Pic: Lukas, Pexels
The COVID-19 outbreak turned our health, personal and professional lives upside down. But now – as all sectors start to look towards the future – the outlook is encouraging, with accountancy and finance employers feeling positive about the wider economic climate and the opportunities it could bring.
In the Hays Salary & Recruiting Trends 2022 guide, we asked over 3,000 UK employers and employees in the accountancy and finance sector questions around their predictions for the future. We saw a huge increase in the positive outlook of employers – with 66% saying they are optimistic about the wider economic climate and long-term employment opportunities, compared to just 34% in 2020. Accountancy and finance employees are following the same trend, too, with only 41% saying they are concerned compared to 76% last year.
Jobseeker movement slows
Despite these statistics, we are seeing skills shortages across multiple areas, which includes accountancy and finance. In fact, 80% of employers in the sector say they have experienced skills shortages in the past year, an increase from the 73% who said the same last year. This is set to continue, with 67% of employers expecting a shortage of suitable candidates over the next 12 months.
The lack of skills in the sector is driven by several factors, including IR35 reforms and Brexit. Just over a quarter (27%) of accountancy and finance employers think Brexit has made it harder to hire the right people, with those relying on migrant workers being especially affected. Just under three quarters (74%) believe their access to these professionals has been negatively impacted.
Perhaps the biggest contribution to the skills shortages we are seeing currently comes from slow movement in the jobseeker market, with fewer than half of all accountancy and finance workers planning to move jobs in the next year.
Skills shortages are prevalent
Over the past 12 months, there has been an increase in the negative impacts of skills shortages on the morale of existing employees – 48% of accountancy and finance employers say that employee morale has decreased at their organisation. In addition to that, 44% said it has affected productivity, and 38% say it has affected the ability to deliver on projects.
The top soft-skills employers need within accountancy and finance include communication and interpersonal skills (61%), the ability to adopt change (57%) and flexibility and adaptability (51%). However, the skills professionals most want to develop are in people management (42%) and communication and interpersonal (33%) – evidence of a disparity between employers and employees regarding which skills are most needed.
Increasing the reward
Employers are trying to attract new staff with these much-needed skills by offering higher-than-expected salaries for their vacancies. Accountancy and finance salaries rose on average by 2.3% over the past 12 months, and our research shows that 64% of accountancy and finance employers increased their rates of pay. However, some roles received much higher than average increases.
The top 10 areas receiving the highest pay increases within accountancy and finance are:
- Part-qualified accountancy
- Public practice
- Accountancy support
- Accounts receivable
- Audit, risk and compliance
- Qualified accountancy
- Accounts payable
Flexibility is key
While increasing salaries may seem like a good solution to attract new hires, data collected by Hays shows that this is not the only thing potential new employees are thinking about when changing jobs. Professionals in this sector are increasingly looking to work for organisations that prioritise work-life balance, with 38% saying it is the most important factor for them, aside from salary. Flexible working is also something many workers are looking for, with 76% saying they would like their current employer to make it a priority. In fact, 69% said they would consider changing roles if they could decide how often they needed to be in the office per week – but only 26% of finance employers are currently willing to offer this.