THE SMOKE DETECTOR: Technical vs. Soft Skills - What Employers Are Looking For

By Jason Bainter posted 10-04-2016 18:11


When you think of soft skills, do you cringe? You know you need them, but how do you find time to develop them? Well, it’s time to start looking at your soft skill set and how they relate to your employer’s needs. Multiple surveys have been conducted with executive level officers and they are all finding that the C-Office executives as well as staff level are in need of and wanting employees with soft skills in addition to the historical technical skills that have always been in demand.

Skills.jpegFrom my work with clients in the construction industry, I hear CFOs and controllers say all the time that wish their staff had better communication, decision-making, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. They’re at a loss as to why applicants look so good on paper but once the applicant actually gets into the work, all these soft skills are lacking. At that point, there are only a few options open: do the job yourself, get the staff training, or fire the staff.  CFOs and controllers want applicants to be able to be prepared to jump right into the job, and so these soft skills are rising in priority when hiring applicants.

An article from Robert Half Finance & Accounting entitled “CFOs Seek Finance Professionals with Mix of Hard and Soft Skills” provided results of their survey and found that 54% of the CFOs interviewed (2,200 CFOs from a stratified random sample of companies in more than 20 of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas) gave equal weight to both specialized and non-technical (soft) skills when interviewing finance and accounting staff. When it comes to filling management level positions, 50% of those CFOs said both technical and nontechnical skills were of equal importance.

The following five nontechnical skills were identified in the Robert Half survey as being essential to accounting and finance professionals: business acumen, leadership, communication, relationship building and intellectual curiosity.

The recent LinkedIn survey of nearly 300 hiring managers resulted in similar findings, as it rated the need for various soft skills by position levels, and ranked the most in-demand skills as well as the least in-demand skills. Perhaps most importantly, the survey determined that a lack of soft skills is clearly linked to a company’s productivity. Almost 60 percent of survey respondents indicated that the lack of soft skills in candidates limits their company’s productivity.

The great thing is that now there is a platform on which staff and employees can obtain training on soft skills. The CPA Center of Excellence® has interactive online, competency-based courses on six of the most important soft skills, with a seventh on Ethics to be available soon.

I tested the Ethics course and have taken the Leadership course, and found these competency-based courses to be the best professional education I’ve ever experienced. They are engaging, entertaining, informative and very well presented. The high level of interactivity caused me to learn more effectively and retain more materials than other classroom or online courses I’ve taken. It was also great to see other participants’ ideas and thoughts as you progressed through these courses. The competency-based courses were developed to obtain knowledge from both the course content and the other participants’ ideas and thoughts. These courses are a great way to learn the soft skills that employers are looking for. Once the course is completed, the participant will receive a digital badge which validates successful completion.

If you don’t want to be left behind in this ever-changing business environment, or just want to strengthen your skill set, think about the soft skills you have, which ones need improved, consider some assessment and new training options to get you where you need to be and, more importantly, to where your employer wants you to be.

#competencybasededucation #softskills #skills #technicalskills #HR #employers #training
1 comment



10-11-2016 09:27

I agree with the assessment that skills outside of the proverbial "number crunching" are a weak point of new, inexperienced staff.  But pushing the blame downward only is not the way to go.  To anyone that feels like their people do not perform, ask yourself, "how are we training our people?"  Believe it or not, top level executive management were not top level executive management material when they started.  They pushed themselves, learned from others, made mistakes, and applied all those lessons to their toolkit. Suggested reading is a book I recently wrapped up by Ben Horowitz, The Hard Thing about Hard Things. The book is 100% focused to the role and actions of the CEO, and training and executive integration.  It's not that these lower level people do not have the capability, they just do not have the ability at that point in time for the CFO's needs. The tipping point for this change does not happen on a consistent basis without support and direction.