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Accountancy and finance - are you planning your workforce strategy?

By Karen Young, Director of Hays Accountancy & Finance 

The Hays UK Salary & Recruiting Trends 2018 guide revealed a cautiously optimistic outlook for the year ahead, with 57% of accountancy and finance employers expecting to recruit in the coming year. However, despite this positive feeling, both employers and candidates we spoke to felt there were challenges ahead.

One of the most prevalent concerns was around the widespread influence on skills shortages in the market. 68% of employers said they had experienced moderate to extreme skills shortages in accountancy and finance in the past year, impacting productivity and contributing to workplace stress. The shortage of suitable applicants, which 76% of employers said was their top recruitment challenge, is particularly impactful on areas showing increased activity, such as payroll and audit, risk and compliance. This is leading to wage pressures and subsequent increases to salary offerings. Payroll professionals for instance had a boost of 4.2% to their salaries in an attempt to attract skilled professionals. This increase in demand, partly due to legislative changes and increased reporting requirements, resulted in salary rises far in excess of the average for accountancy and finance employees (1.4%).

The worse skills shortages are, the more in-demand talented finance professionals become, leading to further wage pressure and fierce competition to find the necessary talent. Here are three recommendations from the UK salary guide to help you overcome skills shortages and attract the staff you need:

Make workforce planning a key strategic priority

Planning your workforce for the year ahead (and beyond) needs to be a component of every business strategy. Understanding the wide range of workforce solutions available should be a priority if you want to find the best option for your organisation. If you need a qualified accountant for a particular project, but don’t expect the need to continue, consider a temp. But if you are continually hiring temps to deal with increased demand, a permanent member of staff may be a more cost effective solution. If you need workload support in the short-term, but expect to need more strategic support in the long run, hiring a junior, part-qualified accountant or even an apprentice and investing in their ongoing development may be the way forward.

Strategically balancing your short and long-term requirements like this will help you to identify the most effective strategies for recruitment, allowing you to mitigate effects of the skills shortages while continuing to meet business activity needs and fulfil key objectives.

Invest in your employer brand to compete for talent

Ensuring that you have a strong employer brand has never been more essential given how prevalent skills shortages are. As we noted with payroll, competition for candidates has intensified and employers should target their offering to appeal to the specific type of candidate they want to attract.

Having a strong employee value proposition is central to this. Salary levels need to be benchmarked accurately, while progression opportunities and training investment need to be well-promoted. Employees want to be able to get an insight into what it is truly like to work at your organisation. In particular, make sure you clearly publicise any benefit your organisation can offer which involves flexible working or working from home, as 40% of accountancy and finance professionals currently rate their work-life balance as very poor to average. Professionals who view your organisation as one which values the needs and desires of its employees will be far more likely to apply to your roles.

Utilise contingent workers for more than just projects

Employers should reconsider their approach to hiring temporary workers, and indeed many organisations are already doing so. Instead of using temps or interims to plug gaps, add resource to key projects or react to peaks in demand, they can be used to help alleviate some of the pressure caused by increased workloads. Temporary professionals hired specifically to handle the everyday tasks in your organisation will free up your permanent staff to work on strategically valuable projects. This will allow your teams to focus on growing your organisation and help you to retain critical knowledge within your business once the project goes live, rather than risk it leaving your business with the temp or interim you employed.

These three techniques could help you plan the best course of action for your organisation. By making informed decisions, you can not only track down the right talent for your organisation, but also improve the morale of your existing employees to help you retain your key talent.

For more information about how to become an employer of choice, and to discover detailed insights into the accountancy and finance sector as a whole, request your copy of the salary guide at hays.co.uk/salary-guide.

If you are looking for support with your recruitment needs in this field, please contact your local office.

About this author

Karen is a Director and recruiting expert at Hays Accountancy & Finance. She provides strategic leadership to a team of 400 accountancy and finance recruitment professionals across 100 UK offices. With 20 years of finance recruitment experience, Karen has a track record of recruiting top finance talent for businesses across a range of industry sectors, and is a trusted industry voice on career planning and market insights.

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