The War for Talent Intensifies

Rutherford Cross consultants Grant Atkinson and Sophie Randles share their thoughts on the war for talent in the newly qualified accountancy space in Scotland.

Whether you are a hiring manager in practice, financial services, public sector or industry, recruiting high calibre qualified accountants at entrance or managerial level always presents a challenge. Many organisations across Scotland find themselves asking why individuals don’t want to join them and why their recruitment processes aren’t delivering the results they need.

Much of the reasoning for this can be traced back to the recent recession.  During this time many organisations and accountancy firms reduced the intake of graduates or let people go if they failed their initial exams, seeing this as a method to reduce overheads and costs.

However this has impacted negatively on the market several years later with businesses competing over a small talent pool and some relying solely on generous salaries to attract potential employees. Practice has responded in kind by increasing overall salaries of newly qualified accountants in order to retain employees making it potentially challenging for them to move into industry later due to lack of salary parity.

At Rutherford Cross, we have found that generic job advertisements aren’t attractive enough to tempt individuals who are in well paid positions, and as a result businesses are not receiving applicants. The trick is differentiation. The war for talent can be subdued slightly with simple education. Newly qualified accountants find themselves at a crossroads, “should I jump into industry or continue down the path of practice?” Providing these aspiring professionals with a forum whereby they can make a decision as how to develop and advance in their career seems to be more fruitful in the long run than providing retention bonuses.

It’s also important to remember that at this level, professionals are of the Millennial Generation, and as such whilst the package on offer needs to be competitive, it’s important for organisations to recognise other ways in which they can differentiate themselves from the competition.

The Harvard Business Review pinpoints the three main areas that the Millennial professional analyses when considering a change in position; the company, their future boss, and what there is to learn. The key overlaps between these  areas are as follows; self development and access to formal development programs; the ability for an organisation/manager to allow professionals to blend work with the rest of their lives; clear communciation and innovative thinking, and a focus on strong values. This further emphasises that, whilst remuneration needs to be competive companies clearly need to communicate their worth in other areas.

The current size of the candidate pool emphasises the importance of networking as another form of getting to high calibre, qualified accountants. This can include running events, or new employees referring individuals from their own networks.  However, all of this is time consuming and requires a dedicated organisation to conduct these activities to generate candidates.

Third parties such as recruitment consultancies can have an important role to play in generating interest and an increased number of applicants by properly selling the opportunity and tapping into a larger candidate pool through established networks.

What is clear is that organisations looking to attract the best talent need to work smarter in order to do so, selling their business as a place to grow and develop, as well as offering competitive packages to attract those not necessarily looking to move.  By making the effort to educate and inform potential employees as well as working closely with wider networks and partners, organisations can be confident of winning the war for talent.

Rutherford Cross runs regular events for newly qualified and more experienced accountancy professionals.  To discuss our events programme or other opportunities, please contact [email protected] or [email protected]