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World - Recruiting and retention challenges for finance executives

18 August 2011

The accounting and finance employment market in many parts of the world may be in a state of transition, a new study suggests. Financial leaders surveyed for the fifth annual Robert Half Global Financial Employment Monitor reported difficulties finding skilled staff and growing concern about their ability to hold on to their best employees.

Globally, 67% of respondents said it is either very or somewhat challenging today to find skilled accounting and finance professionals for certain jobs. Those surveyed also are more worried about keeping top performers than they were a year ago. 56% of financial leaders said they are at least somewhat concerned about retaining their staff in the coming year, up from 45% in 2010.

Key Findings

• 67%, of financial leaders reported at least some level of recruiting difficulty. Approximately one out of five (19%) respondents said it is very challenging to find skilled accounting and finance professionals today.

• Retention concerns are rising. Globally, 56% of executives said they are either very or somewhat concerned about losing top performers to other job opportunities in the year ahead. This is an +11-point jump from the 2010 survey.

• 89% of respondents reported being at least somewhat confident in their organisation's growth prospects for the coming year.

Max Messmer, Chairman and CEO of Robert Half International, commented "many firms are concerned about their ability to build and retain the accounting and finance teams they need to support the demands of the business. Finding skilled professionals has become increasingly challenging, and candidate shortages are emerging in some regions and specialty areas."

Recruiting difficulties surface

The majority of financial leaders surveyed noted recruiting difficulties. 67% of respondents said it is either very or somewhat challenging to find skilled professionals today. In Brazil and Singapore, virtually all respondents (97% in each country) reported hiring challenges. 95% of executives in Italy and 93% in Hong Kong agreed.

The most severe shortage for a specific functional area was cited in Italy, where 45% of respondents cited difficulties filling finance jobs (such as controller and financial analyst). In the Czech Republic, 42% of executives said accounting roles (e.g., tax accountant and cost accountant) are the most challenging to staff. Globally, the areas identified as the hardest to recruit for are finance, accounting and operational support (e.g., accounts payable and payroll positions).

Retention concerns return

The number of financial leaders worried about employee retention is on the upswing. More than half of executives, 56%, said they are very or somewhat concerned about losing valued employees to other opportunities in the coming year. This compares to 45% who cited retention concerns in the 2010 survey.

In some countries, the results were much higher. The number of executives worried about keeping key employees is up +16 points in Singapore, for example. 91% of respondents there said they see retention as an issue. In Hong Kong and Brazil, 88% and 85% of financial leaders, respectively, noted retention concerns.

Even in areas where a stronger recovery has yet to take hold, worries about keeping staff on board are on the rise. In the United States, 43% of executives said they are at least somewhat concerned about losing key personnel, up +15 points from the previous year's survey.

Messmer said "as job opportunities expand for top performers, they are more likely to explore these career options, making staff retention a higher priority for businesses. Especially at smaller firms, the departure of even a single employee can result in lost skills and organisational knowledge that are difficult to replace."

Finance leaders confident in their companies

Globally, 89% of financial leaders said they are either very or somewhat assured of their firms' ability to grow in the next 12 months. Respondents from Brazil are the most optimistic: 97% of executives there cited confidence in their companies' prospects.

The study, focusing on hiring difficulties, retention concerns and business confidence includes responses from more than 6,000 financial executives and managers across 19 countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.

For additional information, view the research highlights, as well as the data tables with comprehensive results by country.

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