By Deanna C. White
Statistics from official reporting agencies, such as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Institute for Certified Practising Accountants (ICPA), continue to reveal a robust future for job seekers in finance and accounting and the companies willing to hire them, despite an unemployment rate that's still hovering around 9 percent.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the number of accountants to grow faster than the national average for job growth. The study predicts accountant and auditor growth of 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, adding 279,400 more positions to the 1.29 million already-existing jobs in the field, according to a report published in U.S. News &World Report
But employment professionals working on the ground to place talent within the finance and accounting industry say there's a hidden side to the manpower equation being eclipsed by those statistics: the mismatch between the talent pool and the needs of companies looking to hire.
Rebecca Albarelli, global practice leader in finance and accounting for Experis, says it's a phenomenon she knows too well. Experis
(a ManpowerGroup company) specializes in providing professional resourcing and project-based solutions for finance and accounting organizations.
"There are a lot of jobs open, but it's becoming more common that employers can't fill them because of a mismatch of talent," Albarelli said. "It's been a global issue for some time, but more recently, it's becoming a bigger issue in the United States."
Albarelli said there are many factors that can contribute to the inability of employers to find the talent to fill vacancies, but often it's simply a case of square pegs not fitting into round holes. "You may have [job seekers] who don't have the right skill set, especially the right specialized skill set. They may not be a good fit within the culture of the company, or they may not be the right fit to help others in the organization."
Employers often do find job seekers with the specialized skills they're looking for (e.g., regulatory expertise or project management skills), but the employers are unwilling to meet the candidates' salary requirements. Despite the fact that accounting and finance companies are no longer "circling the [hiring] wagons" as they were in 2009 and 2010, Albarelli says they're still conservative regarding what they're willing to pay for specialized skills.
"Job seekers have the perception that if they have specialized skills, they're going to get paid more for those skills; however, many employers are still reluctant to open that checkbook. Approximately 50 percent of them still have trouble matching positions," Albarelli said. "The two parties need to meet in the middle where they can close the [salary-expectation] gap."
So how do talent-placement companies like Experis adjust their strategies to create a perfect match between employee and employer? Albarelli says she sees several emerging trends among firms:
- Many are hiring temporary workers to fill gaps or they're bringing on contract-to-hire staff to make sure they fit well within the organization before making an employment offer.
- Some firms are looking outside their local area to find ideal candidates.
- More and more firms are bumping up their training and professional development offerings to court and keep top talent.
Once a firm finds its perfect match, it then needs to address retention.
Albarelli said, "Once you find a valuable employee, you want to keep that person on staff because of his or her contributions and because you don't want to go out and look for new talent. So companies are focusing on individuals, offering them as many development opportunities as possible and ensuring they have a chance to expand and grow within the organization."
Given today's talent shortage, she says it's critical that firms dispense with the old "just-in-time" hiring practices and adopt new strategies. "When you find the right fit, it's perfect, but when you don't, the client can suffer. Ultimately it just decreases productivity."
Resourcing Expert Analyzes Employment Trends
By Deanna C. White
Rebecca Albarelli, a global practice leader in finance and accounting for Experis (a ManpowerGroup company), specializes in providing professional resourcing and project-based solutions for finance and accounting organizations.
"Our entire focus [at Experis] is to find and place talent where it's needed," Albarelli said. "We put the right people, in the right place, at the right time." As someone who lives and breathes talent placement, it's safe to say Albarelli is familiar with current employment trends.
In a recent interview with AccountingWEB, Albarelli said, increasingly, employers are looking for employees with two specific skill sets: regulatory knowledge and long-term project management skills.
"Changes in financial regulations are occurring at a much faster pace, and organizations need to figure out how to incorporate that," Albarelli said. "Anyone with specialized regulatory skills, someone who can come in and help with IFRS or, more immediately, initiatives around convergence of U.S. GAAP and IAS, will be very desirable."
"As the economy gradually improves, firms are starting to peel away the cost-saving strategy of focusing exclusively on smaller projects, and they're beginning to operate strategically," Albarelli said. Thus, firms are looking for employees with enterprise resource planning (ERP), project management, and finance transformation/process improvement skills. "They want someone who can implement shared services offices, mobilize from a smaller to a global organization, and address a bigger picture and broader strategy," she said.
Employers are consistently on the lookout for recruits who have the project management skills to optimize their firms' finance functions and improve overall processes within their organizations. She recommends that finance professionals work toward project management certification or Six Sigma certification.
If the economy continues its uptick, Albarelli predicts that more firms will begin to look for employees who specialize in mergers and acquisitions and initial public offerings (IPOs). "These skills are definitely back in demand," she said.