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2021 Hiring Trends for Finance

By Paul McDonald
April 1, 2021

The organizational changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have shaped hiring strategies and requirements for finance and accounting companies.

 

As businesses grapple with the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, they must become more agile, efficient, and innovative than ever. The pool of available talent is much more robust than it was at the beginning of 2020, but many companies must walk the line between needing additional help and keeping budgets in line as economic regrowth comes in incremental steps.

 

What does that mean for recruitment this year? Which skills will be in most demand? How can employers attract the candidates they need to help future-proof their business? Here are some insights to help you formulate your hiring strategy.

 

SPECIALIST SKILLS IN HIGH DEMAND

 

When shelter-in-place and similar measures forced businesses to close their offices, not all industries were affected equally. Despite widespread redundancies and a slowing economy, sectors such as healthcare, technology, financial services, and property management have remained resilient.

 

In these uncertain times, companies in these fields need skilled finance professionals to guide strategy and improve the bottom line. The following positions are in particularly high demand:

 

  • Internal auditors to help companies find inefficiencies, cut costs, and stabilize balance sheets.
  • Accounts receivable/payable roles to keep cash accounts strong by chasing due payments and settling debts.
  • Risk analysts and forecasters to advise businesses on how to improve cash flow and make good decisions for the future.
  • Payroll administrators to ensure staff are paid on time and companies comply with new regulatory guidelines.
  • Loan administrators to process financial aid packages and help small businesses access the emergency funding they need to survive.

 

TELECOMMUTING AND REMOTE HIRING

 

Due to the pandemic, telecommuting has become a widespread practice—even in traditional accountancy and finance organizations that were previously resistant to it (see “Hiring Trends Amid COVID-19”). The raft of remote working tools now available to accounting and other finance professionals means that they can continue to support customers from anywhere in the world.

 

This arrangement is proving beneficial for businesses and employees. Managers are enjoying reduced office costs and high levels of morale and productivity from employees who have adapted well to working remotely. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of professionals surveyed for Robert Half’s Accounting & Finance Salary Guide 2021 said they want to work from home more often after the pandemic, citing better work-life balance.

 

Companies looking to build a high-performing workforce should embrace telecommuting options to aid in hiring and retention.

 

In addition, the shift to virtual teams has proved beneficial for talent acquisition. A recent Robert Half survey found that more than half (53%) of senior managers conducted remote interviews and onboarding as a result of COVID-19. (See the July 2020 Strategic Finance column “Remote Recruitment” for things to look out for while interviewing and onboarding candidates from a distance.) Employers are no longer restricted to hiring from within their geographic area, which means there are more candidates to choose from and easier access to specialist skills.

 

If casting a wider net means a bigger haul of applications than you’re used to, it’s time to streamline your recruitment process. Many organizations are using AI to short-list candidates, and applicant tracking systems help managers access candidate information and share group feedback. Even in today’s looser labor market, talented job seekers have little tolerance for a sluggish hiring process, so do whatever you can to keep things moving briskly.

 

AUTOMATION GAINS MOMENTUM

 

As financial services become increasingly automated, CFOs need staff with technological expertise to take them into the future. From financial modeling and forecasting to data analytics and security, companies must centralize their processes and drive cost efficiencies if they want to remain competitive.

 

It’s no longer enough for finance and accounting professionals to have vocational qualifications. To add value to their role, they must also have an aptitude for technical solutions and be comfortable working with cloud-based software, electronic records, and digital enterprise resource planning systems. To keep up with the pace of innovation, managers should build a culture of learning with staff who are motivated to improve their technical skills.

 

SOFT SKILLS AND FLEXIBLE STAFFING

 

Thanks to innovations like AI, accounting and finance professionals are spending less time on repetitive duties such as data entry. This frees up capacity for more sophisticated tasks like analysis and forecasting. Responsibilities like these require a problem-solving mind-set as well as the excellent communication skills needed to report findings to clients and managers.

 

Having to work remotely has highlighted the need for finance professionals with strong business acumen who can collaborate effectively using virtual tools. Employees who can work with minimal supervision and remain unfazed by change are valuable assets for companies that are navigating the new business landscape.

 

CFOs recognize that a flexible staffing model is essential to business continuity during changing economic conditions. As well as meeting routine needs, companies need to be able to push forward with long-term goals—even when budgets are limited.

 

Employing a mix of full-time, temporary, and project staff enables companies to keep costs low and scale teams as needed. Interim workers provide access to specialized skills for high-priority projects and can alleviate the burden on core staff during busy times, such as end-of-year accounting.

 

GET PAY AND BENEFITS RIGHT

 

The talent pool may have grown, but top performers are still in high demand and can command a competitive salary. Despite the pandemic, for most U.S.-based employees, wages have either remained stable or risen slightly. For example, senior internal auditors can expect a starting salary of around $90,500, while tax directors can earn $143,000.

 

Even in tough economic times, money isn’t everything. Sixty percent of workers surveyed by Robert Half said they’re more motivated to work at a company that values its staff. That’s why benefits such as paid time off and tuition assistance can give you an edge over competitors, while perks like paid parental leave and flexible work schedules send a message to employees that you care about their work-life balance.

 

Nobody knows when the pandemic will end or what the next 12 months will bring. Faced with an uncertain future, those in finance and accounting must do everything they can to improve their resilience. With a hiring strategy that harnesses the latest technology and identifies the skills you really need, you could find yourself emerging from this crisis stronger than before.

 

Paul McDonald is senior executive director at Robert Half and a member of IMA. You can follow him on LinkedIn.
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