Predictions for the year ahead are tricky however the UK economy is strong and employer confidence remains buoyant. Against pre-pandemic levels, data from HMRC show there are more people on the PAYE payroll – the labour market has surpassed expectations despite the extreme challenges. As well as this, official figures published by the ONS show the UK’s GDP grew by 7.5 per cent last year, with 1 per cent in the final three months of the year, despite the impact of the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. Many businesses are certainly poised for growth and we have kicked off 2022 feeling optimistic.

Impact of Brexit
Considering other factors outside of Covid-19, it is hard to believe that it’s almost two years since we left the EU. While the pandemic has overshadowed things, the reality is that Brexit and the resulting lack of growth in numbers of foreign-born workers in the UK have exacerbated an already challenging labour market and triggered a candidate short market. Additionally, many more employees have been gaining the confidence to make a change, re-evaluating their work/life balance. There is an elevated level of job to job movement in the UK as well as a real lack of talent coming into the UK from the EU and beyond.

Skills Gap
In many ways, the path we are on now was being paved long before Covid-19. Yes, it has accelerated certain matters such as home/hybrid working, however, the shortage of highly skilled Accounting & Finance candidates has been acute for some time. Is the industry doing enough to develop the necessary leaders of tomorrow to build a sustainable pipeline of skills to meet the requirements of the sector? We have seen a reduction in investment in training which traces back to the global financial crisis of 2007/2008 and this lack of training has created a skills gap over the years that is being felt most acutely now, particularly in areas such as Audit & Assurance and specifically in middle management. This skills gap will no doubt continue throughout 2022 and beyond. Businesses need to be as diverse as possible in their recruitment strategy to fill the gaps.

Accounting & Finance Leadership
The industry increasingly requires accounting and finance leaders with agility, flexibility and the skills to manage the recovery, to drive through change in the use of technology and to implement the new ways of working. We as recruiters and advisors to firms wishing to grow their teams, need to be tapping into silent/unseen talent, such as “inactive” workers, of which numbers have increased since the start of the pandemic (data from the Office of National Statistics). Some may be very highly skilled and only wish to return to work under certain conditions, perhaps in a part-time or remote capacity and others have taken time off to retrain or upskill.

As specialist accounting and finance recruiters, the team here at Fletcher George have been monitoring the situation closely. During the height of the pandemic in 2020, we saw a tendency for employees to be cautious about moving. Last year saw a great deal of mobility from job to job and a steady increase in salaries reflecting, in part, the growing shortage of skilled candidates. Fast forward to 2022 we’ve seen employees emerging from lockdown with a new perspective on how and where they want to work. Candidates are seeking roles that offer more flexibility with increased life/work balance. Accountancy, finance and tax professionals have very quickly re-evaluated how and with whom they wish to work, opting for businesses that share their values. This transition in thought processing has very quickly become a critical part of the applicant’s key criteria for their next role. Employers must not undervalue or underestimate how important it is to ensure that their corporate values are clear and embraced by staff. Corporate culture is certainly being put under the microscope.

2022 is certainly going to be a candidate-led recruitment market. Those companies that are not quick enough to respond to the new outlook and expectations of employees are likely to struggle in attracting and retaining the best talent.

Candidates can seize this incredible opportunity to make any changes that they are looking for. It couldn’t be a more exciting time for those who wish to make a strategic move to realise the path they would like to follow.

Lisa Wintrip
Director, Fletcher George Financial Recruitment