At a glance
By Beth Wallace
Amid ongoing skills shortages, more than 75 per cent of Australian and New Zealand accounting and finance employers have said they have been forced to offer workers higher pay than planned, according to the 2022-2023 Hays Australia Salary Guide 2022-23 Hays Salary Guide.
In fact, the number one challenge for surveyed employers is how they can stand out as their preferred candidate’s top choice.
The “Great Resignation” may have lost its momentum, with staff turnover slowing this year compared with the post-pandemic pent-up movement of 2022.
Yet the accountancy skills shortage remains a workforce challenge for employers, impacting projects, productivity, overtime, growth and even an organisation’s ability to take advantage of new opportunities, says David Cawley, regional director of recruitment and workforce solutions specialists Hays.
“The main factors driving salary trends are the skills shortage, a growing trend towards pay transparency and employees being prepared to ask for what they feel they’re worth,” he says.
“Professionals with skills in demand understand that they’re sought after and they still hold a good position in the jobs market.
“It’s a good time to explore your options.”
Salaries plus benefits
Given that 59 per cent of Australian and 65 per cent of New Zealand employees surveyed in the Salary Guide say they would benefit financially from changing jobs, Cawley encourages organisations to make sure their salary offering is competitive in order to hold onto talent.
“With a growing number of employers concerned about both wage inflation and pay equity, it’s important to conduct regular market research and audit salaries internally to keep them fair and competitive,” he suggests.
It can also be worth considering the different kinds of competitive benefits your organisation can include in employees’ compensation packages, Cawley adds, such as training, payment of professional fees and increased annual leave days.
That said, it’s not compensation alone that employees are looking for in their career. Though an uncompetitive salary is one of the top factors driving turnover, lack of promotional opportunities and poor management style or workplace culture have a significant impact, too.
As such, businesses need to broaden their scope when it comes to positioning themselves as an employer of choice. Progression opportunities, work–life balance, a positive and inclusive workplace culture, inspiring leaders and a shared sense of purpose are all factors that today’s employees prioritise when looking for, and choosing to stay at, a job.
Incentives such as hybrid working, work–life balance and learning and development opportunities, Cawley says, can help “bridge the gap” between employees’ salary expectations and what the organisation can afford to pay.
How to get a pay rise
Cawley says there is strong competition in the current jobs market for skilled accountancy professionals across the board, which is translating into salary increases.
In other words, there are plenty of options, and major earning potential, for employees wanting to leave their current employer to pursue new opportunities.
Roles that are in particularly high demand right now include financial analysts, finance managers, payrollers, assistant accountants, accounts officers (including AP/AR officers), tax candidates, auditors, and professionals with business services expertise.
Meanwhile, for employees who want to remain in their current role, albeit on a higher salary, now is the time to start negotiating for the increase they feel they deserve.
To increase the likelihood of a successful negotiation, Cawley recommends preparing quantifiable evidence to demonstrate to your boss why you deserve the raise you’re asking for.
“It’s not enough to talk about the rising cost of living,” he says. “Instead, share specific and quantifiable examples of achievements that warrant a raise today.”
Next, he suggests researching comparable salaries in salary guides or using the Hays Australia Salary Checker, a tool that helps you understand typical salaries and your potential earnings based on your job title and location.
The final step is to set an in-person or video meeting with your manager to review your salary.
“Remain calm and present the business evidence you’ve gathered to support your request,” Cawley advises.
“Remember, this is a two-way conversation, so actively listen to their feedback. Be willing to negotiate if necessary and have a contingency plan in case your employer can’t afford to increase your salary. For example, a date for another pay review in three or six months or additional benefits.”
After all, Cawley says, it’s important to remember that budgets can only stretch so far, and that the larger salary increases will be given to those professionals with the strongest and most relevant skills and experience who can clearly prove their value.
“Using quantifiable evidence of your achievements will help you negotiate the highest possible increase,” he adds.
Top 10 skills for accounting professionals
According to the 2022-2023 Hays Australia Salary Guide, these are the top 10 skills employers want right now, ranked in order of priority:
- Problem solving
- Work ethic
- Attention to detail
- Time management
- Critical thinking
- Emotional intelligence
Learn how to better demonstrate your skills competence with this handy list from CPA Australia.