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‘Talent mismatch’ brewing in accounting industry

As the Australian accounting industry continues to evolve at lightning speed, a talent mismatch has emerged where the existing labour pool doesn’t have the skills employers want, including for traditional service lines such as audit.

Professional Development Lara Bullock 28 September 2017
— 2 minute read

Earlier this week, Hays released its 2017 Hays Global Skills Index in collaboration with Oxford Economics, revealing a talent mismatch between the skills jobseekers possess and those employers want.


Speaking to Accountants Daily, Susan Drew, senior regional director for Hays accountancy and finance, said that this mismatch is becoming increasingly evident in the Australian accounting industry.

“Within commerce and industry, there are not enough temporary and permanent skilled professionals to meet the number of jobs available in response to projects and the evolution of job functions,” Ms Drew said.

Areas of talent mismatch include analysts, project accountants, system accountants, internal auditors and credit controllers.

“Meanwhile, the professional practice job market has been candidate-short for some time as accountants continue to move into commerce and the nature of the accountancy role changes,” Ms Drew said.

“Firms are increasingly looking for advisers with strong verbal and written communication and presentation skills as well as exceptional technical skills in order to engage with clients.

“The salaries on offer in professional practice are another issue. The salaries offered by commercial and government roles continue to pique the interest of candidates.”

Ms Drew highlighted that in professional practice the gap is greatest for qualified candidates with experience from the big four firms at the intermediate and senior levels, particular in tax and business services.

“However with practices of all sizes, including the big four, mid-tiers and boutique firms, seeking such candidates, and demand also evident in the commercial sector, there are simply not enough skilled candidates to meet demand,” she said.

Looking ahead, Ms Drew believes the responsibility to fix this talent mismatch falls on the employers.

In the short term she suggests that employers should look at offering better progression opportunities since jobseekers remain career-focused.

“Work/life balance, the opportunity to work with a strong mentor, training and development opportunities and a chance to gain cross-function experience are also high on the agenda for jobseekers,” she said.

“A firm’s software and cloudless capabilities are increasingly important too.”

In the long-term, employers could also become more flexible when it comes to the required combination of skills or industry expertise they expect in candidates according to Ms Drew.

“In commerce, a jobseeker with the experience required in another industry can still perform the job and a small amount of on-the-job training will ensure they quickly come to terms with industry-specific issues,” she said.

“In practice, a jobseeker who is part-qualified can be taken on and while they work towards their qualification they can contribute at a lower level and be trained up into areas impacted by skill shortages.”

“Retention is a huge issue in practice, so any improvements in this area will help employers fix the talent mismatch.”

‘Talent mismatch’ brewing in accounting industry
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