Financial Executives Reveal How to Attract the Best People

By Robert Half on June 22, 2016 at 2:00pm

For Keith Randall, the best tip for how to attract skilled accounting and finance professionals to work for you boils down to this: Pique their interest in your company.

“You need to be able to make sure, number one, you have a good story to tell about your company so you attract talent who are willing to leave where they are,” said Randall, CFO of Playtime, a manufacturing company in Colorado. “Number two, you have to be able to offer an opportunity for people that’s going to be different than what other companies are offering.”

Randall was one of more than 1,700 financial leaders at private and public companies in the US and Canada who tackled questions of how to attract, hire, train and retain accounting and finance professionals in a survey by Robert Half and the Financial Executives Research Foundation.

Read this year's report, Benchmarking the Accounting & Finance Function.

The challenge of how to attract top talent and stand out as an employer in today’s job market brought a variety of responses from the senior-level executives polled.

In addition to the suggestion to promote what makes your company unique, here are some of the recruiting tips these leaders gave as their best bets for hiring and retaining the best people:

Offer professional development and mentorship

If accounting and finance applicants know there’s a good chance they’ll raise their skill level at your company, you’ll more likely grab their attention. Offering mentoring and professional development opportunities will also help you build a positive reputation as an employer that cares about its workforce.

Robert Laverdure, director of finance and operations for a private school in Boston, said it’s not easy for a not-for-profit company to compete for top accounting talent. That’s why, for him, programs that prepare employees for future roles is key.

“I do a lot of mentoring and guiding in helping people grow in ways that are not necessarily tied to more money,” he said. “If I have opportunities to expose them to different work, I try to do that.”

Coaching is key, said a corporate controller at a private manufacturing company in Canada. “We’re trying to invest in the right people through training, as well as lots of coaching. We’ve had to focus on helping people build their skills ….”

Articulate your workplace culture

Dave Sackett, a corporate controller for ULVAC Technologies Inc., said an answer to the question of how to attract and retain people is in creating an appealing work environment.

“I try to keep everybody motivated and enthused through teamwork and an open-door policy if they have questions,” he said, adding that, “It’s all-hands-on-deck if there’s any deadline we have to get out. ... (It’s) really a making it a department challenge versus an individual challenge.”

Carl Gauvreau, CFO of Knowlton Development Corporation, which makes health and beauty care products, said he insists on a hard-working workforce.

“We need to have people who have a roll-up-their-sleeves attitude and have both the strategy and capability to work in the trenches, when necessary.”

During the hiring process, you should be able to describe your company culture, or what it's like to work at your firm

Spend more money on top talent

Companies report that they’re spending more money than before to recruit and hire professionals with sought-after skills. Many candidates are receiving multiple job offers, which adds to recruiting challenges and requires companies to up the ante to attract top talent.

As a CFO of a food bank in Boston said in the survey, “Maintaining compensation at a fair level without it being excessive is an ongoing challenge, especially in a high-cost-of-living area and with high-quality competitors.”

Another corporate controller said her manufacturing company is working to improve pay levels.

“One of the things we’re doing to try to attract the right talent is raising not just the profile of the position, but increasing the compensation plan for it,” she said. “We’re realizing that we need that specialized person.”  

Salary ranges for in-demand accounting and finance professionals are on the rise, according to the Salary Guide from Robert Half.

Get creative with perks

Health and dental coverage are important benefits, but they aren’t the only perks employees appreciate. Today’s candidates are also interested in work-from-home arrangements, vacation days, paid time off and 401(k) packages.

One CFO said he offers a top-shelf benefit program, which gives him a better shot of sealing the hiring deal.

“We have to work hard at differentiating ourselves in the market,” he said. “We’ve taken our 401(k) from being a backwater benefit to a front-and-center benefit, and we make a lot of noise about it. People really love it, and as a CFO, it’s heart-warming to see that.”

Not all perks come with a price tag, he said, adding, “We’ve done some simple things, like permitting people to war jeans to work, as long as it’s ‘situation-appropriate.’”

Streamline the hiring process

With demand for talent outpacing supply, it’s important for hiring managers to know that a key to the question of how to attract accounting and finance professionals is to act fast. One of the ways to identify and recruit candidates within a short timeline is to work with a professional recruiter.

By partnering with an employment agency, CFOs can save time and effort while gaining access to a larger pool of candidates. The best recruiters are knowledgeable about the latest trends, have solid business alliances, and reduce the time and costs of recruiting so managers can remain focused on other business priorities.

The key to a successful hiring process involves timing and solid organization, as well as attractive offers and opportunities. In this candidate-driven market, you can’t be passive, because you don’t have time to wait for good people to discover you.

The Canadian corporate controller seemed to say it all with this: “One of the things we’re trying to do is to invest in the right people, whether that is through training and education, a little bit better compensation plan or lots of coaching.”

That may be a challenge, but like all of the recruiting tips, it has the potential to bring your company its most valuable assets.

View the SlideShare below to learn more about recruiting the best accounting and finance professionals:

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