Although the number of advertised finance vacancies showed a decline from record year 2022, demand for finance staff remained high in the first six months of this year. Often, the search for a permanent employee took a long time, vacancies simply did not get filled or organisations imposed a hiring freeze. What role did temporary employees and starters play in this? Jens Spittael-Speeckaert, Associate Director at staffing specialist Walters People, explains.
Peak in January and May
The need for finance staff remained high in the first six months of this year. Nevertheless, the number of advertised vacancies experienced a decline compared to 2022, which was an absolute record year. This downturn is largely explained by the fact that due to the economic situation, inflation and high wage indexation, organisations remained especially cautious in recruiting new permanent employees in the first quarter.
Fortunately, this caution and the 'hiring freeze' that some companies practiced could be partly offset by bringing temporary staff on board. This immediately explains the small spike in the number of temporary financial vacancies advertised at the start of the first quarter. In the month of May, the number of temporary finance vacancies was at a peak, and this was mainly because organisations wanted to prepare for the summer period. Jens: "Indeed, we see this May peak every year, and these are mainly job student vacancies that organisations want to call on during the summer months so that permanent employees can take their holidays or accrued backlogs can be cleared."
High days for starters
School leavers who entered the labour market in the past six months had the jobs up for grabs, so to speak. "Those with the diploma and the motivation to start a career within accounting found a job in no time. Bookkeeping is still a bottleneck profession and yet we see fewer and fewer students opting for this field of study, which unfortunately also has a negative effect on the influx into the labour market," Jens explains.
Presenting the accountancy profession in an attractive way to young people requires some creativity. Jens: "That's how a number of accountancy firms, seven Flemish colleges and Syntra recently joined forces for the 'Accountants of Tomorrow' campaign, in which well-known influencers such as Bockie De Repper and the sisters Nour and Fatma Dabhbouj joined forces. In this way, they wanted to increase the influx of students opting for accountancy. Because all too often accountants are still given a boring image, whereas today's accountants are real advisers who think along with and contribute to the strategy of the organisation where they are employed."
Given the ongoing tightness in the labour market, employers have been forced to be open to junior professionals for some time now. The market is very competitive and this also translated into high salary expectations from finance starters over the past six months, which were met - often out of sheer necessity. "Starters in finance know that they are in high demand on the labour market, so opportunism is sometimes just around the corner and there is a chance that they will then be guided solely by the salary package," says Jens.
Experience and language skills are rewarded
These rising salaries are not only seen among school leavers, by the way. Coveted experienced finance professionals such as accountants with knowledge of closing processes and general ledger, for example, can often count on a nice salary increase as soon as they start looking for a new professional challenge. "Besides salary, other demands of potential employees are also often met, such as a tailor-made growth path, extensive training and continuing education, more home working days or even getting a company car."
White ravens - better known in the financial job market as trilingual accountants - remain very high on the wish list of organisations in almost every sector. "Unfortunately, trilingual finance professionals are becoming increasingly scarce. Language classes in education, especially since the covid-19 pandemic, are deteriorating in quality and this is clearly visible in the influx in the workplace. Unlike human skills, a lack of language skills can be overcome. If a potential employee has the necessary motivation, a can-do mentality and the will to learn, an intensive language course can be an excellent solution for organisations that want to bring financial talent on board," Jens concludes.
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