Budget More for Better Talent, Say Analysts

For at least the past three years, the job market has favored employers, leading to a gig economy that discouraged company loyalty and in-house advancement opportunities. That’s set to change, say hiring analysts, as the availability of skilled, specialized workers decreases. As a weaker economy has led employees to broaden their expertise to find work, those who have focused instead on deepening their knowledge are relatively rare. If you want top talent with in-depth industry knowledge, you’re going to have to pay.

Depending on their industry and the position in question, CFOs should be prepared to see payroll expenses jump by as much as 5 percent, particularly at higher levels of management. When Robert Half International published their most recent edition of their “Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance,” their analysts noted a significant upward trend in employee salaries. To retain top talent, companies are spending more on base salaries and on benefits. This trend is unlikely to change even as the economy strengthens because expertise takes time to develop – time that people who have had to undergo career shifts to find work may not have been able to invest.

Skilled finance professionals are among those whose salaries are set to increase. The average expected net pay raise for accountants, bookkeepers and finance executives is 2.3 percent, but that figure doesn’t tell the whole story. Salaries at the higher end are growing commensurately larger than those for entry-level workers. In other words, your salary and those of the people closest to you on the corporate hierarchy are likely to see the largest increase industry-wide as those just entering the market see smaller gains.

Optimism also fuels some of the expected salary boosts. With greater confidence in the newly strengthening economy, employees have the luxury of waiting for the best opportunity instead of taking the first one they encounter. As HR departments prepare to offer richer benefits packages and salaries to talented candidates, CFOs will be asked to find room in the budget to entice outstanding talent and reward existing star performers at a rate above the expected cost of living increase, which is set at about 1.5 percent.

With higher wages come higher expectations, and that includes greater emphasis on job skills for finance workers at every level. While the fundamental concepts of maintaining a general ledger or defining budget forecasts haven’t changed, the technology needed to collect and analyze the data certainly has. Financial personnel are now expected to have some expertise in leading-edge technology, including data analytics, Excel, enterprise-level resource planning and advanced modeling techniques. Some firms also require platform-specific knowledge of software such as MicroStrategy or the latest version of IBM Cognos. Others expect detailed knowledge of legislative changes that impact their industry, including the Affordable Care Act, new consumer protection laws and new regulations designed to crack down on money-laundering.

Such expectations come at a premium price. If your hiring decisions are based on specialized knowledge, your competitors will be paying more to lure talented candidates to their offices. Ideally, your budget can stretch to accommodate those higher wages, but if not, work with your HR director to develop compensation packages that reward employees with in-depth knowledge for the expertise they bring to the table. If you’re the one considering a scenery change, the picture Robert Half International paints is a rosy one. Estimates suggest your expected salary growth in 2015 will be 3.5 percent, well above the average for entry-level workers in finance.

Posted in Budgets and Planning, Compensation | Leave a comment