Quit Calling Them Soft Skills

I’ve heard the term “soft skills” come up a lot lately. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read on. Soft skills refers to all of those skills that CPAs need that are not the traditional technical accounting knowledge, number crunching, tax citation skills we all learn in order to pass the CPA exam. Soft skills includes things like listening; communicating, including in person which some millennials seem to think is a last resort; and making presentations, which many CPAs rank up there with getting a root canal. Soft skills also includes all of those other skills you need as a professional accountant in business – giving feedback, negotiating, working as part of a team – in other words, being a business person.

And that is my problem. These skills are not soft skills. In fact, they are hard or more people would have them. And these skills are not unnecessary “touchy-feely,” “warm-fuzzy” generating skills. They are very simply good business skills. Actually, they are just business skills, and today they are necessary business skills.

Increasingly businesses are made up of matrix organizations that include not only employees of the companies, but customers, vendors and many other business partners. These disparate parts must be cohesively joined together to make a successful business, and it takes all of the business skills mentioned above plus more to successfully do that. And that is my point. As long as we keep calling them soft skills, then the skills will somehow be considered optional for success. Once we start calling them business skills, no one would dare allow themselves to be called deficient in something so key to being called a business professional accountant.

One Comment on “Quit Calling Them Soft Skills”

  1. Alan says:

    Based on my understanding, the difference between hard skills and soft skills roots from academia’s hard sciences and soft sciences. From this root, anything that is “hard” requires precise, technical knowledge; anything that is “soft” is more open-ended without such rigid constraints. Basically, with hard skills you either know it or you don’t know it; with soft skills if you don’t know it you can compensate for it with sufficient cognitive abilities. This also means that, through research and synthesis, those that are “soft” may eventually become “hard.”

    I agree with you that business skills, in the context of a static environment, is considered as a hard skill. But I disagree such that business skills, in the context of emerging workforce generations and a globalizing economy, is still a soft skill.

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