From Excel to empathy: the power of people skills in accountancy

content people skills

People skills have always been important to career success, but their relevance is evolving and becoming increasingly critical.  

These skills are universally required in accountancy, despite digital transformations happening faster than ever – it remains extremely important to be able to make yourself stand out with the relevant soft skills that employers are looking for. 

‘Soft skills, which are predominantly centred around being able to effectively interact with people in a professional setting, are essential for success in the world of work today,’ says Lee Owen, director at Hays specialising in accountancy and finance.

‘According to our latest Salary and Recruiting Trends guide, communication and interpersonal skills are the most sought after by accountancy and finance employers (63%)’. 

Good communication skills means you are able to actively listen to and understand other perspectives, while also being able to share your own effectively. Good communicators are skilled at verbal and written communication, while they also understand non-verbal communication cues. 


Strong communicators know their audience, stick to the point, use clear and concise language and are empathetic. They are aware of how their body language and tone of voice convey their message.  

Interpersonal skills are those that allow you to build relationships and communicate well with others. They are the behaviours you use every day to interact and get along with people and so underpin positive working relationships.

Those with strong interpersonal skills are active listeners and have a high level of emotional intelligence. They can resolve conflict, communicate well and collaborate effectively to maintain mutually beneficial working relationships. They enjoy rewarding professional relationships.

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Effective teamwork is also an important people skill, as it enables teams to gel and be more productive, deadlines are met, relationships with your team members are stronger and knowledge is shared.   

If you work well in a team, you achieve common goals while supporting and complementing the strengths of others. 


Employees with strong teamwork skills keep their team’s objectives in mind, understand their own individual responsibilities, as well as the responsibilities of all team members, are supportive and positive, communicate regularly and actively listen to others. 

Owen adds: ‘There are several ways to improve these soft skills, which include asking for regular feedback, taking the time to get to know your peers and seeking out work that involves collaborating in a team. 

‘Strong communication between colleagues certainly enhances a working environment and is likely to lead to better results for the entire organisation.  

‘Trainees should include clear examples of when they put their people skills into practice, how they paid off and how they will support them to carry out the prospective role.

‘Ultimately, soft skills are crucial throughout a person’s career.’ 

Author: Alex Miller, writer

This article was first published in Student Accountant in June 2023Get the SA app now

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