The global financial meltdown is having an unexpected effect on finance and accounting employers in New Zealand – it’s making it more difficult to find skilled and qualified staff.
Despite widespread redundancies in countries such as the United States and United Kingdom, an international survey by global recruitment specialist Robert Half shows that in 10 countries, including New Zealand, companies now find it more difficult to hire good staff.
Last year, 28% of New Zealand respondents to the Robert Half Global Financial Employment Monitor said they were having difficulty finding skilled staff – this year that jumped to 42%.
Employers in Canada, Dubai and several European countries – including the United Kingdom and Ireland – also reported it was now more difficult to find good finance and accounting staff.
But the proportion of American employers reporting difficulty has more than halved in the past year – just 32% now compared with 72% in 2008. The proportion of Australian employers reporting difficulty finding skilled staff remained steady at 54%.
And the survey shows that New Zealand employers are having most difficulty finding suitable candidates for senior roles – with finance manager/head of finance/head of accounting vacancies the most difficult to fill.
Megan Alexander, senior manager with Robert Half, said the results were not that surprising to her team of consultants. Even though it was now common to get around 300 applications for each finance position advertised, only a handful of those applicants were suitable.
“This downturn has seen two types of redundancies in the finance and accounting sector,” Ms Alexander said. “Some companies that are closing down, moving roles offshore or making significant, company-wide redundancies do lose some star performers.
“But many other companies are simply tightening their belts, and targeting roles filled by less competent staff for any cutbacks.”
Added to this, employers were under the impression that there was now a large pool of qualified candidates available, and so expected only to see top-notch candidates.
“While middle-of-the-road performers had no trouble finding a job when the finance and accounting skills shortage was acute, and many employers were prepared to accept them rather than leave positions vacant, employers now expect good candidates to be available and won’t look at anyone with a less-than-perfect match,” Ms Alexander said.
Compounding this, skilled and qualified professionals were nervous about moving jobs because of the current environment, and so were staying put, rather than applying for advertised positions.
“There seems to be the feeling that it’s safer to hunker down right now and wait for the upturn before thinking about changing jobs – but the reality is that if those highly skilled people started looking, they would be surprised by how many employers were interested in them.”
Perhaps because of the difficulty employers were having attracting skilled senior staff, there was a more than 50% increase in the proportion who said they were worried about losing top financial performers – 77% this year compared with 51% last year.
“Teams are leaner now, so if a star performer leaves, there is absolutely no capacity in the existing team to pick up some of that slack,” Ms Alexander said. “And because replacements are harder to find, employers know that losing a star performer now will hurt them even more than it would have last year.”
The survey also showed that most of New Zealand’s finance and accounting professionals did not believe the recession would end this year – just 26% expected an upturn some time this year, 50% expected it to come next year and 16% believed it would not arrive until 2011. Four per cent did not believe we were experiencing a financial downturn.
The Robert Half Global Financial Employment Monitor surveyed 4830 finance, human resource and senior management staff across 21 countries and was carried out in February and March this year.
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