A common misconception is that accountants are often introverts who prefer to work in isolation. The truth is something else entirely, especially in today’s business climate.
Accountants are essential, active members of corporate teams, and as such, they must constantly interact and communicate with people. They no longer hold the unfortunate reputation of being relegated to the back office, perusing stacks of numbers beneath the harsh light of a desk lamp.
Today, employers show increasing interest in candidates who possess excellent communication skills. Advanced degrees, such as an online Master of Accountancy program, offer training for communication in accounting and many other sought-after skills. The goal is to put candidates on the road to rewarding and successful accounting careers.
Who Do Accountants Communicate With?
As part of their day-to-day work, accountants must communicate with many people, including both internal and external stakeholders. Internal colleagues may include an accountant’s employees or management personnel. They may also be colleagues from other departments who need accounting advice on topics such as insurance or marketing.
External colleagues may include corporate and individual clients, financial agencies, governmental agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and perhaps even the public. In short, an accountant may be required to communicate with any person or entity who has the need or the right to know about an organization’s financial aspects and activities.
According to the American Institute of CPAs, the accounting communication skills needed to address all of the aforementioned internal and external audiences fall into three primary types.
- Interpersonal: Accountants should be able to communicate with colleagues from different company areas regarding various business issues. They should also be able to work well with other colleagues in teams.
- Written: Accountants may prepare and report on a plethora of written materials. These may include financial reports, strategic plans, proposals and memos. If these are poorly written, they may lack clarity and reflect poorly on an accountant’s credibility.
- Verbal: Accountants should be able to present complex information and statistics in terms that are understandable to everyone. Doing so requires not only good communication skills but also a knowledge of the audience and what they need. With some preparation, good communicators can deliver their message with confidence and impact.
Accountant Communication Skills
The accountant communication skills needed to deliver accounting-specific information can be considered hard skills, or a skill that requires specific training and expertise. One example would be a thorough knowledge of general accounting terminology. In a recent article, CPA Sheila Shanker lists some essential skills for effective communication in accounting and why they are important.
- Helping management make good decisions: The most important use of accounting data, says Shanker, is to communicate meaningful information, allowing management to make good decisions. Information that does not make sense to a non-accounting audience becomes just an unhelpful list of numbers. The accountant’s job is to untangle this information in an accurate, digestible way.
- Showing investors how the business is doing: Required reports, such as balance sheets, income statements and cash flow statements, must be presented in the clearest possible manner, keeping in mind that most of the audience probably will not have an accounting background.
- Proving you have paid your taxes: Tax information should be clearly communicated to government entities, which often have different requirements for reporting. Accountants should understand these requirements and make sure communication is carried out accordingly.
- Qualifying for a loan: Information about a business’s financial situation, such as cash flow, short-term accounts receivable and payables, must be communicated clearly to existing or potential lenders. If the communication is unclear or inaccurate, the business may not qualify for the loan.
Accounting Communication Soft Skills
Along with accountant communication skills, professionals also need soft skills, or general communication abilities to help collaborate effectively with others. The website Small Business Trends lists many general ways to communicate effectively in the workplace.
- Displaying confidence and seriousness: Uncertainty can lead team members to discount your information.
- Using simple words: When ambiguous or overly complex language is used, colleagues may not be able to understand you.
- Using visuals: When your audience can see as well as hear your message, comprehension improves.
- Listening to your team members: Communication in accounting works both ways. Make sure you are actively listening to your colleagues and encouraging them to open up.
- Using body language: Stand and sit up straight when you speak. Use smiles, eye contact and handshakes to instill a sense of trust and competence.
- Using the appropriate tone of voice: A proper tone can effectively communicate your message without discouraging or intimidating your audience.
- Avoiding mumbling: Your audience must be able to hear and understand you clearly.
- Gesticulating: Nonverbal gestures and signals can hold the audience’s attention and lend gravity to your subject matter.
Efficient and Effective
Those who demonstrate effective communication in accounting are more likely to achieve professional success. They are just as likely to play an essential role in the success of their organizations.
As the website Small Business Trends points out, “Remember that the point of working as a team is to share ideas and boost productivity. When effective communication in the workplace is hampered, it can sidetrack the entire effort.” By honing their communication skills, accountants can do their part in building efficient, productive operations.
An Accounting Education to Help You Excel
Effective communication is integral to a career in accounting, which is why students should seek an education that values building interpersonal, verbal and written skills.
The was designed to help career changers with no accounting experience learn both hard and soft accounting communication skills. The program also features a convenient online curriculum with courses such as Business Law for Accountants, Advanced Financial Accounting and Taxation of Businesses.
The University of North Dakota’s Nistler College of Business & Public Administration is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB International), which places it in the top 5% of business schools around the world.
Discover how the UND online Master of Accountancy program helps students learn key accounting principles and acquire skills for professional success.
American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), “In-Demand Communication Skills” Houston Chronicle, “Importance of Effective Communication in Accounting” Hubstaff, “The Benefits of Good Communication in Accounting and How to Do it Well”