The Battle For Talent: Skirmish Or All Out War?

19 Oct 2016 | 09.52 am

The Battle For Talent: Skirmish Or All Out War?

It's a war for talent in accounting, finance and tax

19 Oct 2016 | 09.52 am

 

With employment levels hovering around 91.7% in the available workforce, we are again back to a war for talent in certain parts of the jobs market, particularly within our specialist area of accounting, finance and tax, writes Ed Heffernan, co-founder of Barden

Employers are again competing with each other to attract and retain the best and brightest in a space that is becoming increasingly candidate driven. From graduate recruitment (close on 2006 levels of intake by the Big 4 this year) through to mid-level management roles, there is far more demand than supply, inflating wages and frustrating hiring managers. Conversely, the senior end of the market remains challenged with an oversupply of high calibre people and an undersupply of relevant roles.

What has driven this change?

•     Demand has been primarily driven by the creation of new roles in large Irish companies and through FDI, with the SME space showing only a marginal pick-up. People taking up these ‘new jobs’ will often create a gap in the company they are leaving. This creates a domino effect that can result in a succession of similar opportunities arising from the creation of just one new role.

•     In tandem with this increase in demand, there has been a significant shift in the supply curve. Minimal graduate intakes into accounting from 2009 to 2011 resulted in a decline in the number of qualified accountants entering the market from 2012 to the present. Add to this the fact that large numbers of accountants are moving overseas for longer periods of time and, cumulatively, you have some serious supply issues.

A swathe of global tax changes and the heightened media/political scrutiny around tax cases like Apple, has put tax high on the agenda of many corporates, leading to an increase in the demand for tax professionals.

Is it a war or just a skirmish?

Everything hinges on how successful Ireland Inc. is in creating employment over the next three years. In the finance space, it will be at least three years before the supply issue is addressed in any meaningful way, when today’s graduates enter the market as tomorrow’s qualified professionals.

So we are in a protracted skirmish. The next 18 months will determine whether we enter into all-out war or return to a more normalised jobs market.

How can employers compete in this new reality?

This is a coin with two sides – attraction and retention. To attract talent, employers need to make sure they make recruitment a key strategic priority and go to market with a responsive and robust recruitment process that reflects the fact that candidates will be in the driving seat. Employers need to be realistic in terms of their expectations (and budgets!) and be flexible in terms of specific skills, focusing more on attitude and potential.

To retain talent employers need to meet expectations in terms of extrinsic reward (salary and other monetary benefits) and strive to constantly exceed expectations in terms of intrinsic rewards (sense of purpose and fulfilment for example).

Intrinsic reward is where the battle is really taking place.

Photo: Ed Heffernan, Partner, Barden

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