must be useful in times of decision and policy making – even when AI is the performing system. And how would they understand these results if you as an accountant cannot effectively communicate across to them?
You should be able to communicate the outcomes of charts and spreadsheets to people who are in the decision-making sector. For effectiveness, these results must also be interpreted in formats that relevant persons can understand.
8. Legal and Regulatory Awareness
To successfully sustain a career in accountancy, you cannot thrive without acquainting yourself with the legal systems governing the accounting industry. As an accountant, you need to actively understand and abide by the guidelines and regulations relevant to your region of practice. This is because a bulk of your job is tied to legal actions, and you will need to build legal and regulatory awareness to avoid having issues with the law.
As an accountant, it will be up to you to stay abreast of trending bookkeeping and tax computing regulations in your locality. You will also ensure that your clients have their financial transactions and statements aligning with prevailing laws.
Some of the legal regulations you need to stay updated on include state pay equality rules, reporting standards, legal ways of carrying out various accounting operations and documentation.
9. Creativity and Innovation
Many people, including accountants, often perceive accounting as a conservative profession that does not require any form of creativity and innovation. However, this narrative is somewhat flawed because there is enough room for creativity within the accounting industry. Being creative and innovative as an accountant means you can develop new ways to solve your clients’ problems. Instead of working up those figures all by yourself, creativity allows you to harness automation and AI to complete your accounting processes.
Creativity also means that you can interpret results from various software using your expertise and experience as pliable tools. You can also use novel platforms to communicate with your clients and set up intuitive schedules for them. Overall, honing your creativity skill will ensure that you render efficient accounting services to your clients.
10. Financial Reporting Standards and Taxation
Finally, as an accountant, you need to stay abreast with the emerging financial reporting standards and taxation rates. The end of all accounting operations is reporting because it is the tool businesses harness during decision and policymaking and investor relations. Reports also help businesses ascertain their profitability to avoid loss-incurring financial steps.
On the other hand, proper taxation keeps a business on good terms with the law. This means that if you fail to give flawless financial reports and tax documents, you will not only be jeopardizing your previous accounting efforts, you’ll place your client at the risk of being sanctioned by the government and regulatory bodies. Investors may also begin to question the reputation of a business if its financial report does not meet up to standard. It is therefore imperative that you can prepare accurate reports and tax statements as an accountant.
The accounting skills mentioned above can be the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful accountant. Gone are the days when accountants only needed to know the double entries. Whether you major in investment accounting, forensic accounting, management accounting, or financial reporting, these skills will not only make you a sought-after asset; they will also function as handy tools to help you ace your career objectives.