Accounting Managers Cautiously Planning to Hire More in Q4

By Jason Bramwell
Managers in accounting, finance, and IT are cautiously optimistic about their hiring plans for the fourth quarter of 2013, according to a new hiring outlook survey from staffing firm Brilliant.
This quarter's hiring forecast revealed a continued rise in unfilled positions and a substantial loss in key talent, resulting in a favorable outlook in hiring plans for accounting, finance, and IT professionals. The pace of hiring is expected to remain favorable despite legislation changes and economic uncertainty.
Of the 185 human resources professionals and hiring managers surveyed for the Q4 2013 Hiring Forecast, 50 percent reported their firms had unfilled staff positions, a 17 percent increase from the start of this year, which Richard Curtin, PhD, a research professor at the University of Michigan who directed the survey, said in a written statement "is pretty significant." 
Respondents expressed cautious hiring plans in the fourth quarter of this year, as 15 percent expected to increase the pace of hiring compared with 12 percent who anticipated cutbacks in their hiring. However, the net balance of +3 percentage points was well below the third quarter hiring forecast, which had a net balance of +17 (23 percent planned to increase hiring versus 6 percent who expected to decrease hiring). 

Additional Key Survey Findings

  • When asked about how overall economic conditions have affected the business prospects of their companies, 33 percent of respondents reported economic conditions were better than a year ago. 
  • Nearly half (48 percent) of all respondents reported employing off-site, or virtual, workers. The most common use of off-site workers was to perform IT functions, which was reported by 31 percent of all hiring decision makers. Ten percent of virtual workers performed accounting and finance functions. 
  • The lack of skills or experience in the available pool of applications was cited by nearly 25 percent of all those who had unfilled positions for the fourth quarter of 2013. When asked whether they had noticed any appreciable change in attrition within the past year, 11 percent reported higher attrition compared with 8 percent who mentioned attrition had been lower than normal. 
  • Online job boards to post opportunities for new talent were used by 70 percent of all respondents.
Although most hiring professionals surveyed did not believe the economy or their business would be impacted negatively during the year ahead, their cautious hiring plans suggest a fair degree of concern about the future pace of growth in their organizations. While most firms believe a congressional stalemate will not again jeopardize economic growth, a slowdown is viewed as more likely and a cause for adopting more cautious hiring plans.
The potential loss of key employees in the next twelve months was reported by 28 percent of respondents, up 1 percent over last quarter's projection but substantially higher than the 19 percent reported in the hiring forecast for the first quarter of this year. 
When specifically asked what factors were the most important in the loss of key talent, the top two reasons cited were the lack of career advancement (63 percent) and increases in pay or health and retirement benefits (58 percent). 
Also, when asked to identify the top characteristic they looked for in assessing the qualifications of a potential employee, the top three choices by respondents included the following: 
  1. How well the candidate would fit the work culture of the firm (41 percent).
  2. The skills and expertise of the potential employee (40 percent).
  3. The candidate's experience (37 percent).
The characteristics desired were essentially similar to those reported in the third quarter hiring forecast, with two exceptions: Respondents placed greater emphasis on expertise (40 percent, up from 33 percent) and problem-solving abilities (30 percent, up from 26 percent).
When asked about the potential affect of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on their overall hiring plans before the end of the year, 13 percent reported they anticipated an overall negative effect on hiring compared with 2 percent who expected an increase in hiring. While 55 percent reported they anticipated no impact on their organization, there was a substantial portion of respondents (30 percent) who were uncertain about how the ACA would change their hiring decisions. 
"The forecast reveals a strong opportunity for hiring professionals and top talent alike within accounting, finance, and IT roles," Brilliant CEO Jim Wong said in a written statement. "Despite uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act, there is increased opportunity for growth, and the focus is on filling permanent positions."
Planned increases in temporary workers were voiced by 10 percent of respondents, down from 14 percent in the third quarter forecast, but more than the 6 percent who expected to expand their use of temporary and contract workers at the start of 2013. 
About the survey: 
The Q4 2013 Hiring Forecast survey was conducted by Brilliant from August 13 to September 16, and 185 hiring managers were surveyed. Respondents included human resources professionals and hiring managers in the accounting, finance, and IT sectors from a broad range of industries: manufacturing, distribution, health care, consumer products, financial services, professional services, retail, real estate, and not-for-profit.
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