What Drives the Australian Accounting & Finance Talent Market?

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Understanding the key drivers for candidates is fundamental to attracting and retaining the very best talent in the Accounting industry.

In my years of experience as a specialist Accounting recruiter, I have seen first-hand how these drivers can change over time and throughout the stages of a candidate’s career. SEEK has now quantified the most important motivators for candidates in their recent Laws of Attraction study, which interviewed nearly 6,000 candidates from across Australia.

The findings show that the Accounting industry reflects the rest of the Australian market when it comes to the top drivers of candidate attraction:

  1. Salary and compensation (18.7% of Accountants compared to 15.7% of the total market)
  2. Work-life balance (12.6% of Accountants compared to 13.4% of the total market)
  3. Career development (10.9% of Accountants compared to 11.8% of the total market)

Yet when we dig a bit deeper, there are some fascinating insights that are essential for employers to utilise when looking for talent in today’s market.

We put together a summary of the results into an easy-to-digest report, which you can access here.

Salary

It’s no surprise that salary is the top driver for the entire Australian market, including those working in Accounting. However, we had expected to see it rate higher than 18.7%, given the fact that wages have been growing consistently in the Accounting sector. This could indicate that the growth has been led by employers competing to secure top talent, rather than candidates feeling undervalued.

The report also confirms our experiences with candidates, with salary shifting in importance as their careers progress. For example, when asked about the key factors they consider when they look for a new role, 20.5% of Gen X responders said salary, more than the overall national average. For Baby Boomer respondents, it was 14.2%. This may reflect factors outside work, such as younger candidates feeling the grip of a high cost of living and struggling to buy properties, whereas Baby Boomers may be more financially secure.

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Work/Life Balance

This was another driver that we expected to rate more highly, based on the conversations we regularly have with candidates. Alongside salary, work/life balance was the main reason for looking to change roles, particularly within Big Four and mid-tier Chartered firms. People frequently tell us they no longer want to work long consulting hours and are looking for a change, especially candidates who are also raising young families or people pursuing further studies.

The report confirms this, with 13.2% of Gen X respondents rating work/life balance as a key factor in choosing their next role. Given the age range of Gen X is 35-54, it’s reasonable to assume a high proportion of candidates are juggling work and family responsibilities. Baby Boomers (aged 55+) rank work/life balance as slightly less important at 12.1%, while Millennials (aged under 34) rate it lowest at 11.9% – which makes sense when we consider that they are at the stage of their lives where they are focussed on career development.

The report findings also show a slight difference between genders, with 13.5% of women choosing work/life balance as a key factor, compared to 11.4% of men.

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Career Development

This is an area that we have seen employers invest in recently, and it’s great to see the importance reflected across the Australian market. More than one in 10 respondents named career development a key factor. It’s interesting to note that the Accounting industry ranks career development slightly lower than average, which could be a result of candidate expectations.

When talking to candidates, we hear that career growth is now considered an expectation rather than a benefit, so we could hypothesise it no longer factors as significantly into their search. It’s important for employers to ensure they meet this expectation by selling career development early on in the recruitment process.

Advice for Employers

Reports like this one, feedback from recruitment partners and employee satisfaction surveys are all useful sources of insight that can be fed into effective attraction and retention strategies. By listening to what candidates want, particularly at different stages of their career, employers have the opportunity to tailor their job offering and secure the best talent in the market.

When creating a new position description, think about the type of candidate it will appeal to. This will be more straightforward for some roles than others. For example, for an entry-level role, it might be reasonable to expect it will likely be filled by a Millennial candidate, and hence salary might be more important to them than work/life balance. You can reflect the factors you think will be most to your ideal candidate in the way you tailor your package.

Summary

If you want to find out more about current Accounting employment trends or are ready to recruit a new candidate into your firm, chat to me or one of the experienced Accounting & Finance recruitment team at SustainAbility today.