More than just making positions hard to fill, talent shortages affect nearly all aspects of today’s hiring practices.
Hiring is hard, particularly in a candidate-driven market like today’s. While the national unemployment rate remains low, the rates for specialized positions, such as accountants and auditors, financial analysts, and compliance officers, are even lower. The dearth of available candidates and the evolving skill sets companies need make recruiting especially difficult.
The talent shortages confronting employers today create diverse challenges. Following are five prominent hiring trends in finance and accounting, each one influenced by these shortages.
1. Employers sweeten their compensation packages.
The competition to hire top performers is intense and, according to the 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance Professionals, could become even more so. To stand out from their competitors, employers are upping the salaries they offer. But this is just the beginning. Firms relying solely on higher salary levels risk losing out to organizations that also offer robust benefits and perks.
“We’re seeing job seekers take an increasingly holistic view when assessing whether to accept a job offer,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half. “Salary is still king, but professionals are paying more attention to other factors that can affect their quality of life.”
Two points of particular emphasis for job seekers are work-life balance and career paths. Professionals want their employer to help them meet the demands they face both inside and outside of the office, for example through arrangements such as flexible scheduling and telecommuting. Candidates also prioritize working for an organization that sees a defined career path for them and provide the resources needed to help them reach their goals.
2. Firms quicken the hiring process.
The demand for talented financial professionals means highly skilled candidates frequently receive multiple job offers. To avoid losing their top choice to another firm, companies find they need to accelerate their hiring process.
Moving fast offers an added benefit: Employers that move quickly avoid alienating applicants. Conversely, firms that drag out the process foster a reputation as an organization that is difficult to work with and doesn’t value professionals and their time and career needs.
3. Hiring expectations change.
While unrealistic in nearly any environment, talent shortages make waiting for a candidate who checks off every hiring criteria a losing strategy. Many managers recognize this and give themselves an edge by focusing on the must-haves and training on the nice-to-haves. For example, companies prioritize specific areas of expertise and fit with the corporate culture and then help new hires develop needed software skills.
4. Professional development moves to the forefront.
Noted McDonald, “Highly skilled professionals want assurance that the company will invest in their careers and help them keep their skills current.” Research suggests employers are responding: A Robert Half Management Resources survey of CFOs found companies were nearly three times as likely to increase than decrease their professional development budget this year. Most commonly, employers offer their financial teams training in compliance and technology, the research found.
A robust professional development program needs to be more than training, though. Fortunately, you don’t need to break the bank to provide a strong program for your staff. Here are options:
- Assign projects forcing employees to expand their skills and expertise.
- Facilitate mentorships, including arrangements where professionals earlier in their careers take a lead role sharing insights with more experienced colleagues.
- Implement role rotation, allowing your team to gain exposure and lend their expertise to different finance and accounting functions.
- Invite guest speakers to present at staff meetings.
- Ask individuals returning from a conference to share their key learnings with colleagues.
5. Interim staffing meets a variety needs.
Companies benefit from working with project professionals in a number of ways. Interim staff can provide expertise unavailable in-house and support priority initiatives such as a merger integration or system upgrade. In addition to also covering for staffing gaps, they can step in while a hiring search is being conducted and be considered for temporary-to-hire opportunities.
One other trend to know: Retention becomes an even greater focus.
As much as firms are ramping up their efforts to attract skilled candidates, they’re finding they must pay the same attention to retaining their top performers. Companies that can’t keep talented employees on board will face the noted hiring challenges all over again trying to replace them.
Carrie Wentling is the director of member services for Financial Executives International.•