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Aug 12, 2010

Signs of optimism in global financial hiring, survey shows

By Workplace Staff
Financial executives are more optimistic today than they were this time last year, according to the annual Robert Half Global Financial Employment Monitor. The vast majority (83 per cent) of financial leaders surveyed worldwide are at least somewhat confident in their companies’ growth prospects, including 30 per cent who are very confident. Respondents also reported challenges locating skilled professionals for certain jobs.  

But while a healthier business environment and rising recruiting difficulties suggest the job market in accounting and finance may be improving, employers today seem less concerned about keeping top performers than they were one year ago. Forty-five per cent of those surveyed said they are at least somewhat worried about their ability to retain staff in the coming year, down from 53 per cent in 2009.

The fourth annual Robert Half Global Financial Employment Monitor was developed by Robert Half International and is based on surveys conducted by independent research firms. The study, focusing on hiring difficulties, retention concerns and other staffing-related issues, includes responses from more than 6,300 financial leaders across 19 countries.

Key findings include:

  • Financial leaders are optimistic about the outlook at their firms. Eighty-three per cent of those surveyed said they have confidence in their organization’s growth prospects.
  • Employers reported difficulty finding skilled candidates for specific functional areas. Respondents cited particular challenges filling finance, accounting and operational support positions.
  • The most active hiring is expected to take place at the entry and staff levels.
  • Retention concerns have subsided. Forty-five per cent of respondents said they are worried about their ability to keep top performers, down from 53 per cent in 2009.

“While an air of caution remains, there are signs pointing to an improved hiring outlook,” says Max Messmer, chairman and CEO of Robert Half International. “Business confidence and, in some cases, demand are rising, and firms will need highly skilled accounting and finance teams to sustain their momentum and support growth initiatives.”

Executives bullish on their businesses
Globally, 83 per cent of financial leaders said they are either very or somewhat confident in their companies’ growth prospects for the next year. Nearly all managers in Brazil (98 per cent) are at least somewhat optimistic. Other countries where executives are particularly confident include Italy (93 per cent), Switzerland (93 per cent), Canada (91 per cent), Austria (88 per cent) and the United States (88 per cent).

Talent shortages persist
Despite high unemployment rates in different parts of the world, recruiting can be challenging for employers. Financial leaders cited the most difficulty hiring for finance, accounting and operational support positions.

In Brazil, 24 per cent of respondents said they are having trouble locating skilled accountants, 23 per cent noted challenges hiring auditors, and 22 per cent said finance professionals are difficult to find. An additional 13 per cent reported operational support roles as the hardest to fill.

Hiring plans to focus on entry and intermediate levels
Global Financial Employment Monitor respondents said they anticipate making the most hires at the entry and staff levels, as cited by 26 per cent and 25 per cent of those surveyed, respectively. “As the global economy improves, companies need personnel who can facilitate growth simply by performing fundamental accounting and finance responsibilities,” says Messmer. “Firms seek financial professionals with the expertise to make an immediate contribution and a commitment to advance their careers with the organization over the long term.”

Many employers anticipate hiring more experienced professionals as well. The majority of those surveyed in Hong Kong (58 per cent) and 50 per cent in Singapore indicated plans to add senior or management personnel. Globally, 22 per cent of respondents expect to hire for these positions.

Retention concerns ease
Although the job market has begun improving in many countries, financial leaders worldwide are less worried about retention. Fewer than half (45 per cent) of respondents said they are very or somewhat concerned about losing their most valued employees to other opportunities in the next year, compared to 53 per cent in 2009.

Heightened retention concerns were reported in Brazil (76 per cent), Singapore (75 per cent) and Hong Kong (72 per cent). Even in countries where the job market has just begun to recover, worries about retaining staff exist. In Canada, for example, more than a third (35 per cent) are at least somewhat worried about their ability to keep top performers.

“Employers who delay their retention efforts may risk losing valuable employees,” says Messmer. “When the competition for financial talent intensifies, these professionals will be even more difficult to replace.”

The study, based on the results of a survey developed by Robert Half International and conducted by independent research firms, includes responses from more than 6,300 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.

The number of respondents varies by country and provides a representative sample of businesses in each. The results are within 95 per cent certainty, and the overall margin of error is approximately +/- 1.3 per cent.

Robert Half International was founded in 1948 and is traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Its financial staffing divisions include Accountemps, Robert Half Finance & Accounting and Robert Half Management Resources, for temporary, full-time and senior-level project professionals, respectively. The company has more than 350 staffing locations worldwide and offers online job search services on its divisional websites, all of which can be accessed at www.roberthalf.com.