MENLO PARK, Calif., Oct. 26, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- When it comes to career development for accountants, the "ABCs" may matter as much as the "123s", a new Accountemps survey suggests. Thirty-one percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) interviewed named communication as the area where employees need to improve the most. Twenty-six percent of executives would like to see stronger leadership abilities, while 14 percent said gaining functional, job-specific skills is the top priority for their department's staff.
The survey was developed by Accountemps, the world's first and largest specialized staffing service for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on interviews with 1,400 CFOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.
CFOs were asked, "Which one of the following is the area where you'd like to see your employees in your department improve the most?" Their responses:
Functional, job-related skills
Don't know/no answer
"No matter how skilled someone is in a particular job, if he or she is a poor communicator, advancement opportunities are limited," said Max Messmer, chairman of Accountemps and author of Managing Your Career For Dummies®, 2nd Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.). "The ability to effectively convey a point verbally and in writing can be a key predictor of leadership potential."
Accountemps offers seven steps to help professionals polish their communication skills:
- Sweat the small stuff. Whether you're drafting a report or email, always proofread. Even minor typos and grammatical errors send an unfavorable impression. Vague or unclear instructions can lead to costly misunderstandings and unnecessary back and forth.
- Hear them out. Communicating well is as much about listening as it is about talking. Focus on what is being said rather than trying to formulate a response in your head while the other person is still speaking.
- Watch your nonverbal cues. Poor body language -- crossed arms, fidgety fingers or a tense expression -- can be distracting. And nothing sends the message that you're disinterested more than looking out the window, checking your smartphone or glancing at your watch while someone's talking.
- Focus on the audience. Know what will appeal to them, and frame your discussion in that context. Keep information relevant and concise, using key points to support your message.
- Consider the context. No single method of communication is most effective in every situation. If the message does not require a lengthy explanation, then an email or memo is probably fine. However, if the message is more complex or could easily be misunderstood, a telephone or in-person conversation is likely best.
- Ask for help. Choose a mentor whose communication skills you admire, and emulate his or her style. Request feedback from him or her and other confidants so you can continually improve.
- Practice. Take a public speaking course and rehearse presentations in front of the mirror or with a friend. Volunteer to draft memos or other communications that will help you hone your writing skills.
About the Survey
The national study was developed by Accountemps. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on 1,400 telephone interviews with CFOs from a random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees. For the study to be statistically representative and ensure that companies from all segments are represented, the sample was stratified by geographic region and number of employees. The results were then weighted to reflect the proper proportion of employees within each region.