Thousands of accountancy graduates are entering the workforce each year without the one trait that clients value most highly – good listening skills.
An analysis of 26 Australian accountancy courses by University of South Australia adjunct researcher Dr Alan Reddrop reveals a major industry requirement is missing from their curricula. Just one reference to ‘listening’ in Australian accountancy schools’ curricula was found.
In 2009, the nation’s professional accounting bodies, the Institute of Chartered Accountants, and CPA Australia stipulated that to receive accreditation, courses should “address generic skills including the interpersonal, particularly the ability to listen effectively”.
Dr Reddrop says this requirement was dropped in subsequent years.
“It is also concerning that in a recent study, accountancy graduates regarded listening and reading as the least important communication skills related to employability.”
Dr Reddrop, a former business adviser with the South Australian government, says accountants’ clients’ views have been ignored.
His internet survey of 140 business leaders followed by 59 interviews with CEOs and accountancy firm partners revealed the importance assigned to listening skills.
“You’ve got to talk about things that are relevant to the client and 80 per cent of that comes down to using the right proportion, the ears versus the mouth,” one accountant said.
Another experienced adviser said of his colleagues: “They often give advice which is premature, off target, sounds plausible, but doesn’t work and can’t be implemented, simply because they haven’t taken the time to come to grips with the real issue or understand the person.”
Dr Reddrop says as artificial intelligence erodes accountants’ technical skills, soft skills such as listening will be even more valued, a factor that educators need to recognise.
“Unfortunately, as an earlier study found, accounting educators by and large are an ageing, change-resisting faculty, which limits the power and will to change the status quo,” he says.
His research is published in the Australasian Accounting, Business and Finance Journal at https://ro.uow.edu.au/aabfj/vol13/iss1/5