UK Survey Offers Further Evidence of Skills Shortage

Signs of a tightening jobs market for experienced financial professionals in many parts of the world are equally evident in the UK, according to the 2014 Salary Guide issued by recruitment consultancy Robert Half.

The firm reports that despite relatively high levels of general unemployment, UK companies are finding fewer candidates with the right skills and experience needed to deliver growth strategies. Many of the most ‘in-demand’ professionals are receiving multiple offers and counteroffers creating a ‘war for talent’ amongst businesses.

According to the guide, 87% of UK chief financial officers (CFOs) surveyed say that it is challenging to find skilled financial professionals, and as a result, organisations are paying more for the market’s brightest and best candidates – against 79% last year. Qualified management/financial accountants experienced the greatest percentage increase in salary, with those within small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and large businesses moving 3.8% and 4.1%, respectively.

The shortage of strong candidates means that finance departments are being asked to do more with less. As workloads have intensified, voluntary turnover is on the rise as employees look to increase salaries. As a result morale and retention concerns are growing fast in British businesses, with 48% of UK executives saying that voluntary employee turnover is on the rise within their organisations.

The changing regulatory environment and further adoption of integrated governance, risk and compliance programmes has furthered demand for these roles. Compliance salaries continue to increase the most year by year, highlighting this huge demand, with the salary for compliance managers within SME and large organisations increasing 3.4% and 3.2%, respectively.

UK salaries Figure 1

UK salaries Figure 2

*Note: The Robert Half Salary Guide provides customised salary ranges for 11 UK regions. The London regional variance is 129.0% whereas the UK average is 100.0%.

The past few years found finance leaders focused on reducing headcount. However, business growth and new product and service expansion now require commercial accountants with strong business acumen and communication skills to deliver augmentation strategies. Consequently, finance professionals are benefitting from optimism in the market as companies look for additional insight and strategy into business process improvement, cost savings and new revenue sources. Indeed, the research shows that 41% of CFOs and finance directors (FDs) choose this as their most valued attribute.

According to the report, experience in systems implementation is also highly valued. Pension auto enrolment in the UK will create a new requirement for systems to be updated and for the finance department to partner with human resources (HR) and payroll departments to ensure that organisations remain compliant with government legislation. Many executives anticipate increasing headcount to manage the operational implications of the new regulation.

“Many companies continue to be challenged with recognising the efforts of their employees with balancing cash flow issues, making it difficult to award annual increases,” said Phil Sheridan, senior managing director, Robert Half UK. “As such, retention fears are growing. Companies that delay hiring in search of the ‘perfect match’ or that subject candidates to lengthy rounds of approval may find their top choices accepting offers from competing organisations.

“Companies looking to attract the market’s most sought-after professionals are realising that pay is only one factor affecting candidates’ decisions. As workloads increase, employees aim to balance work and life commitments. Offering a comprehensive benefits package, often flexible and tailored to each employee’s preferences, is helping companies position themselves as great places to work.”



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