Filling in the talent gaps to avoid workplace disruption

The Aston Carter thought leadership series examines strategies for navigating the finance and accounting staffing labor market.

A candidate-driven hiring landscape and high quit rates have created a uniquely challenging environment for accounting and finance employers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ second quarter report showed a 1.5 percent unemployment rate for accountants and auditors, continuing a trend that shows no signs of reversal. Another sign of a healthy economy, the quit rate — the increasing numbers of Americans who are voluntarily leaving their jobs — makes finding skilled finance professionals even more challenging.

These trends feed each other. As more professionals take advantage of the tight market and leverage their current positions for career advancement, there are fewer qualified candidates with the requisite skills and experience to take their place.

Aston Carter Divisional Practice Leader John Clary shares insights on how to minimize workflow disruptions in a challenging hiring market.

Matching Skills and Experience is Key

When a valued member of a finance team leaves, an organization loses more than an employee. They lose specific skillsets that may not be replicated elsewhere on the team. The organization is also likely to lose a commodity that’s impossible to replace — time.

“It's a big challenge whenever employees leave an organization, especially within the accounting and finance group,” says Clary. “Those employees are highly skilled, and in some cases it takes months, if not years, to fully train a new person to learn the skill set and background they have.”

That’s where contract hires can help.

For Clary, the priority is to match the exact skills and experience his clients need. “There are several important factors that go into finding a strong interim resource,” he explains. “First is making sure they have experience in the functional area where my clients need coverage, meaning if they are hiring an accountant, I place an accountant and not a financial analyst or auditor. Secondly, finding a resource with the exact Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software experience is important because it decreases the amount of time needed to train on systems. Lastly, finding a resource with similar industry experience as my clients is crucial because they understand the nuances and terminology that only people in that industry understand.”

The Real Costs of a Tight Job Market

Losing an employee can cost an organization more than time and money.

The work that the departing employee leaves behind has to be covered, which means extra work for the rest of the team. That can translate into long hours, delayed vacations, missed deadlines or other errors, workplace burnout and declining morale — all of which lead to more employee turnover.

The right worker can help stem this cycle.

Clary points to the extensive background work he does and Aston Carter’s established presence and track record as significant factors in his ability to help his clients.

Having access to a rich talent pool enables Clary to respond with equal confidence to situations where the departing employee has given adequate notice and to the “we-need-help-yesterday” calls.

Performance Evaluation Throughout the Placement

Clary’s work doesn’t stop with matching his client’s needs with the right contractor’s skillset and industry experience.

All Aston Carter placements include regular check-ins with the client and the contractor to ensure both sides are meeting expectations. For Clary, it comes down to service.

“When we place someone, we check in with the client during the first week of the engagement and at least once a month after that. We ask, ‘How is our contractor doing? Is there anything they're doing well that you want us to relay to them? Is there anything they're not doing well that we can relay back to them, too?”

The same holds true on the contractor side. Clary makes it a point to keep in touch with his placements, which includes getting them out of the office for breakfast or coffee to keep open lines of communication throughout the project.

Clary sees this personal touch as a major contributing factor in Aston Carter’s consistently high performance in its bi-annual Voice of the Customer survey, which measures client and contractor satisfaction.

The Benefits of Being Proactive

The high demand for accounting and finance professionals makes it more challenging to prepare for the inevitable — the time when a hiring manager is faced with replacing a high-functioning team member while maintaining an existing, or increasing, workload.

Clary cites the advantages of cross-training, so that no single employee is irreplaceable. Succession planning helps as well, but even effective in-house promotions mean that additional hiring needs to take place. Be especially alert in spring, as more employees change jobs in summer to accommodate school-aged children.

But even the best of plans won’t change the time it takes to replace an accounting and finance professional in today’s competitive hiring market and all the costs that entails. A reliable staffing partner can help bridge the gap.

If your business could benefit from consultation about how to meet your staffing needs, contact Aston Carter now.

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