Despite the economy's steady, albeit somewhat unhurried, recovery, businesses in accounting, finance, and IT are reporting a significant increase in unfilled staff positions, according to the Brilliant Q3 2014 Hiring Forecast.
The forecast, conducted by Brilliant in conjunction with Richard Curtin, PhD, professor and director of surveys at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, indicates companies are poised to hire, and have the desire to add new talent to improve their business, but are "adopting a more conservative approach toward recovery planning due to recent economic instability and slow pace of gains."
The forecast indicates two-thirds, or 65 percent, of all respondents reported they currently have unfilled positions on their accounting, finance and IT staffs. This figure was above the 58 percent posted just three months ago, and 14 percent above last year's number.
The Brilliant Hiring Forecast, established in 2012, is a quarterly survey of human resources professionals and hiring managers in the accounting, finance and IT professions within a variety of industries, including financial services, professional services, health care, and nonprofits, among other industries.
The Q3 2014 Brilliant Hiring Forecast includes responses from 181 professionals, surveyed between May 12 and June 6, 2014.
Jim Wong, CPA (inactive), CEO and founder of Brilliant, says one reason for the high number of unfulfilled positions is the fact many companies may mistakenly believe there are more accounting graduates available to fill their open positions than actually exist, and are being more discerning in their hiring plans than the talent pool permits.
"Companies in industry are actively hiring for accounting professionals, but they are being more selective because they believe supply outweighs demand," said Wong. "The large public accounting firms, however, are fully aware that this assumption is inaccurate for accounting and finance professionals."
Wong said over the last 15 years there have been multiple periods where the accounting profession has seen a significant decline in the number of accounting graduates from universities, but the demand for these individuals in the workplace has not diminished, due to an increase in regulatory reporting requirements, compliance, and changing economic times where companies and legislation are mandating more timely and accurate accounting.
"Companies are still in high need of hiring trained and qualified accounting and finance professionals," Wong said.
Wong does believe, however, that companies are becoming more informed about the accounting profession's problem filling the talent pipeline, and will become more flexible in their candidate requirements, which will result in more hiring.
"The pent up demand for accounting and finance professionals will be met," Wong said.
The Brilliant forecast also indicates that in the big picture, HR professionals and hiring managers are feeling decidedly more positive about economic conditions for their companies in the Q3 2014 survey than at any time in the past year.
According to Brilliant, across all companies, 43 percent reported the economic situation of their companies had improved during the past year, up from 37 percent last quarter and 34 percent last year.
Those good vibes will also translate to good news for job seekers in the accounting, finance, and IT sectors in the year ahead.
"Hiring top talent is no easy task, nor is it accomplished quickly," Wong said. "Businesses want employees who are not only skilled at their jobs, but fit in with the company's culture."
The current hiring climate, and the expensive undertaking of hiring and training new talent, are pushing a new trend in hiring and recruiting, the survey found. Many HR officers and hiring managers report they are opting to hire temporary employees as a way to identify and test drive well qualified candidates for their open accounting, finance and IT positions.
"It's not uncommon, as seen in this survey, that companies hire temporary employees as a means to determine their skills and cultural fit in their firms," said Curtin. "Some survey respondents mentioned it was their usual practice to hire temporary employees as a means to screen for the best fit for their firms."
The recession and its subsequent downsizing also gave many companies the leeway to "alter the way they ran their organizations," according to Brilliant.
"Nearly half of all firms surveyed used this time to undergo significant restructuring in order to match changing trends in their markets," commented Wong. "And with the most robust hiring plans seen in some time, planned staff additions represent solid evidence for firm expansion during the year ahead."
For public accounting firms, Wong said, the economic downturn required companies to do more with less. But with an improved economy, pent-up demand will need to be filled, because more confident employees may leave current employers for better work/life balance and compensation, he continued.
The Brilliant Q3 2014 Hiring Forecast also found businesses:
- Plan to Increase Hiring. An increased pace of hiring of accounting, finance and IT professionals was planned by 28 percent of surveyed firms. This is a 5 percent increase over last year.
- Anticipate Net Gains in the Total Workforce. Staff expansion was anticipated by 35 percent of all firms, up from 32 percent in the prior quarter and 25 percent last year.
- Intend to Hire Temporary Labor. Among all firms, 16 percent reported they planned to increase the number of temporary employees they hired in the Q3 2014 survey, up from 13 percent in Q1 2014, and nearly identical to last quarter.
- Use Social Media to Recruit Talent. The survey found a near universal agreement that LinkedIn was the top social media choice for recruiting top talent, selected as most effective by 97 percent of all HR professionals and hiring managers. Among users of social media to recruit, 28 percent spent under $2,500, 26 percent spent $2,500 to $10,000, and 26 percent spent more than $10,000 on social media advertising
When assessing the talent pool, respondents identified an "increasing emphasis on expertise," as the biggest gap in the skills of job seekers, cited by 43 percent in the Q1 2014, up from 39 percent in the prior quarter and 33 percent in the Q2 and Q3 of 2013.