In the last 12 months, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has reported a low rate of annual salary growth, down to just 1.7%. Certainly from mid-last year, this figure was impacted by the ongoing pandemic. More recently, however, from the back-end of 2020, we have seen the economy continuing to strengthen, with the employment market moving well into its recovery mode.
With Australian borders remaining closed to overseas professionals, there is now a significant demand for top accounting and finance staff, leading to a number of key accounting roles being added to the PMSOL (Priority Migration Skilled Migration List). This impact of this stimulation is likely to be felt from early 2022, as we see the reopening of borders to international travellers.
As CPA Australia General Manager of External Affairs, Dr Jane Rennie commented on this move, “Australia faces a growing shortage of accountants. But it’s not just here; accounting professionals are in high demand globally and there is competition to attract them”.
Skills for success
With increased uncertainty at home and in the workplace, we have seen a particular need for key soft-skills, particularly in leadership roles. Whilst core technical skills are expected by employers at a base-level, demonstrating other attributes, such as empathy, care and communication, ensures internal teams are fully supported and kept engaged at this highly stressful time. Flexibility and creative thinking to lead teams within untested working conditions are also highly regarded attributes.
In addition to this, Forbes, in a report from March 2021, states that jobs that request machine-learning or AI skills are expected to increase by 71% in the next 5 years. Whilst the role of the accountant will always require human skills such as the ability to understand situational context and creatively solve problems, people wanting to get on the front-foot with emerging AI knowledge and skills should keep an eye out for new courses that are now starting to appear across Australia.
Short-term and long-term incentives
As people progress through their careers and move into more senior roles, the size, structure, and ‘achievability’ of bonuses are an increasingly important consideration when negotiating a salary package. For those in leadership positions (including General Manager Finance, Head of Finance, CFO’s), we are seeing the market moving away from short-term incentives, with more emphasis placed on long-term incentives within salary packages. A key driver for this is a need for businesses to foster performance that is more geared to long-term business success, rather than short-term benefits.
For junior and mid-level candidates the focus remains on short-term incentives. The exception for this are start-up organisations, including fintechs, who will sometimes incorporate long-term incentives to compensate for a lower base salary on offer.
We would advise candidates to check that they are not falling below the line with short-term and long-term incentives, as this can be a watch-out area when negotiating salary.
Purpose vs remuneration
The impact of COVID on people’s lives means that many finance professionals are re evaluating what is truly important to them, both at home and work. There is a lot of talk that we will soon be faced with ‘The Great Resignation’, as people are spured on to make a change. From my perspective, I don’t think the issue is as extreme as the media has suggested; but certainly, we can expect to see some movement in the workforce as we head into 2022. Rather than a threat for business though, I see this as being more of a ‘Great Opportunity’, particularly for businesses that have good values and culture. These are the types of organisations that more and more top candidates are looking to join; but not at the cost of a competitive salary. The best candidates are looking for the best of both worlds: fair remuneration for the value they offer and a satisfying working experience within an organisation that cares.
When you’re looking for a new role, try to look at the bigger picture, rather than focussing purely on salary. For most people, particularly as they move into senior roles, inspiring leadership and a strong company culture are equally, if not more, important in terms of job satisfaction and overall wellbeing.
We have developed a guide to help you understand the importance of getting a good cultural fit in a new position and show you how to make sure you are aligned with a business before signing on to a new role.
Understanding your value (FAQs)
With COVID having a major impact on how we live and work, one positive trend we have seen coming from these turbulent times is candidates now demanding more from their jobs and also seeking clarity around their value in the workplace. At Moir Group, we fully support and encourage our candidates to understand their worth in the market and ensure they speak up to ensure their salary is not falling below the line.
Below are some of the questions we are increasingly being asked by candidates:-
Q: How can I negotiate the salary increase I deserve?
A: If you believe the value you offer your company is out of step with your salary level, and you’re doing an excellent job, there is no reason you shouldn’t raise the topic of a pay increase. In this article we discuss when you should justifiably ask for a pay rise; the benefits of non-monetary rewards; and uncover the ‘5 C’s for salary negotiations’.
Organisations that are well-led generally want to pay people fairly. If that’s not happening, then put your hand up and negotiate the salary you deserve or consider searching for a new job. If you are doing a good job and you are taking on new responsibilities, most companies won’t want to lose you.
Q: I have been offered an internal promotion but the salary is well below the market rate for this type of role. Should I take it?
A: Internal promotions are an area where we often see candidates being underpaid. There is a mindset within some businesses that salary rates for an internal promotion should not exceed a certain cap (even if that means it pays below current market rates). From our perspective, the bottom line here is fairness. For businesses, ensuring existing employees are fairly paid, in accordance with the value they offer, ensures that relationships remain strong and top employees are retained for the long-term.
From a candidate’s perspective, whilst it may be tempting to take on a more senior role to have the experience, it’s important that you remain professionally ruthless in your negotiations to ensure the final salary package is a fair reflection of your expertise and experience. Keep in mind your value as an existing employee with strong knowledge of the business. You may consider consulting with a professional to help you form a clear business case.
Q: As a woman, how can I ensure I’m being paid my worth?
A: Latest figures from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) show that women are currently being paid an average of 14.2% less than their male counterparts (based on full-time eaverage weekly earnings). This is clearly a major concern for female finance candidates, who ask us how they can ensure they are receiving fair remuneration as they progress through their career.
Whilst we know that the ongoing gender pay-gap is driven by multiple factors, often not in the control of a candidate, it’s important to do your homework and make sure what you are being offered is fair.
Take care not to devalue yourself in this process. You may feel you need to tick every box in order to qualify for a particular salary grade, however, this is not necessarily the case. Speaking with a recruitment professional can help you consider your key strengths in the broader context of the job and give you an outside opinion of what you should be aiming for, salary-wise.
At Moir Group we believe that a satisfying job leads to a fulfilling life. For more advice about finance and accounting sector salaries, or for help in making your next career move contact our team or browse our latest jobs.