Moving forward: talent at war

Current? People have been talking about a war for talent for the last decade,
and it shows no sign of subsiding.

But has this perpetual war mentality created an inherent complacency within
the talent pool?

As the financial director of a professional recruitment consultancy, I know
first hand the mounting pressure businesses are coming under to find good
people. But as an accountant, I know that in our profession there is often more
talent than there are opportunities.

Despite constant doom-mongering about a future shortage of accountants in the
UK, there is in fact a healthy surplus of qualified professionals, especially at
a senior level. Anyone who has applied for a job recently will know that the
ratio of applicants to roles can run into the hundreds and beyond. The real
challenge for employers is not finding candidates ­ there are plenty to choose
from. It’s about finding candidates who have the qualifications, plus the right
attributes, experience and cultural fit.

I escaped the office this month to attend the launch of a self-help book
offering advice and hints on how to thrive in the ‘corporate jungle’. In it the
author emphasised the importance of building a ‘personal brand’ in order to
boost your career progression, which represents who and what you are and how you
add value to a company. Refreshingly, the book placed the onus back on the
candidate to prove their worth; advice of particular relevance for accountants.

Differentiating yourself remains a big challenge for finance professionals ­
from graduates to global CFOs. It’s not enough to be qualified; employers are
increasingly looking for softer business skills. They don’t just want ‘clock-in,
clock-out’ drones, but employees who live and breathe their values and seek to
make a difference to their business.

It’s all too easy to read about pay hikes, golden handshakes and inventive
benefit schemes and to believe that successful career development is a given.
For the best and brightest, it may be ­ but the real battle is to be recognised
as such.

Top talent will always be at a premium in any sector and there’s no doubt
that young accountants are increasingly demanding better benefits, prospects and
rewards from their employers. The danger is in assuming that businesses will
automatically be fighting for you and you start forgetting to fight for

Richard Ashcroft is group finance director at
Harvey Nash

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