Another year has passed at lightning speed. Older? Definitely. Wiser? I hope so. It’s certainly been another unpredictable and challenging year in recruitment, but as it draws to a close, I have been reflecting on what I have learned and what the next twelve months could hold in the world of accountancy and finance.

Skills Shortages

There is no end in sight for the skills shortages that are driving an increase in outsourcing services overseas. Firms are also expanding their advisory offerings to provide businesses with greater management information, so they become much more than the traditional once-a-year annual audit and accounts service. Both areas of growth will heighten pressure to attract and retain talent and it could be a challenging time for businesses trying to keep salary demands under control.

Employee Wellbeing 

Businesses that embrace people’s desire for a better work-life balance will fare well. According to ACCA, 83% of accountants would like to work remotely at least one day per week. In a candidate-driven market, embracing hybrid working and demonstrating that you can deliver on personal development plans will appeal to a wider talent pool.

Advancing Technology

Continuing to shape the future, technology already plays a big role in the accounting sector. Moving at a relentless pace, according to the ACCA, 63% of us would like more technology training. To stay relevant, businesses need to adopt a culture of technological innovation, which includes upskilling and valuing those skills in the recruitment process.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Employers will continue to place a greater emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion in their recruitment strategies. With the benefits well documented, it is important to recognise the need for this in the accounting and finance sectors. A survey by Skills, Retention, and Attraction confirmed that 57% of UK businesses regard this as a strategic priority as it opens a wider candidate market and draws talent from all backgrounds.

Training and Skills

The ongoing impact of the pandemic and the training and skills gaps created means that while some professional roles will continue to call for college degrees, recruiters will be casting their net wider. Larger employers already target candidates in education, with entry-level recruits requiring lower salaries. Increasingly, it’s your talent rather than the pedigree of your institution or past employer that counts.

Relocate or Resign

For those not keen on hybrid working, 2024 will see a resurgence in the expectation that people head back into the office four or five days a week, meaning there are tough choices ahead. In the accounting profession, as a result, we expect to see more people choosing to move or simply resigning to find something closer to home that offers the flexibility they seek.

Generation Z

Set to become a significant part of the workforce, successful recruiters need to adapt to the distinct values, traits, and preferences of this generation. To attract and retain Gen-Z talent, companies need to leverage digital recruitment platforms, bring a focus to their social responsibility efforts, offer clear pathways for career progress and skill development, and provide a flexible working environment.

While I don’t profess to see the future clearly, I believe it will be bright for those who leverage technology, nurture inclusivity, and meet the needs and expectations of candidates and employees.

Embracing a better work-life balance and remote work preferences will widen your talent pool. Technological innovation remains key, with a strong call for more training in advancing technologies.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are rightly gaining prominence in recruitment strategies, and, with the evolving landscape moving toward valuing talent over institutional pedigree, Generation Z could be ready to take centre stage.

Despite the skills shortages driving outsourcing and the pressure to balance well-being with business demands, I remain optimistic in my outlook for 2024 as, however we see it, the journey will continue to be marked by challenges and buoyed by the resilience and adaptability of the accounting and finance industry.

As the year comes to a close, the recruitment industry is still dealing with the repercussions of the pandemic and post-pandemic.

In 2022, this resulted in a seismic shift in the dynamic between businesses, employees, and job seekers. With an ever-increasing demand to recruit the best people, the desire for organisations to streamline designations and operating structures – combined with an almost universal acceptance of remote working – has also opened geographical barriers that have historically hindered access to talent.

Furthermore, while the majority of industries are experiencing a comparative reduction in recruitment activity for the fourth quarter, this is projected to improve in March and April as employers continue to consider “right-sizing”.

As we approach 2023, having a clear and robust talent acquisition and retention strategy is critical.

HYBRID WORKING

Entire remote working roles are becoming more difficult to find, but the trend of allowing your team to work flexibly both in the office and at home will continue to become even more important if organisations want to keep existing talent and go beyond location to locate the best individuals for their team.

UP-SKILLING

Because talent shortages will continue, the need to upskill employees will become a higher priority for many businesses dealing with staff and talent shortages. This method not only boosts workforce productivity, but also saves costs, increases employee satisfaction, reduces staff turnover, and, more often than not, creates a more collaborative and dynamic working atmosphere.


RETENTION

In many industries, the “Great Resignation is not slowing down and, as cost-of-living issues continue alongside economic uncertainty, this affects recruitment. The retention of your best workers will become increasingly important. In summary, if you want to keep the finest, you must be willing to look after them and fight for them because the battle for talent is underway and it’s skilled people who have the upper hand.


CANDIDATE EXPERIENCE

The first impression you create for a prospective recruit has always been crucial but, with such fierce levels of competition for talent, it is more vital than ever to represent your company as one that values and supports its people. Take the time to assess the assistance you provide and, more importantly, how you plan to demonstrate it as part of a positive candidate experience, as this may make all the difference when a prospect has alternative options and a tough decision to make.


DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION 

It is widely accepted that a culturally diverse workforce fuels innovation and creativity, hence improving profitability. Currently, barely one in three businesses tracks candidate diversity, with gender and ethnic diversity indicators rarely employed. Similarly, companies frequently neglect socioeconomic diversity, but 2023 will see positive movement in this area, hopefully helping to erase any remaining unconscious bias in hiring.


GOING VIRTUAL

As the first generation never to be without the internet takes on junior roles in the workforce, there will be an increasing expectation that everything is available online and at a fast pace. Highly collaborative, self-reliant and pragmatic, Generation Z values diversity, cooperation and connection, and wants to work from anywhere but also establish good relationships with their co-workers.


STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS

The perception of recruitment consultants is changing. The days of recruiters taking job orders and firing off CV after CV in the hope that someone resonates with you are long gone (I hope). That’s not how I have ever worked; instead, I find joy in putting the right people in the right places. It often means that, in addition to the job search, I wind up collaborating with organisations on a strategic level, serving as a sounding board and a source of recruitment knowledge, market insight, and salary guidance.

While we will continue to face uncertainty, concentrating on these trends will help you not only to develop a solid recruitment and retention strategy but also in hiring the right talent to capitalise on the possibilities that 2023 will bring, despite the talent shortage.

Right now, January seems as though it was a lifetime ago. The major concern business had was Brexit, something now seemingly forgotten in the face of a bigger challenge; one reaching much further than the workplace.

The coronavirus pandemic has turned our lives upside down. For the last four months, the impact on people’s health and wellbeing, and the country’s healthcare services, has been devastating.

For the business community, it has been catastrophic in a host of industries who continue to run scenario planning, protect their cash flow, reduce costs, access tax reliefs and grants, battle cyber-security threats, assess supply chains, and make critical decisions about how this will affect their employees.

Amongst so much uncertainty, one clear thing is that an outbreak of this magnitude will leave a lasting impression on us all. For business, the question is, will it change the way we work for the better, or will we ultimately revert to the old status quo?

Back in January, I predicted five trends to shape recruitment in 2020. It’s safe to say COVID-19 wasn’t one of these but, given our new challenges, I wanted to revisit and explore how the changing circumstances will influence recruitment, staff retention and the job market.

1. Flexibility
This is going to be needed more than ever. Amid all the fear, isolation, and uncertainty, many businesses have been forced to adapt their model and we have seen how profound and positive change is possible. The trend for home-working and contracts allowing people to integrate their work and personal life will be in high-demand long after the end of the year.

2. Hiring for soft skills
Whilst still important to future proof your business, in the short-term, this may not be the main priority. More pressing issues around staff retention, improving internal communications, and making changes to technological capability will come to the fore.

3. Improving the candidate experience
The battle to attract skilled people with the right attitude will become fiercer in the face of this crisis, but the way this is done will be quite different. With an increase in remote interviews, less personal interaction with colleagues, infrequent visits to the office, and potentially starting a new job from home, the experience will extend past a personalised and engaging recruitment strategy and incorporate staff retention.

4. Employer branding
Simple and clearly defined goals will always be focal when selling your organisation but, even before this epidemic, employers that prioritise mental wellbeing, work-life balance and flexible working were the number one priority for 16-24-year-olds. Having lost count of the CEO emails declaring people’s health and wellbeing as their number one priority, how you have behaved throughout this period and whether you remain true to your word afterwards is how your employer brand will be defined.

5. Diversity
With changes in technology and the realisation that in certain professions people really can work from anywhere, the recruitment market could become a lot more open, making the long-term benefits of employing a diverse team even more attainable.

Things have undoubtedly changed and, while these trends remain important, perhaps the most vital is flexibility, from both businesses and employees.

For the foreseeable future, we need to concentrate on reopening businesses, supporting remote workers and helping people balance home-school and personal health challenges, as well as the influence anxiety, lockdown, and the furlough scheme will have on people’s mental health.

It is said that “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”. If we have learned anything it must be that we are all in this together and I hope when businesses finally get to choose their path once again, they take that step in the direction of people.

It will certainly be interesting to see if that is the case, and how that impacts the way they recruit.

The recruitment trends you need to look out for in the next twelve months.

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