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How can the Finance & Accountancy sector recruit in a candidate-short market?

by Jonathan Moss | 12 April 2022

Typically, the finance and accountancy divisions of many organisations are finding it difficult to recruit staff in a candidate-short market. Only by highlighting the potential job prospects available and structured career development plans, coupled with more flexibility and improved financial packages, will they be able to secure the best available talent.

Like many other UK specialisms, the finance and accountancy sector has seen continued growth in 2022 after overcoming many of the challenges created by the pandemic. As such, businesses are breaking from the cautious approach that they displayed over the last couple of years to take advantage of the significant opportunities in the marketplace.

However, one of the main obstacles in ensuring future growth is the shortage in skilled candidates which has made it difficult for the finance and accountancy field to take on the required needs. Without taking steps to address this problem, these companies may struggle to achieve their ambitions.

Here, we will look at the potential reasons why so many organisations are experiencing talent shortages at the moment, and explore some of the most important steps they can take to put themselves at the front of the queue for the best available candidates.

The challenges facing the current hiring market

Even though there have been signs of slow improvement since the start of 2022, the candidate shortage remains as challenging as it has been at any point in the last 20 years.

As a result, businesses are more reliant on specialist recruitment support from firms such as Sellick Partnership than ever before. This is due to our extensive coverage over the last two decades, with an abundance of market knowledge and candidate/client relationships.

Despite the recognised need for assistance, it’s still helpful to understand why these challenges have emerged over the last few years:

  • Many individuals who are established in finance and accountancy roles are reluctant to leave their current positions, due to the uncertain conditions that have affected the economy in the last few years, coupled with the instability moving forward.
  • As many businesses are thriving, employees are happier to remain in their current roles and reap the benefits with regards to internal promotional opportunities as well as receiving their bonuses, rather than moving elsewhere.
  • Those that have established their position within a company may subsequently experience more flexibility. Therefore, they can become reluctant to move to another company where they may need to return to the office and feel they have to exceed expectations to gain the type of flexibility they previously had.

As a result of all of these trends, it is crucial for businesses that are looking to hire to ensure they are creating an employment offering that provides individuals with a strong incentive to choose their business, rather than simply relying on the assumption that the talent will come to them because of their growth plans, brand or culture.

The growing importance of salaries

Naturally, one of the most important factors to consider for new recruits is salary and remuneration. This has always been an important factor for employers, but the challenges of the current market are making this particular issue more central for candidates than ever before.

One of the key factors in this trend is the rising rate of inflation and the growing cost of living crisis, with the Bank of England recently increasing interest rates for the third time since December and the price of everyday essentials, from food and petrol to mortgage repayments, all escalating as a result of macroeconomic factors such as Brexit and the Russia-Ukraine war.

These issues are impacting an entire population, regardless of salary levels - and candidates are pricing these factors into their decision-making when looking for a new role.

As such, employers are acknowledging that they may have to pay the market rate and therefore put more consideration into the financial package being offered. 

In response to this:

  • Businesses are now aware that they have to put pay details front and centre when it comes to the recruitment process. They have become more accepting that salary will be one of the main discussion points during the interview stage.
  • Many companies are making the deliberate choice to overpay for candidates relative to their level, providing salaries that are significantly above the market rate, knowing that this may be necessary to secure the best available candidates when there are fewer alternatives.
  • Acting fast has become a priority when choosing a candidate and offering a role. Remote interviews are providing speed, that on top of the pre-screening and background-checking of candidates by recruitment firms, ensures they are able to get their offer in front of the chosen applicant as quickly as possible.
  • We have found that companies are working with recruitment businesses – like Sellick Partnership - to devise a salary structure and budget that can allow them to compete for the best available talent, without creating discord or internal issues among existing employees.

The simple truth is that in the current economic climate, it’s only to be expected that financial packages will be a key consideration for skilled finance professionals, and candidates are displaying transparency around this. If two offers are otherwise equal, applicants are likely to choose the role that provides a higher salary — and employers need to adjust to the reality of this supply-and-demand model.

Creating a flexible and rounded employment offering

Although important, pay is not the only way for finance and accountancy departments to create an employment offering that meets the needs and expectations of clients.

With more and more companies and workers now understanding the importance of a good work-life balance and a focus on mental health, businesses throughout the finance sector are adjusting to work smarter, offering greater flexibility than ever before on home working — even in sales roles, when it was once presumed that being based in the office was an essential prerequisite.

Career development has also come to the forefront to a greater extent than ever before. Although this was always a key part of any recruitment offer, it has become even more crucial, as the best and most ambitious professionals are unlikely to want to change jobs unless they can step into a role that offers them plenty of scope to receive training and mentorship, broaden their skills, climb the ladder and feel valued and rewarded for their work.

Conclusion

Despite the financial package being imperative to candidates, they are also looking for flexible, forward-thinking roles that offer development opportunities that align with their personal goals.

Some of the changes that have been highlighted may be more difficult for financial businesses and accountancy firms to take on than others. Companies may require the support and assistance of a specialist recruiter to help them overhaul and modernise their recruitment offering. However, only recognising the scale of the challenge will they be able to overcome it.

As 2022 progresses, it is clear that there remains substantial scope for growth for the finance and accountancy sector. By modernising their recruitment infrastructure to meet the needs of candidates, they can give themselves the best chance of getting the people they need on board to maximise their potential.

For more advice on how finance and accountancy firms can recruit and thrive even in the face of candidate shortages, get in touch with Sellick Partnership. Visit our Finance & Accountancy sector recruitment page to find out more about our process and services, or explore our online resources to get further insights into the current state of the sector.