Leadership Management / Strategy Personal development

Podcast: Solving the talent puzzle

Let's talk about the elephant in the room – or what my boss, Tom Hood, would call the dead moose in the room. You know ... that thing that’s stinking up the joint but everyone's trying to ignore.

It's talent.

How do you find it? How do you keep it? How do you set your organization apart from all the others out there so people want to work for you?

It’s a huge challenge, and here’s why in three short words: One point five.

That’s the unemployment rate for accountants and auditors. One point five percent. The national average is 3.7 percent. That means it’s more than twice as hard for employers in our profession to find great employees than everywhere else.

Welcome to reality, and reality continues to get more and more harsh. Ten thousand Baby Boomers reach retirement age every single day. That means one of two things:

  • One, they’re retiring and they’re taking all of their wisdom and experience with them.
  • Or two, they’re continuing to work, which means your younger professionals have fewer opportunities to advance their careers, which means they’re more likely to look elsewhere for those opportunities.

Either way, you’re screwed.

From a people perspective, accounting and finance professionals are dealing with a lot these days, and it’s not getting any easier.

So we sat down this week with Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half, which specializes in the placement of professionals in the accounting and finance, technology, legal, creative, and administrative fields. Paul has more than 30 years in the recruiting field and he has advised thousands of company leaders and job seekers on how to hire and get hired.

In this conversation, we cover:

  • Paul’s hiring advice.
  • How recruitment and retention has changed in a world of exponential change.
  • Best practices for retaining talent once you find them.
  • What young professionals should be doing to get a leg up on their job searches



Making the accountant unemployment rate work for you There are way more job openings in our profession than there are candidates. We mentioned the unemployment rate for accountants and auditors sits at 1.5 percent, but it’s just as low for other related occupations. According to Robert Half, the unemployment rate for bill and posting clerks is 1 percent; for financial managers, it’s 1.2 percent; for financial analysts, it’s 1.4 percent; and for bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks, it’s 1.8 percent.

It remains to be seen what automation will eventually do to those unemployment rates, of course. But for the time being, we’re talking essentially full employment.

So what’s an organization in search of accounting and finance talent to do?

Robert Half recently published an article titled “How to Make the Accountant Unemployment Rate Work for You,” which offers advice from Steve Saah, executive director of Robert Half Finance and Accounting:

“Narrow your hiring criteria to the most critical attributes. Be more flexible. If you’re unable to find someone who perfectly matches the job description but does have the soft skills to succeed in the role, you may be able to provide them with on-the-job education and training opportunities to fill in what’s missing.

“Another tip is to expand your reach. Cast a wide net and augment your efforts by doing some extra networking and tapping your existing employees as resources for referrals. Consider working with a specialized staffing agency that can help you find skilled professionals who are not actively seeking work but would jump at the right position if it came along. And most importantly: Don’t wait.”

Those looking for jobs, particularly the top talent, have their pick of options – so, the longer your hiring process is, the less likely it is that you’ll be able to capture that talent.



William D. Sheridan