It’s year-end and accounting and finance executives are starting to think about their annual bonus, professional goals, and how to respond to calls from recruiters. An extended spell of working remotely has complicated career planning now that where, when, and how to work is up for grabs. 

We’re reading a lot of headlines about a middle ground: the hybrid workplace model. We spoke with Workiva’s Hailey Schilling, Senior Talent Acquisition Consultant and Kaila Penner, Career Development Manager to get their insights about how the hybrid workplace affects the accounting and finance job market and ongoing career development.

1. What exactly is a hybrid workplace model? 
Many companies are finding that accounting, reporting, auditing, and other financial processes that were once exclusively conducted on-site can be completed remotely just as efficiently. This is due in part to the widespread adoption of cloud services over the last five to 10 years. 

But another critical factor is that employers trust their team and give them the tools and flexibility they need to complete their work remotely. As recruiters, our sales proposition should be that employees have the flexibility to choose when, where, and how they work best.

2. Give us a sense of the job market in accounting and finance.  
Competition for accounting and financial talent is fierce— it is a highly competitive market. With a low unemployment rate and a war for talent in accounting and finance, it’s certainly an employee-driven market. Due to the short supply of professionals in these fields, job seekers have been given the opportunity to be more selective and intentional in their job search. 

3. Looking into 2022, what skills are in demand? 
Companies are hiring for business growth and compliance demands. As a result of digital transformation within the accounting and finance functions, professionals with strong technology skills are in demand. 

Right now, demand is running high for CPAs experienced in cloud-based systems, CRM software, data analysis and visualization, ERP systems, and industry knowledge.

4. What should hiring managers keep in mind in a market like this? 

Hire for potential rather than perfection. Loosen up your hiring requirements and look for candidates that can meet a substantial—maybe 70%—of the criteria, but who also have something to add to the organization’s culture.  

Speed is critical in making hiring decisions. Top candidates are receiving multiple offers. Shorten the hiring process where possible: who absolutely needs to be a part of the candidate interview panel to make a hiring decision? Be flexible in salary negotiations. 

Put your sales hat on and be prepared to woo top candidates. Everyone who meets a candidate needs to sell them on your opportunity, your team, and your company.

5. What is important for job seekers to keep in mind in this type of market.
Past experience working from home is nice, but usually is not required. Focus on demonstrating your self-motivation and ability to work independently. Clear communication and knowing when and how to ask questions are the most important success factors.

6. How can candidates prepare themselves for hybrid-workplace success in a new job?
Start by asking the right questions during the interview.  How does the team stay engaged while working remotely? What tools do they use to stay connected while working virtually? 

Also, take advantage of employee resources and industry webinars available that coach people to work effectively and successfully in the new world of hybrid workplaces.  

7. How can learning and development  help you succeed in a hybrid workplace?
In many companies, December is career planning time. We receive performance reviews and bonuses, we set new goals, and contemplate if it’s time for a job change—a move up or a move out. 

Any type of pay or performance conversation can be a chance for an employee to discuss their career development. Be prepared and bring questions with you to discuss your team’s goals for the next year. This will help you align your career development with company and team objectives. You can also use this time to share some of your goals and objectives for the following year. This shows initiative and that you’re leading your own development.

8. How can you develop the leadership skills required to manage a hybrid team.
One of the biggest leadership roles for managers and directors is to build trust in a hybrid workplace. When employees feel trusted to do their jobs, they are more likely to stay engaged and will often perform better than those with non-trusting managers. Your company may be offering this type of training already.  If not, there are many online courses.

9. How can one position themselves for a new job within their company? 
Cultivating connections with people on other teams and raising your hand for projects outside of your normal scope can create personal visibility and open doors to new roles and responsibilities. Be sure to track your activity in a development plan so that you can refer back to your newly acquired skills when applying for a new job. 

10. We’ve read about proximity bias.  How can managers and staff avoid falling into this trap in a hybrid workplace? 
Proximity bias suggests that employees who are physically close to their team and company leaders will be more successful than their remote counterparts. 

Managers and employees can limit proximity bias by using online collaboration tools in meetings. On video calls, request that everyone show their face, rather than hide behind an avatar.  And managers should regularly make private check-in calls with all employees on the team. 

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