Accountancy firms are looking to hire more rounded individuals, with communication skills a key asset potential employees must possess, says Francis Mainoo, executive performance coach and head of sales at Moore Kingston Smith.
The hiring process in the accounting industry has evolved from just looking for Russel group university candidates. Instead of purely focusing on educational background, the firm considers a candidate holistically, including looking at life skills, hobbies and habits that produce a more rounded person, notes Mainoo.
“These activities mean individuals will have built up some of those listening skills, built up their communication skills, to enable them to add significant value when they’re in front of clients and when they’re working with colleagues,” says Mainoo.
Josh Perry, head of R&D at Sedulo, echoes this view and adds: “It’s looking for people who are qualified to do the job that will enjoy engaging with people all day, every day.”
“If you don’t like that part about the way we like to deliver our service to customers, you’re going to hate coming to work,” he adds.
At Sedulo, it is important that staff enjoy the client engagement side of the work, and Perry says they are upfront with this with candidates from the beginning.
“Even if someone is technically excellent but wants to hide behind their emails, it is never going to work out because interacting with clients is at the heart of what we do,” notes Perry.
“Moore Kingston Smith’s learning and development team has more than tripled in size in the last three years and a large part of the curriculum they provide is based on the learnings from their client listening programme.
Mainoo has also delivered training for 64 countries across the Moore Global network. Moore Kingston Smith LLP is an independent accountancy firm with six offices in and around London and the M25. A leading member of the Moore Global Network – an international family made up of over 30,000 people across more than 100 countries. Together, Moore Kingston Smith and the wider Moore International network have ensured there are training programmes and teams in place to support the enhancement of their employees’ interaction skills.
The importance of empathy and trust
Mainoo believes that alignment is key with clients, and businesses are now looking for accountants who are willing to go on their journey with them.
When he is coaching and developing partners, Mainoo is keen to highlight that when work is going well, it can be easy, but when a challenge arises, that is where advisors are needed.
””It is having that rapport and that empathy, so you can be a sounding board to clients during turbulent times,” he states.
Perry argues that clients now expect more from their accountants because of the increased access to information accountants have, courtesy of the internet.
The expectation is for accountants to keep tabs on all information relating to a client’s business. R&D is a key example of this – until recently, accountants did not actively follow this topic, but this has shifted because of the abundance of information available to them.
The increased scrutiny around R&D tax relief has meant accountants must “hold their client’s hand and reassure them” about how it impacts them and businesses more broadly.
Mainoo adds that some companies in the past may have “gone to the wall” because they have been in denial and did not confront issues. Clients need to know they can go to their accountant early to address problems.
“You’re not going to be judged and are in a safe space, where you feel that your advisor is on the journey with you. But they also recognise there are barriers and there are the lines that you don’t cross when trying to be too friendly,” he notes.
Internal communication skills
Perry believes that firms should want their employees to feel like they are valued members of the team.
When Perry is looking to build a team, professional empathy is an integral characteristic he looks for as it is vital to maintaining internal and external relationships.
“Understanding someone else’s job apart from your own and understanding sometimes they can’t come back to your email because they are drowning in something else,” he argues.
“If someone’s having a tough day being around your colleagues who can cheer you up is important. If someone’s having a good day, it’s important that the colleagues see that person is having a good day and celebrate with them.”
Mainoo says effective communication within a team allows for knowledge sharing.
“We’ve got to share the best practices, you’ve got to understand how individuals have overcome and been able to connect with clients, even though we’re all individuals.”
Mainoo argues that employees should strive to find their “authentic” working self.
“Don’t try and sell as I sell, don’t look at what I’m doing, look at what’s working and what others are doing, and then shape it for yourself,” he says.
This communication and knowledge sharing within a team, allows individuals to grow and develop, providing them with a better opportunity for success in their roles.