Confidence is improving and hiring intentions are rising. While redundancies in certain areas are still taking place, for the most part they are offset by voluntary turnover and newly created positions in organisations that are quietly doing well.
New Financial Year budgets are also enabling hiring managers to strategically expand their team. In addition, many companies reduced headcount to the point where they are now too lean to meet deadlines or handle the current volume of work and this is also leading to increased hiring needs.
Our 2016 Hays Salary Guide, released in June, shows that 26% of accountancy & finance departments intend to increase their permanent headcount in the year ahead, exceeding the 12% who expect to decrease it. The use of temporary or contract staff will also increase in 15% of accountancy & finance departments, which is greater than the 10% where the use of such resources is expected to fall. 60% say skill shortages will impact the effective operation of their business or department.
While most of these newly created roles are full-time, we have also seen some part-time roles, both temporary and permanent, in organisations where workloads have increased but are not yet at the point of requiring a new full-time staff member. Temporary roles are also the focus in Western Australia where there are a high number of skilled and immediately available senior candidates. We are still seeing some redundancies in this state at the senior qualified level, including CFOs.
In most other locations, the senior finance market remains highly competitive with fewer candidates available. Larger companies typically favour candidates from a Big 4 or top tier firm making their first move into commerce.
The SME market is considerably busier than it was and employers prefer relevant industry experience above anything else. Current vacancies usually suit an all-rounder, and are often leadership roles that require someone who can put financial control processes in place in response to business growth.
In the accountancy support market, permanent hiring has increased as business confidence improves. Thus the temporary-to-permanent trend is starting to reverse.
Employers do however remain very selective when they hire permanently. They request high profile candidates with demonstrated loyalty to previous employers and stable career histories who can transition directly into the role. A cultural and technical fit is also a must.
We are also seeing a requirement for candidates with stakeholder management experience. Employers want candidates who can plan ahead, reduce costs and help increase sales.
However available candidates do not always match this requirement. As a result, more employers are tapping into the passive market. Companies are also starting to take an excessively long period of time to identify the right candidate.
We are also seeing more finance managers cross-train staff to ensure the finance team can cover workloads if an employee resigns or is absent.
Hotspots of demand
Within the private sector permanent hiring activity is increasing and there is a strong demand for Company Accountants and Financial Controllers. Candidates from an SME background with a stable career history and strong hands-on experience – from basic reconciliation up to board reporting – are also needed. Employers are looking for value for money and cross functional expertise while controlling the accounts internally rather than relying on external accountants.
We are also seeing demand for Financial Accountants with strong IFRS or listed reporting experience as well as leadership skills. These candidates need to be able to act as 2IC to their Controller. This position is important to employers for succession planning purposes. Candidates with strong technical skills who can improve processes are also needed.
Business Analysts with the ability to communicate across different areas of the business are in demand in order to reduce business costs.
Cost Accountants and Management Accountants with strong analytical capabilities who can bring in fresh ideas are also sought.
A number of business change projects are underway and require Project Accountants with experience managing offshore teams.
As noted above, Big 4 or top tier first-time movers remain in high demand. Second-time movers are also sought since they have the technical skills of a Big 4 or top tier firm as well as exposure to commerce.
At the accountancy support level, payrollers are in high demand with candidate shortages remaining acute. Employers require a technically strong end-to-end payroller with fast and accurate data entry skills and the ability to add value to the team. Given the skill shortage in this area, SMEs are becoming more flexible and do not require someone who ticks every box. However some employers remain inflexible and will wait for a candidate with experience in the system used internally to become available.
Accounts Payable has traditionally not been as candidate short, but is now coming under pressure. Demand is greatest for temporary candidates, with relevant systems skills such as SAP and Oracle. While many companies have outsourced their accounts payable, there is still a need to have someone in place locally to resolve issues and maintain control.
We also expect to see increased demand for Credit Controllers and Accounts Receivable Officers as organisations act to capture outstanding debts and reduce DSO days in the first quarter of the new Financial Year. This demand will then continue in subsequent quarters since companies want to improve cash flow overall.
Employers, especially medium- to large-sized businesses, will also invest in strong Assistant Accountants. They look for part-qualified candidates with strong reconciliation skills and will offer a good career path. In addition, many employers have recently restructured and require someone with an appetite to add value and support the Finance Manager.
Entry-level Accounts Assistants are also sought by SMEs that are experiencing growth.
When looking for their next job team culture, support, training and development and company stability are at the forefront of jobseekers’ minds. They want to be confident of their new employer’s business, its financial position and the opportunities for long-term development.
Many also look for an opportunity to be mentored by a Finance Manager or CFO.
Candidates who can demonstrate a passion to be part of the organisation and a drive for growth and development are the most successful in their job search.
Some candidates have a high educational background but lack hands-on experience. They typically expect to get into the transactional space and take very quick jumps up the career ladder. However they quickly discover that employers value hands-on experience rather than additional higher educational attainment.
Candidates are more flexible when it comes to the locations they will travel to for work. They are gaining additional training and experience with various reporting tools to ensure they keep themselves competitive and in tune with what employers want. Senior candidates are also more willing to be hands-on in roles.
Finally, Project Accountants are gaining project management qualifications such as PMP or Prince2 in order to up-skill their knowledge around best practices for running projects.