Staffing: Year-end Hiring Opportunities
By: Melanie Berkowitz, Esq.
While the accounting and financial services industry regularly sees a fourth quarter increase in temporary and contract hiring as corporations seek assistance to close out their books, 2010 is different.
“Tax and finance hiring has begun earlier and is more sustained this year,” says Dawn Fay, District President for Robert Half International (RHI.) “Hopefully the trend will continue into 2011 as the country climbs out of its financial crisis.”
That climb is a complex one. Budgeting and forecasting are particularly complicated this year, says Fay, “Because no one knows exactly how quickly the economy will recover. Many businesses began the process months earlier than usual — and they hired financial experts to help.”
A Broader Demand for Hiring Employees
The economic recovery is fueling growth in other ways too. “We’re seeing more hiring as a result of mergers and acquisitions,” says Larry Weinberg, Vice President of Accounting Career Consultants. “Employers are contacting us to fill finance positions in newly acquired divisions and to help with the complexities of the transition.” Other clients have come to him because their business is understaffed. “Companies that made deep cuts to their workforces in the past two years are now scrambling to rehire as business picks up,” says Weinberg.
Max Messmer, RHI’s chairman and CEO agrees. “While employers remain cautious about adding staff, more firms also are concerned they could miss out on business opportunities by not having adequate human resources in place,” he says. Messmer sees rising customer demands placing added pressure on companies that made deep personnel cuts in recent years. “Some businesses not in a position to hire full time are addressing the gap by bringing in professionals on a temporary or project basis.”
The most promising trend Fay has seen recently is that the hiring of accounting and finance professionals has touched a variety of industries. “We’re seeing demand from financial services firms, such as in the regulatory and risk assessment areas,” she notes. But in many other sectors such as financial services, manufacturing, wholesale and tech to name a few, says Fay, “employers are indicating a greater willingness to hire in the coming months. Instead of being a question of ‘will they hire’, it is now a question of ‘when’.”
RHI’s Hiring Index confirms that business confidence has increased among Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) — those who generally make companies’ decisions about financial hiring. For the first time in nearly two years, the CFOs interviewed by RHI indicated a net increase in hiring of accounting and financial staff. The most active hiring should take place in the West South Central region (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas) as well as the Pacific states. “Demand is particularly strong for operational and staff-level accounting roles,” Messmer notes.
New Regulations add to a Growing Hiring Trend
Aside from the economic recovery, changes in the tax laws and accounting standards are also fueling the hiring trend. “Tax breaks and incentives drive the bottom line so companies seek to get tax experts on board to help them find the most benefits,” explains Fay.
Adding to the trend is the need to comply with the myriad of tax and financial regulations and new laws. “Accounting standards overseen by the Financial Accounting Standards Board as well as recent tax law changes have become more complex, which has driven a demand for accountants and other tax professionals,” notes Brian Carter, CPA with Blackman Kallick. One example can be seen in the lending industry. “Banks and other lenders are scrutinizing loan requests and often require more detailed financial information than in the past,” explains Carter, adding that, employers are using finance and accounting professionals to make sure they are prepared both when companies are requesting financing and planning for possible future financial statement audit requirements.”
Fay agrees that recent events in the financial sector have everyone worried about compliance. “Smart employers are making sure that they have the proper experts available to oversee financial matters.” 2011 will see a number of tax and benefits changes that employers may seek help in understanding or implementing in their workplace:
- The Small Business Jobs Act will provide a number of tax breaks and incentives for small employers to assist them in buying equipment, making capital expenditures and growing their businesses.
- Changes in medical reimbursement plans – companies that maintain flexible spending accounts (FSA), health reimbursement accounts (HRA), or health savings accounts (HSA) for their employees will no longer be able to reimbursement most over-the-counter medications on a tax-free basis.
- Small businesses will be eligible for tax-free government grants to establish workplace wellness programs.
- All employers must begin reporting the value of health insurance on their employees’ W-2 forms; This change begins in 2012, not in 2011, as previously scheduled. Employers should use the additional time to make any necessary changes to their payroll and accounting processes.
Amid an economic recovery that is still evolving, Fay sees many corporations using a variety of methods to attract top talent, "whether it is seasonal hiring, temporary to hire or full time employees."
No matter how businesses choose to utilize financial professionals in their workplace, whether to assist with compliance, provide tax advice or oversee day-to-day accounting matters, what is clear is that those with the proper expertise are going to be needed in greater numbers in the coming months.