Posted by Robert Half Management Resources on Monday, December 15, 2014 - 00:00 | Follow me
One of the most challenging aspects of a financial leader’s role can be keeping up with compensation and hiring trends. It’s deceptively difficult. As more companies enter hiring mode, the availability of skilled candidates — and the salaries needed to woo them — can change quickly and significantly.
Our recent webinar provided insight into the latest hiring and compensation trends. “What You Need to Know to Hire and Be Hired in the New Year: 2015 Financial Employment and Compensation Outlook” featured expert commentary and strategies for addressing current recruitment and retention challenges. The panel included:
- Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half
- Shirley Wiliani, CFO at Hardin Holdings, Inc. and Affiliated Companies
- Mike Dinsdale, CFO at DocuSign
Here is a summary of the main takeaways.
Financial executives face staffing challenges
A number of hiring trends are making it more difficult for financial leaders to staff vacancies. Among them:
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many finance and accounting positions are enjoying low unemployment rates. Simply put, finding in-demand professionals is difficult.
- More baby boomers are nearing retirement — 8,000 people a day are turning 65, according to AARP. In the wake of this trend, finding candidates with experience has never been more urgent.
- Wiliani noted today’s employers seek “very specialized skill sets.” Positions requiring niche expertise — like auditors, business and business systems analysts, compliance professionals, and financial analysts — are particularly hard to recruit for.
- Job movement also is prevalent, as many professionals are on the lookout for better career opportunities now that the economy is picking up steam. So as soon as you staff one opening, you may find yourself with another to fill.
The risk of a hiring mistake looms large
Employers are eager to staff open positions. But Wiliani noted companies “realize how expensive a hiring mistake can be.” Poor personnel decisions also cause morale and productivity to suffer.
One way organizations are addressing their staffing needs is turning to project professionals. Working with financial consultants allows firms to not only tap into specialized knowledge and meet immediate business needs but also evaluate potential employees firsthand before extending a full-time job offer.
Technical skills become more specialized
According to Dinsdale, “There has been a shift in the type of finance and accounting person that businesses are looking for.” Hiring trends indicate managers want professionals who know how to leverage data to make savvy strategic recommendations and who have expertise with long-range planning models, unit economics and business analytics.
Executives also are looking for professionals familiar with Excel, ERP packages, SQL, IBM Cognos, MicroStrategy, Hyperion and QuickBooks. Of particular value are accounting and finance staff capable of “stitching all the systems together and understanding how the data flows” to automate and improve operations, according to Dinsdale. He also stressed that PowerPoint skills are critical for articulating complex concepts in a simple way.
Soft skills are essential
McDonald pointed out that “functional expertise and professional credentials are the table stakes to get you the interview,” but interpersonal skills are what get you the job. Indeed, Wiliani said she looks for candidates who fit well with the existing corporate culture and who exhibit a “positive attitude, a willingness and desire to learn and develop.”
Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are also key nontechnical attributes. Wiliani added that she gives preference to candidates who “take responsibility for new initiatives and overcome pushback from people and companies who are used to doing things a certain way.” Dinsdale said it’s “almost impossible to recover from errors” in finance, underscoring the importance of attention to detail.
Last but certainly not least: leadership. Wiliani said she looks for people who “can lead a project from ground-up planning to successful implementation.”
Attracting and keeping top players is priority No. 1
The bottom line from the webinar: It’s more important than ever to improve your recruitment and retention efforts. Here are seven tips from the experts:
- Make your company a desirable place to work. Offer competitive pay and benefits, professional development opportunities, work-life balance initiatives, and mentoring and onboarding programs.
- Stay on top of compensation trends. According to the 2015 Salary Guide from Robert Half, starting salaries for accounting and finance positions will rise an average of 3.5 percent next year. To entice top performers to join the firm and stay, many employers are offering signing and performance bonuses.
- Maintain open communication with staff. McDonald emphasized this is crucial. Asking “how are things going” makes team members feel valued and in the loop, according to Dinsdale.
- Monitor the conversation about your firm. Keep tabs on your company’s reputation by scouring social media channels and review sites. Also actively manage your company’s social profiles.
- Introduce promising applicants to your team. Wiliani recommended giving top candidates “the opportunity to meet as many people within the organization as possible during the interview process.” This helps ensure they fit with the corporate culture and allows them to learn how they can contribute to the company.
- Empower staff members. “Giving people autonomy is important,” said Dinsdale, because top performers don’t want to work for micromanagers.
- Don’t settle. “You can’t accept underperformers,” warned Dinsdale, or else high achievers will become disengaged.