Networking trends in a recovering economy

Companies nationwide reduced their workforce or instituted hiring freezes in accounting and finance, as well as in operations during the past year in response to the economic downturn, according to Accountants International's (AI) "2010 Compensation, Benefits and Workplace Trends Guide."

More than one-fourth of the 3,500 executives in accounting, finance, and human resources who responded to AI's survey said they felt their accounting and finance departments were understaffed and they anticipate hiring - initially at the staff level, followed by the support and management levels. AI is a Burlingame, CA-based provider of accounting and finance staffing and recruitment.

Networking and professional relationships

Accounting and finance professionals in small and mid-sized companies surveyed by AI during the fourth quarter of 2009 were affected by layoffs, reduced hours, work furloughs, and other cost-containment measures. They responded to economic uncertainty and high unemployment levels by increasing their participation in professional networks and began using social media in large numbers. Networks provide support from peers and help professionals who are looking for work to remain current in their fields.

Maintaining professional relationships with colleagues remains the preferred method of networking for more than half of the respondents (56 percent), followed by joining professional networking Web sites (41 percent). Human resources and accounting and finance respondents to the survey said they were members of the following five professional associations:

The largest number (27 percent) is comprised of AICPA members, followed by the SHRM and state CPA societies. Networking with supervisors, attending conferences, and joining alumni networks are other forms of professional networking used by respondents.

Networking and social media

Professionals of all generations have joined Web sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, the AI Guide states. An astonishing 90 percent of respondents reported that they are Facebook members - a huge increase over last year - although 83 percent reported that they joined to connect with family and friends. But 33 percent also reported using the site for professional networking or employment opportunities.

Many organizations are struggling with best-practice guidelines for the use of social media by employees, the AI Guide reports. Less than one-third (32 percent) have a policy in place regarding networking sites. More than half (53 percent) of those surveyed said their company does not monitor activity during work hours.

Recruiting resources for accounting, finance professionals

Businesses are expected to proceed cautiously as they begin the hiring process and will likely continue to use traditional recruiting resources combined with newer Web-based tools. Most of the survey respondents, who would have been employed in 2009, reported that they had found their jobs through traditional means - professional contacts or referrals (32 percent) or a recruitment company (27 percent). Internet job boards accounted for 10 percent; print advertising, 8 percent; and internal promotion, 7 percent.

The AI survey was conducted with executives in positions ranging from chief financial officers to human resources managers in predominantly small to mid-sized organizations, public, private, and nonprofit.

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