Four Soft Skills CPAs Need to Have in a Crisis

by Diane Thompson, freelance writer | June 19, 2020

Soft skills refer to non-specialized qualities that enable professionals to lead and work well with others. They’re a lot harder to measure than technical abilities, and a list of all of them can get very long. That being said, different situations call for different soft skills. These are four that CPAs and other accounting professionals need to rely on during this particularly challenging time in history:

1. Communication

With many people working from home, communication by and within organizations is more important than ever. Computer programs like Slack and Skype have become indispensable for facilitating collaboration between employers and employees. CPAs can also take advantage of these technologies to communicate with clients, given that many businesses are currently struggling with their finances.

Overseeing daily operations from a distance can be extremely challenging from a leader’s standpoint. You can’t physically supervise your employees, which might lead to a dip in productivity. Each person’s working environment is also out of the manager’s control, and there are far more distractions at home than in an office. It’s your job to keep communication lines open to keep employees and other stakeholders informed on all aspects of the business and to stay connected with each other. Host regular video or call conferences for your team to update each other on your work progress or even informal check-ups to maintain engagement.

2. Empathy

Empathy is your ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. That isn’t particularly difficult given that we’re all waiting out the same pandemic. However, people react differently to a crisis. Your employees might be experiencing varying levels of anxiety, which is understandable during these unprecedented times.

For example, you might have an employee with children at home. They’re probably having to homeschool their kids on top of their work responsibilities. The added stress can seep into the quality of their work. If that’s the case, extend your empathy by decreasing their workload or adjusting their schedule to best fit their needs. This means that your response is not going to be the same for everyone. Empathy is a combination of listening and accommodating employees’ unique situations.

3. Resilience

Economic experts predict that the country is entering a recession, and everyone will be affected. That could spell hard times for businesses, including accounting firms, with Marcus explaining that employment hours may be reduced, which can lead to lower pay. Unemployment and widespread layoffs are also some of the consequences of a company’s cost-cutting solutions, which will only get worse if a recession does happen.

It’s easy to think that businesses that need financial advice mean more clients for firms. But according to a small survey of influential CPAs cited by Nevada Today, one firm has had to adjust their client fees to accommodate struggling businesses. Firms are taking on more work while getting paid less. This trend will likely continue for the foreseeable future as businesses all over the country recover from the economic downturn.

4. Adaptability

Accountants have been quick to adjust to stricter regulations. For instance, most firms prioritized their employees’ safety by immediately implementing remote work. Internships were canceled, meetings were moved to the virtual space and services are now being offered online.

A recent interview with CPAs by Accounting Today showed how these new models are likely to continue in the future. Flexible work, automation, online learning to maintain technical skills and other emergent technologies will pave the way for the industry. The ability to adjust quickly to evolving conditions is a mark of a great leader. This crisis is no different. It just means you need to make decisions on the fly and find creative ways to solve new problems as they come.

Diane  Thompson

Diane Thompson

Diane Thompson is a freelance writer and business analyst. She can be reached at

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