Practice professionals in demand
This year, accountancy and finance practices are looking to the future, with growing requirements for professionals capable of using accounting software such as Xero, and greater demand from clients looking for support with cloud-based solutions and provisions for MTD (Making Tax Digital). The rate at which digital transformation has grown for some has put strain on smaller businesses to compete for talent, with more opportunities for professionals in larger firms to improve their digital skills, which are highly desirable to employers at present.
Given that the UK operates a largely free market, the need for auditors will always be high in accountancy firms. Salaries in these roles are predicted to rise by six per cent per annum over the next 10 years. Since the government raised the threshold for audits to an annual turnover of £10.2 million, the role has become a niche area of expertise, where it was once a fundamental part of any accountant’s job. With demand for auditors remaining consistent, there is an opportunity for employees to upskill or reskill in this area of accounting to stand out and earn a higher salary than those less in demand.
Developing grassroots talent with a strong interest in these areas might be just as beneficial to employers as hiring those with existing skills or experience – because novices have the potential and motivation to develop to a high standard in a short time.
Securing the best talent
While the practice sector has been more robust than others in terms of recruitment, there are still fewer professionals in the market for a new role than there are vacancies. As such, there is hesitancy among accountants to leave a secure job without reassurance of a company’s stability and the role being right for them. Counteroffering has become standardised across the sector, as employers understand the value of their existing employees. That means bosses looking to hire will need to be more competitive than ever for talent.
There has never been a better time for accountants to contemplate moving roles. Many professionals will have multiple options on the table and will be carefully considering each one before making their final decision. Remuneration is still a high priority for those in the practice sector, but in this economic climate, and post-pandemic world, the entire package is what really matters to prospective employees.
Employers must be flexible throughout the recruitment process. Their requirements should not be too extensive and should account for those with potential – and avoid limiting themselves to having a set number of professionals on their shortlist before they start interviewing. When a professional becomes available, hiring managers must act fast to secure them. Providing support for graduates or those qualified by experience to develop their skills is one of the most attractive prospects for professionals, closely followed by hybrid or remote working options.
The search no longer ends once an employer finds a great candidate – they must ensure their recruitment process is a streamlined and positive experience for professionals from beginning to end. The first steps to optimising the recruitment journey is to assess the company’s existing materials. Job descriptions, person specifications and applications should be as inclusive and accurate as possible, without too many restrictions. Using gendered language, for instance, can be a barrier to entry for more than half the population and will only limit the talent pool.
Practice professionals’ priorities
The cost-of-living crisis has pushed salary expectations to their highest levels. For employers to know what they should be offering, a salary guide is a useful benchmarking tool. Offering a competitive salary and a well-rounded benefits package will ensure that businesses secure the right talent.
While salary is a top priority among accountants and finance professionals, the best candidates will be attracted to more than that. Business leaders must provide the right benefits, working environment, and an inclusive company culture, to ensure employee satisfaction and retention is high.
Jobseekers will expect all the standard perks, including discounts, pension, and a good annual leave package with the option to buy additional days.
The most desirable and attractive offering for those in the sector is being able to work hybridly. Where this was once a perk, it is now considered standard. Since the pandemic necessitated working from home, professionals have been reluctant to return full-time to an office environment and will keep an eye out for a role with more flexibility to support their wellbeing. In this climate, firms can’t afford to limit their talent pool, and by offering flexible and remote options they will also attract those further afield encouraging a greater number of applicants and staying a step ahead of the competition.
To benchmark the salaries and benefits of most value to professionals in 2023, download our accountancy and finance practice salary guide 2023.