COVID-19 has had a widespread and sometimes devastating impact on businesses throughout the region; companies have grappled with an almost overnight move to home working, continual changes to working patterns and practices and for some, unfortunately, a significant downturn or complete standstill in their ability to trade.
With reports of a record number of redundancies and growing unemployment, it would be easy to forget that there are sectors of the economy which are experiencing high levels of demand and this in turn, creates its own – albeit different – set of challenges.
In recruiting terms, professional practice accountancy firms have, by and large, been amongst the least affected in terms of a decrease in demand and indeed, those businesses advising in areas such as statutory compliance, corporate finance and private equity have been very busy during the last 12 plus months.
Whilst COVID-19 may have brought many things to a screeching halt, businesses still need auditing, end of year accounts still need filing and, coupled with a sharp increase in mergers and acquisitions activity as well as those businesses which have unfortunately been unable to survive, the competition for top talent is fierce as accountancy firms look to increase their headcounts.
A shortage of candidates is prompting firms to redouble their staff retention efforts resulting in substantial pay rises and bonuses - often at levels more commonly reserved to recognise exceptional performance - now being offered to reward relatively modest promotions or increases in responsibility.
Not only are salaries being driven up, a further consequence of events over the last year is that many of the usual push factors that would motivate an individual to seek out a new opportunity have been removed - or at the very least been significantly watered down – making it harder for those looking to recruit to turn heads. With many employees working from home, lengthy commutes have been replaced with extra hours in the day and opportunities for promotion and salary increases can be clearly seen on the horizon.
Undoubtedly, the next 12 – 18 months will see further economic growth and ensure that candidate demand remains high; as a result, those looking to tempt talent away from their current roles will need to be creative – or dig very deep – in order to attract the desired individuals. However, money alone won’t be enough and, as workloads increase and employees become concerned about being pushed too hard and risking burnout, softer benefits and a flexible approach to creating a sustainable work life balance will have an increasing level of appeal alongside the desire for career progression.
With candidates valuing different things compared to 12 months ago – and with many finding themselves in a comfortable position that makes it easier to stay rather than look elsewhere – the onus will be very much upon businesses to create compelling, tailored opportunities to secure the calibre of candidates they need.
Sharp Consultancy specialises in the recruitment of temporary, interim and permanent finance and accountancy professionals. With offices in Leeds and Sheffield our highly experienced team of consultants recruit for positions throughout Yorkshire and beyond. CONTACT US today to find out more.