Few Finance, Accounting Teams to Receive Soft Skills Training in 2013

Poor interpersonal skills thwart career advancement for financial professionals

By SHRM Online staff Jun 20, 2013

Chief financial officers (CFOs) say the top reason their employees fail to advance is poor interpersonal skills, according to survey results released June 19, 2013, by temporary-staffing firm Accountemps, based in Menlo Park, Calif.

Yet, even though 30 percent of responding CFOs cited poor interpersonal skills, only one in five (19 percent) executives said their organization is likely to invest in soft skills training for accounting and finance staff in the next two years. Still, this is an increase over the 8 percent reported in 2008.

“Accounting and finance professionals have gradually assumed increased visibility, expanded roles and greater influence within their firms over the past several years, making soft skills an essential competency today,” said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Human Resources Kit For Dummies, 3rd ed. (John Wiley & Sons, 2012). “Providing employees with the tools to become better communicators, consensus builders and negotiators should be a priority for any organization.”

The survey was developed by Accountemps, a specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals, and was conducted by an independent research firm. Results are based on interviews with more than 2,100 CFOs from a random sample of companies in more than 20 of the largest U.S. markets.

Other reasons noted for these professionals’ lack of advancement include:

  • Poor work ethic (25 percent).
  • Failure to develop new skills (23 percent).
  • Failure to enhance visibility within the organization (15 percent).
  • Failure to proactively seek promotions and career advancement (5 percent).

Respondents were also asked what types of skills their organizations were likely to invest in for their internal accounting and finance staffs within the next two years. The top four responses were:

  • Accounting or finance (32 percent).
  • Information technology (29 percent).
  • Soft skills (communication and interpersonal abilities).
  • Management (17 percent).

Messmer added: “It's a misperception that soft skills can't be learned or honed. There are a wide range of training options, including in-person and online courses, conferences and workshops. Launching a targeted mentoring program in which professionals with well-developed interpersonal abilities are paired with promising staff members can be a particularly effective strategy.”​


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