The Aston Carter thought leadership series examines strategies for navigating the finance and accounting staffing labor market.
It’s going to be challenging to hire qualified finance and accounting professionals in 2020.
That’s more of a statement than a prediction, given the trends in the sector for as long as most of us can remember. Consider this: Forbes published the article “Why Accounting and Finance Pros Are So Difficult to Hire” in 2013.
While the hiring crunch may be constant — the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) quarterly report lists unemployment for accountants and auditors at 2% — employees’ priorities have evolved. If you plan to attract and retain the best talent, you’ve got to know what matters to them.
We spoke with Aston Carter’s Lisa Soliz, a senior account executive with more than 14 years of recruiting experience, to learn about the strategies companies will need to consider in this highly competitive hiring market.
Paying top dollar — or more — won’t be enough by itself to secure the talent you need.
Provide Project-based Contract Opportunities
When unemployment is chronically low in any sector, paying top dollar — or more — won’t be enough by itself to secure the talent you need. Offering project-based contract work that provides opportunities for professional growth and development can significantly expand your prospect pool.
“You can’t limit your search to current job seekers,” says Soliz. “Even though people may not be putting themselves out there — we call them passive job seekers — about 70% of the workforce is interested in hearing about new, better opportunities.”
These “new” and “better” opportunities include positions that offer a path to leadership roles; projects that involve new software implementation; and initiatives in emerging, niche fields.
These jobs are enticing to finance and accounting professionals looking to fast-track their careers. With today’s seller’s job market, the best performers aren’t afraid to bet on themselves: A contract position that enhances a resume is often preferable to a permanent job with limited engagement or growth potential.
Workplace culture also plays a major role in a company’s ability to build and retain a high-performing professional workforce.
“It’s the full package now,” Soliz says. “Employees are asking, ‘What kind of career development opportunities will I have? Is there flexibility with my schedule if I have to pick up my kids? Is there a clear track to management and leadership opportunities?’”
Soliz’s observations are similar to the findings in a 2019 Aerotek white paper, “Workplace Satisfaction Report: What Workers Want — And What Doesn’t Matter.” The report found that companies often struggle to understand what employees are looking for.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy to ensure employee satisfaction, the characteristics that matter focus on personal touches, not pricey amenities.
“It starts with leadership and the level of care they show towards their teams,” says Soliz. “Initiatives like health and wellness programs, training opportunities and diversity and inclusion awareness make people feel valued. We spend more waking hours at work than we do with our families...those things matter.”
The takeaway? If you don’t have an employee engagement strategy, implement one in 2020. If you have a strategy in place, make sure you’re continually assessing its performance.
A Strong Recruiting Partner Can Help
Challenging projects and desirable work environments don’t change the fact that qualified finance and accounting professionals are hard to find. That’s why many winning hiring strategies involve working with an experienced staffing agency.
It starts with knowing where — and how — to look for the right talent, especially those passive candidates.
To engage people who aren’t in the market, you’ve got to go beyond LinkedIn or other job search sites. With her connections and industry experience, Soliz can identify and contact finance and accounting professionals directly, including high performing “passive” candidates who are currently employed.
Using contractors also helps to ensure that the match between the candidate and employer is right for both parties.
“Contracting is a good way to determine if a particular company or role is a good fit professionally and culturally,” says Soliz. “It’s like insurance for the employer and the employee.”
Reconsider Requirements and Be Flexible
Years of low unemployment has also forced employers to value aptitude and potential over experience. In the finance space, that flexibility is often related to technology, which regularly tops Accounting Today’s annual survey of major concerns for companies of all sizes.
An experienced staffing partner can help with flexibility, too. They’ll get to know your priorities and identify potential candidates that traditional processes — especially online algorithms — overlook.
“Because we know our clients, I can present candidates who may not check all of the boxes but who can really excel,” says Soliz. “This is especially true with software and technology. If a candidate is proficient in an ERP system and we have confidence they can be an asset to the team, employers are willing to overlook other criteria.”
In the face of another historically low unemployment year for finance and accounting professionals, 2020 will see more companies adopt fresh, proactive strategies to attract and retain talent.
Are you ready for the challenge?
If your business could benefit from consultation about how to meet your government contract staffing needs, contact Aston Carter now.