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Thriving in the ‘New Normal’: Skills for Accountants in 2020 and Beyond

The unprecedented events of 2020 have had many accountants looking inward and focusing on the value they bring to their firms and customers. How can they deliver value with their expertise in challenging times? What accounting skills will be of the greatest value and in demands, both in 2020 and beyond as the global economy moves toward recovery?

The Importance of Skills Today

It’s important to know that, yes, skills still matter. Despite the increased use of artificial intelligence (AI) within the accounting profession to perform decision-based tasks that would previously have been left to humans, there is still a place for human experience and expertise. Computers can perform many of the repetitive data-entry tasks, but that frees up human accountants to focus on applying their insight and creative problem solving in ways algorithms can’t.

So now, more than ever, is the perfect time to take stock of our skillsets and see what needs polishing or updating so we can truly thrive in the “new normal” that will follow the pandemic.

Here are three skills we think are critical to showing your true value in 2020 and beyond.

1. Adaptability

If there is any lesson that everyone has had to learn during the pandemic, it’s the need for adaptability, and that holds true for accountants, too.

The accounting industry is a dynamic one, so accountants who are able to adapt quickly to changing circumstances will be at a distinct advantage. Adaptable accountants are the kind of people who continue to learn and grow in their careers, as they constantly build and test new skills.

Adaptability is also necessary given that the standards and protocols governing taxes and financial reporting are constantly changing. With so much recent government stimulus to bolster economic recovery, these changes will be especially important in 2020 and beyond.

And, as mentioned, technological change continues to be a factor for the whole profession. As all industries try to define what the “new normal” is for their business post-pandemic, accountants should expect technological assistance from AI and other digital tools to be a growing part of their workflow. Adaptability to this reality will be critical to success in the profession.

2. Creativity & Innovation

The importance of creativity and innovation has been front and center during the pandemic. From whole companies suddenly transitioning to remote operations, to other businesses delivering services digitally, or radically shifting their entire business models for the duration, creativity and innovation has helped many companies weather the storm.

Accountancy, while an indispensable business tool, will likewise need to rely on creativity and innovation to help businesses adjust and readjust in the post-pandemic world. Whether that’s evolving accounting requirements as the business world evolves, doubling down on technology to better serves clients and their “new normal,” or maximizing productivity in a radically changed work environment, accounts will need fresh ideas and new ways of looking at their work to offer the greatest value to their clients in 2020 and beyond. 

3. Effective Communication

Communication abilities, while always a vital part of an accountant’s job, have proven even more important in 2020. With stay-at-home orders in place and workplaces shuttered, the move to business conducted by email and Zoom calls has demanded the best, clearest communication from all of us.

Luckily, presenting complex financial information in a straightforward, easy-to-digest manner to colleagues and clients who may not have a strong understanding or background in complex financial concepts, is a hallmark of effective accountants. And the need to continue to do so—especially in a world where work-from-home will be increasingly common—will only grow in the future 

But don’t think that it’s just about verbal or written communication. 

The importance of nonverbal communication, teamwork, and presentation skills all play a role, with one survey finding that better presentation skills led to greater success at work.

Now learn how to pandemic-proof your practice in 2020.

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