Finance and Accounting Recruiting Trends: What’s in Store for 2020 and Beyond

As we head into 2020, we at BVOH Search & Consulting are excited about the positive trends we are seeing in the Bay Area.  Tremendous growth continues in the technology industry, many companies are not just focused on the bottom line, they’re also striving to make a positive social and environmental impact in the world, and now that millennials make up the majority of the workforce, the workplace is becoming more inclusive and flexible.  There’s a lot to look forward to! Here’s what we’re anticipating and how to prepare for the next year and beyond. 

Increased Growth Despite Looming Global Recession

We have recently seen some dips in the stock market, and we are aware of the volatility. We all have concerns about tariffs and trade wars, and will undoubtedly be keeping an eye on those things. However, what we are seeing right now is growth, optimism and innovation. It can be tempting to concentrate on the possible global impact of a recession, but clients and candidates should pay attention to what is specifically happening in the micro-environment of the Bay Area. We don’t expect these economic concerns will have a big impact on hiring over the coming year.

How to Prepare

While it is important to stay informed about economic indicators, don’t forget to focus on your particular geographic area. We have not seen a business slowdown in the Bay Area, and we don’t anticipate a drop-off in hiring in 2020.

Embracing the Biggest Segment of the Workforce: Millennials

In 2016, millennials became the largest segment in the labor force, at 35% and this number will continue to grow in the coming years. Some companies have been fearful of the number of millennials in the workplace because of their supposed entitlement syndrome. However, at BVOH we believe millennials are making an overall positive impact on work culture in the Bay Area and we are excited to see them leading so many of the companies that we admire.

“Millennials are eager to grow in their careers. If they are looking for direction, be prepared to give it.”

One positive impact that we have seen millennials make is that they are inspiring their employers to develop a culture of transparency and encouragement. Millennials are also prodding the companies they work for (and lead) to be more mission-based, and to concentrate on that mission in addition to making money. They have pushed their companies to think about culture beyond just perks. They’ve created a more team-focused environment and they help people find more passion and purpose in their jobs. The way that millennials focus on mission and purpose is good for both the economy and the welfare of the workforce. They want to feel fulfilled in their jobs, and they encourage those around them to find ways to feel fulfilled, as well. We’re excited that they’re the next leaders. 

How to Prepare

If you have a negative opinion of millennials, you need to recognize that they are our future leaders and try to see the positives they bring. If your experience is like ours, they will bring a great feeling of teamwork and energy to your workplace.  Also, if you haven’t already done this, think about the core values and mission of your company. If you can’t articulate your core values to potential hires, you won’t be able to attract high-quality people to your company. Another thing to consider when trying to clarify your company’s values and mission: Think about how you’re reviewing your employees. Make sure they aren’t just being reviewed on their sales quotas, but on other intangible qualities that they bring to the table. Millennials are eager to grow in their careers. If they are looking for direction, be prepared to give it.

Finance Organizations Will Have a Seat at the Table

Over the past couple of years, some CEOs of venture-backed companies waited too long to hire their heads of finance and corporate controllers, and this prevented them from reaching their growth goals. Many of these companies have an amazing product, the right engineers and a fully developed sales org, but without a strong financial backbone they had a difficult time fundraising and meeting their revenue targets. In the future, it’s likely that CEOs will see the value of hiring strong accounting and finance people earlier than they have in the past. Specifically, we think that companies, as they secure their Series A financing, might want to consider bringing in a head of finance, especially if that head of finance has a specialty in fundraising, to help them set strategic direction for the company. By the time they secure their Series C financing, they should also have a hands-on controller in place to help them bring in the right technology and automation tools, and to help them stay on top of technical accounting issues.

How to Prepare

Stay ahead of the game. Founders need to be more proactive and recognize the importance of hiring good accounting and finance people sooner rather than later—before they’ve gotten to the point where their accounting is a mess and the company can’t move forward.

Rising High-Tech Manufacturing in the Bay Area

There’s a trend of companies starting manufacturing plants in the Bay Area or moving them here from China. Because of this, there will be an increased demand for people who have cost accounting, inventory, and supply chain finance experience. 

How to Prepare

In the Bay Area, there’s a talent gap between the increase in companies that manufacture their products locally, and accounting talent that has experience in these areas. Because of this, companies will need to be more open-minded when hiring cost or inventory accountants possibly considering people who don’t check every box ideal for the job. Job hunters need to also be prepared for these new opportunities.

A Raised Profile for Internal Audit

In years to come, we expect to see an increased demand for internal audit leaders. There are a lot of successful companies in the Bay Area who have recently become public, and they have never hired for this function before. There is also an increased demand for this skill set because of ever-changing cybersecurity laws and GDPR requirements (from the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation). Historically, this function has been the policing agent of the company. These were the people you didn’t want to have at your meeting because they were going to put some kind of silly internal control in place that took too much time and didn’t seem to add much value.

“The modern corporate controller needs to set aside time monthly or quarterly to stay up to speed on the latest technological developments. Stay on top of the technology, or you will be left behind!”

That is the internal audit function of years past. Nowadays, this department has a seat at the table making strategic decisions about the direction of the company.  For example, they might work directly with the sales organization about who they’re going to sell a product to, and how they’re going to sell it.  They can also keep your CEO out of jail, which is nice! Internal audit can also help you to better automate and use AI in your processes. In general, they are now seen as a great value-add, which is a real shift in thinking from the days when they were seen as strictly agents of governance.

How to Prepare

Be proactive. If your company is getting ready to go public, or has been public for about a year, you need to be proactive about hiring for your internal audit function.  Look for someone who doesn’t just see themselves as a policing agent; you want someone who can give you examples of how their work has positively impacted the growth of a company.

Improved AI Abilities for Accounting

Over the past couple of years we have heard concern from our candidates that AI technologies might replace their jobs and give them less security. However, we are optimistic that AI will not take away a lot of accounting positions, but will actually make accounting jobs more interesting. AI has only improved the way accounting functions are run.  AI will take a lot of repetitive processes off the CPA. That means the CPA can spend more time analyzing how the business is running as well as working on technical accounting issues. There’s still some uncertainty, but we’re seeing jobs becoming more interesting rather than lost altogether.

How to Prepare

Keep up with the technology. The modern corporate controller needs to set aside time monthly or quarterly to stay up to speed on the latest technological developments. Stay on top of the technology, or you will be left behind!

Continuing Focus on Work with a Mission

More than ever, companies are being created to solve an environmental or ethical issue in the world. A lot of these companies are being formed in the Bay Area—the land of innovation and change.  We have several clients that fall into this category, such as Bolt Threads, which is making next-generation, sustainable fibers and textiles, and Sila Nanotechnologies, which is producing hyper-efficient batteries for electric vehicles and other items.  These companies aren’t just creating the latest app or software product, but they are changing things like the environment, or the way we eat.

“If your company isn’t mission-based, think about ways to clarify your mission and better convey it to attract top talent.”

People coming into the workforce now are more interested in these kinds of companies than ever before. They want to think they are impacting the world in a positive way, and we’ll only see more and more of this.

How to Prepare

Consider your mission. Candidates, think about what issues you’re most passionate about, and the areas where you want to make a change in the world. Then seek out companies that are in alignment with your ideals. If your company isn’t mission-based, think about ways to clarify your mission and better convey it to attract top talent. If you can do that, you will increase your brand awareness and attract higher-quality job candidates.

Increased focus on Diversity and Inclusion

Over the past couple of years, more women and minorities are sitting on boards and in positions of leadership within their companies.  It’s an overall positive thing happening in the Bay Area, and we are setting this path for others around the country. Our clients are achieving their diversity and inclusion goals when they have been open-minded about a candidate’s skill set when hiring. The candidates might not have had 10 out of 10 checked-boxes of a skill set for a particular position, but the company let the person rise into a new level of leadership in order to achieve their goals.

How to Prepare

Be intentional. Consider your goals regarding diversity and be intentional and be open-minded in your hires. You may get wonderful results from allowing a somewhat nontraditional candidate to grow into his or her role.

Looking Ahead to 2020

The Bay Area is full of trend-setters, especially in the corporate world. That’s what makes this area so exciting! But you have to stay on top of trends. As a candidate, you might not be developing the right skill sets, or as a company, you might have trouble figuring out how to stand out from the crowd.  Look forward to more innovative hiring, a laser focus on mission, and a steady millennial workforce and figure out how to use it to your advantage. For BVOH, and all of us, there’s much to look forward to in 2020. Things are always changing, but change is what keeps us fresh.  

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