The most powerful company benefit to attract accountancy staff

Our Accounts & Finance Specialist Recruitment Consultant, Jacqui Francis-Lamont, shares her thoughts on the key to attracting top talent into accounts positions.

I am working on a role at the moment where a client has insisted that they will support candidates with further studies. This is an accounts role, an industry where people generally have good working conditions, stay with a company long-term, and there is a real shortage of skilled candidates.

To my surprise within the first twenty-four hours, on top of the candidates already on our database, I’d received over 50 applications and enquiries from active candidates, most of whom are suitable.  Far more than even the ever-popular reception and entry level administration roles would receive.

The main thing that’s attracting applications when I quiz these candidates? A generous pension? Private healthcare? Free beers on a Friday evening, an office Xbox and ping-pong table? Nope. It’s the offer of study support.

Accountancy in general attracts intelligent and ambitious young people who recognise it offers a job for life. However, it is a skilled job and most companies will expect candidates to attain certain qualifications as evidence of their skills.

The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) offers qualifications up to the equivalent of the first year of a degree, and are relatively accessible for all comers.

The problem comes when people wish to progress further and become fully fledged accountants – the higher level qualifications offered by ACCA or CIMA for example are expensive to undertake. The ACCA qualification for example involves 13 exams, each one costing up to £300 to sit, plus an annual registration fee. Then there’s the time commitment of studying in your free time on top of that.

Although they’re a worthwhile investment in terms of the long-term career prospects, the financial and time requirements of pursuing accountancy qualifications puts many people off from doing them off their own back.

However, if a company can offer the support to their staff with training, they can reap the benefits. As well as attracting the best candidates for roles, you’ll benefit from a workforce with up-to-date skills that they can apply to their jobs.  Equally, your employees will appreciate the support they’ve been given in being helped up the career ladder and while you can’t guarantee they’ll stay forever, you’re likely to get greater loyalty and much lower staff turnover.

I often hear my accounts clients say “The next step up would be my job, and I’m not going anywhere for a while” but progression can mean expanding your skillset and taking on new responsibilities, not just going to a management position. However, young people at the beginning of their careers now are more concerned with gaining new skills rather than the prospect of advancing into management roles that has appealed to previous generations.

So if your business wants to attract the best of the best, get them before they’re fully formed and help to shape their careers and skills yourself.