Intense competition for top performers in accounting and finance is affecting everything from recruitment to retention, while creating hiring trends for companies that are having an impact on compensation levels.

Key findings from the Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance Professionals show several hiring trends, such as a relaxation of job descriptions, as companies hire for the most critical skills and offer training to help a new hire succeed, and a stepped-up concentration on the value of corporate culture.

Here are more on those hiring trends and what employers and managers should be aware of, in order to bring top talent on board and keep them happy — starting with salaries.

1. Strong starting salaries

Talented job seekers have choices. To land in-demand workers, companies need to offer competitive starting salaries. Here’s a sampling of the anticipated salary midpoints for some of the hottest jobs for 2019 in corporate accounting:

  • Compliance analyst: $77,000
  • Controller: $118,250
  • Financial analyst, one to three years' experience: $67,000
  • General accountant, manager: $92,000
  • Medical biller (healthcare): $34,250
  • Payroll manager: $72,750
  • Senior internal auditor: $87,250
  • Senior tax accountant: $87,250
  • Staff accountant, up to one year of experience: $46,750

These starting salaries are national averages and will vary widely by location. Highly skilled workers, including those with finance and accounting certifications, will command even higher salaries. Download the Salary Guide for the anticipated wage ranges for more than 190 positions in accounting and finance, and keep your salary negotiations professional.

2. Benefits for all

Benefits can help with recruitment and with retaining top talent at your company. The most common employer-provided benefit, defined as any non-cash compensation not directly tied to performance, relates to insurance. According to the Robert Half survey of human resources, compensation and benefits professionals in North America, 95 percent of companies provide medical insurance, 89 percent cover dental, 88 percent offer life and 81 percent adds vision. Other popular insurance policies are accidental death and dismemberment (79 percent) and disability (78 percent).

Around two-thirds of respondents have an employee assistance program, which includes helpful services such as addiction counseling and legal aid. Another popular benefit is reimbursement for tuition fees, with 56 percent of employers willing to pay for their staff to earn academic degrees and professional certifications.

3. Employee perks above and beyond

Perks are additional privileges that employers offer employees. These extras are a great way for companies to stand out from the competition, attract top talent and retain valuable employees.

Flexible work schedules are the most common perk, with 62 percent of respondents saying they allow staff to choose — within reason — when they work their daily hours. This employee perk is popular with employers and employees alike, as it costs companies little or nothing to implement, while making a huge difference to their staff’s work-life balance and job satisfaction. Remote work, offered by 34 percent of businesses surveyed, can also be mutually beneficial: Employees save time and money by skipping the commute, while employers can build their workforce without having to lease or buy larger facilities. Seventeen percent offer compressed scheduling, such as working four 10-hour days.

Of perks that require an outlay, the most common is hosting social events for workers, which occurs at 39 percent of employers surveyed. To support a healthy lifestyle, 25 percent have either an onsite gym or offer memberships to a nearby fitness center.

4. Offers of bonuses and incentives

Businesses rely on a basket of financial carrots, of course, to keep performance at peak levels. The most common incentive is the spot bonus for individual or group achievement, and another is the retention bonus, typically awarded after an employee stays on a predetermined number of months.

Profit-sharing occurs at some companies surveyed, and a similar tactic is to offer stock options, restricted stocks or performance shares. Some feature deferred compensation, usually in the form of pensions and retirement plans.

When businesses give bonuses, they almost always tie it to performance. What varies is the metric: Some base it on individual and company performance, while others include those two factors plus team performance, or just individual performance.

5. Raises based on performance

Most employers tie raises to performance, such as hitting productivity targets or meeting goals. For others, wages increase in tandem with the cost of living, measured by the Consumer Price Index or annual inflation rate. Then there are companies that raise salaries automatically according to length of service.

6. Modifications in hiring expectations

Companies have become increasingly flexible with their skills requirements, according to the Salary Guide, and are willing to offer training and professional development. Accounting job training can be offered with on-site workshops, off-site conferences, webinars, online courses, mentorship programs, and professional memberships. Accommodating candidates in this way gives them a hiring edge over firms that remain rigid in their approach.

7. Reduction in the time to hire

While a thorough vetting of candidates is critical, more businesses need to realize that failing to accelerate the hiring process in a competitive market can be detrimental. Companies that make prospective hires sit tight for too long risk losing them to other, faster-moving companies. Sixty-nine percent of workers in a Robert Half survey said they’d lose interest in a job if they had not heard from the employer within two weeks of the interview.

Why pay attention to hiring trends?

For your business to grow and thrive, you need top talent. By knowing and following these trends and finding the right mix of competitive compensation, financial rewards and in-demand perks, you can influence the hiring outcome and enjoy employee retention going forward.

— by Ky Kingsley

Ky Kingsley is vice president of Robert Half Finance & Accounting, North America. She joined Robert Half in 2007 and is an expert on career growth and development, hiring trends, and the use of social media in recruitment. She is based in the Los Angeles area.