According to a recent survey, 51% of Canadians support bringing dogs to the office

Neil Johnson, ACCA Careers editor

Robert Half research shows that 90% of Canadian hiring managers say it’s challenging to hire skilled accounting and finance professionals today. Nevertheless, more than half of these managers intend to hire for new positions in the first half of 2023, and over 40% intend to fill vacated roles.

‘Candidates who have done courses to use tech better in the workplace will be attractive’

‘There will continue to be job vacancies that need staffing, as well as many opportunities for contract positions in various sectors. Nearly seven in 10 managers also plan to increase their contract workers in the next six months,’ says Cal Jungwirth, director of permanent placement services, finance and accounting, at Robert Half Canada.

‘This bodes well for the 45% of accounting and finance professionals who reported that they have started or plan to start a new job search in 2023, as well as the nearly 30% who would consider leaving their current role to pursue a full-time contract career instead.’

Sectors and industries

There is notably high demand for professionals across a variety of industries, including construction, financial services, logistics, manufacturing, oil and gas, renewable energy, pharmaceuticals, real estate, technology, healthcare, travel, entertainment, retail, telecoms and food.

Martin Fox, managing director at Robert Walters Canada, also notes the increasing market for M&As and a proliferation of start-ups as further hiring catalysts, with these situations particularly in need of professionals with M&A and capital-raising skills and experience.

At the same time, the picture does not look as rosy for practices, with tax and internal audit talent in demand or in short supply at the more junior to mid-levels (senior financial analyst-manager) given the niche skillset.

Softer skills will remain highly sought after and a point of distinction for many candidates

‘As these disciplines are more unique and, frankly, deemed less interesting by a portion of the market, it results in less people pursuing their career in these areas after coming out of public accounting, with most choosing financial reporting or financial planning and analysis,’ says Fox.

In-demand roles

Alistair Houghton, vice president, accounting and finance, at Hays Canada, notes five roles that will be particularly sought after this year:

  • Financial analysts: ‘The need for strong forecasting and budgeting is going to be key to navigating the hard-to-predict next 12 months.’
  • Senior accountants: ‘Companies will need professionals who can ensure adherence to evolving accounting rules, a quick and accurate month-end close, and reporting on a company’s current state.’
  • Controllers: ‘Small to mid-sized companies are looking to this function to provide a hybrid of accounting and financial planning and analysis support.’
  • Property accountants: ‘The most in-demand skillset has been those handling commercial and retails portfolios.’
  • Payroll: ‘The demand has been strong, and the urgency is always at its highest when this role is being recruited.’

There appears to be a consensus that businesses are crying out for finance professionals with demonstrable technological nous around systems implementation and data analysis/interpretation, as businesses continue to streamline and modernise.

There is strong demand for expertise in CRM and HR systems, NetSuite, SAP, Oracle, QuickBooks, Excel, Dynamics 365 Tableau, Alteryx, VBA macros, SQL and Power BI.

‘Candidates that have looked beyond their accounting designation and taken on courses to enhance their use of technology in the workplace will be attractive to employers looking for someone who can improve and automate processes, and bring efficiencies to their departments,’ says Houghton.

Softer skills will remain highly sought after and a point of distinction for many candidates. The demand for strong communicators is evergreen, with employers wanting their finance professionals to build relationships with internal partners, lead teams effectively and provide insights to senior management.

Similarly, businesses also want professionals with strong commercial acumen and business partnering skills to support and make decisions that impact the bottom line.

Salary movements

With the candidate in the driving seat and able to demand higher salaries, 2022 was a bumper year, with people in some cases seeking 20% salary bumps to fill vacancies at often desperate employers.

‘We are seeing a lot of companies implement inflation-related salary increases across the board’

‘We have seen salaries at all levels increase by 5–10% over 2022,’ says Houghton. ‘With a slight cooling in the market and more candidates entering, the pressure to increase wages in 2023 will be significantly lower. I would expect modest salary growth over the next 12 months of 3–5%.

‘We are seeing a lot of companies implement inflation-related salary increases across the board, and those that have not taken this measure do run a risk of candidates looking elsewhere to keep up with the increased cost of living.’

Benefits beyond salary

Robert Half’s 2023 salary guide found that an impressive 90% of companies in Canada were adding new and improved perks and benefits to their offerings, to aid in the attraction and retention of top talent.

‘The most common additions are mental health resources, wellness programmes and flexitime, with nearly nine in 10 accounting and finance managers reporting that offering remote work options has helped them attract strong candidates in the past year,’ says Jungwirth.

Flexibility is the most requested perk by candidates, with 82% of respondents to the Hays 2023 salary guide wanting fully remote or hybrid work options; the figure was 64% in Robert Half’s survey.

‘Allowing employees some autonomy over where and when they work gives a competitive edge’

‘The days of one-size-fits-all no longer exist, and this applies to benefits, work location, hours and more. People are looking for flexible perks that work for them as individuals, and take into account their unique circumstances and needs. Companies that allow their employees some autonomy over where and when they work have a competitive edge,’ says Jungwirth.

Furthermore, Robert Half found that 30% of professionals would consider leaving their job for a new organisation with better mental health benefits. ‘The past few years have seen increased stress for everyone, both personally and professionally, and offering expanded mental health benefits, including employee assistance programmes and access to free therapy, can go a long way for recruiting and retention efforts.’

Candidates are also placing greater stress on learning and development, something to which employers are increasingly paying heed, and not just as a retention strategy, but also to attract those wanting to further their education, says Houghton.

‘We are seeing more companies add this to their package, with either an annual allowance or support based on reimbursement for passing a related/approved course.’

More information

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Read the Robert Half report

Read the Hays report