The value of people skills

Stephen Flatman explains how you can develop your soft skills and improve your career chances.

At CIMA we are focused on helping the profession move beyond the traditional view of finance to rethink, relearn and reshape what we know about management accounting.

This ‘re-imagining’ requires us all to be open to developing skills that we may not have been focused on before, such as people skills.

People skills, or soft skills as they are often referred to, are the non-technical skills that are essential to the career of any finance professional.

They are the underlying skills that power your technical knowledge and know-ho.

The CGMA Competency Framework, on which the CIMA syllabus and professional qualification are based, specifies that they include influence; negotiation and decision-making; communication; and collaboration and partnering.

Some definitions

According to the CGMA Competency Framework, “influence is the process of establishing and managing both internal and external relationships to meet organisational objectives and governance responsibilities”.

It describes negotiation and decision-making as “the ability to use proper influence skills to obtain positive outcomes and make decisions that align with the strategic direction of the organisation”.

Communication “is the ability to translate and convey financial and non-financial information effectively to all levels both within and outside the organisation”.

And finally, collaboration and partnering “is the ability to establish relationships and cross-functional partnerships through demonstrated integrity to create value for the business”.

So ow does the CIMA professional qualification help students build soft skills, and how do they fit into the career of a future finance profession in a digital landscape?

People skills permeate every level of the CIMA qualification.

For example, at Operational Level, in the Enterprise pillar: Role of the finance function subject, you will learn how and why a finance function operates.

You will learn the skills to influence your organisation by providing data driven insights that support the decision-making process of senior members of your business.

Once you’re ready to sit your Operation case study exam, which simulates a working day in a fictional organisation, you will get to showcase all the ways you’re able to support the company with all the skills you have gained, including people skills.

Once you’ve finished this level and worked your way through the exam blueprint you will be able to confidently make ‘I Can’ statements including: “I can prepare information to support operational decisions” – this statement exemplifies communication skills.

And “I can apply appropriate techniques that support short-term decision-making”, which shows skills in negotiation and decision-making.

Businesses still need accountants and always will, but non-traditional skills are now as much in demand as core technical skills and the mandate that accountants have will continue to widen.

So, to support you and employers all over the world we will be updating our syllabus on rolling basis from this year.

This will allow you to always stay up-to-date with the latest thinking and practices as you work your way through the CIMA professional qualification.

We will also continue to work closely with employers to make sure we know their needs as well as support you in your career goals.

To learn more about the role of people skills in the future world of finance, visit our website to download the latest version of the CGMA Competency Framework.

  • Stephen Flatman, Vice President, Examinations, Management Accounting, The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants