With wage growth slow, will you get a pay rise this year?

Although accountants have seen some wage growth this year, salaries have not moved much for the last three or four years.

Employers are struggling to fill some accounting roles, but wage growth will be limited this year.

The latest survey by recruitment firm Hays says 90 per cent of employers report accountants’ salaries are on the rise, albeit by only a small amount.

The results indicate the majority (65 per cent) of the 3400 employers surveyed in the research intend to raise salaries by just 3 per cent this year.

Meanwhile, 70 per cent of businesses surveyed complain of skills shortages, especially among mid-management accounting professionals working in the engineering and IT sectors.

Hays regional director David Cawley says although accountants have seen some wage growth this year, salaries have not moved much for the last three or four years.

How to get a pay rise

Nevertheless, there are still ways savvy accountants can increase their take-home pay. “Gather your evidence, not only on personal achievements at work, but also about market trends, and also research the market rate,” Cawley recommends. He says scheduling a formal meeting to negotiate a pay rise is also key.

“Arrange a meeting so it’s done properly. Don’t hold the meeting in a car park or corridor. Formally make your case. The meeting should be a two-way conversation rather than a set of demands.

“Be prepared to negotiate and understand your fallback position. Would you accept staying on at your current rate? Or, if you go in looking for 5 per cent, would you accept 3 per cent?” he adds.

Phil Scardigno, associate director of accounting and finance at recruitment firm Hudson, is seeing similar trends in salaries.

“While salary movements for accounting and finance professionals have generally been flat in recent years, we are seeing improvements for accounting and finance professionals in the defence sector, oil and gas, and mining and resources.”

To stay or go

Hudson recently surveyed 365 accounting and finance professionals across Australia and just 7 per cent of the survey sample thought they were paid above the market rate.

Its research showed just half of the accounting and finance professionals who responded to the study were given a pay rise in the last year, compared to 66 per cent who received a pay rise in 2018. Yet 55 per cent expect a pay rise this year.

Commenting on opportunities for a salary rise, Scardigno says it all begins with knowing your market value and salaries for comparable roles in your sector.

“Once you know your worth, you have a choice to either look for a high-paying role outside the organisation or to negotiate a better salary where you are. You can also help yourself by being equipped with the skills that are in demand.

“To expand your knowledge, try to become involved in special projects such as systems implementations and upgrades, restructures and due diligence activities. When it comes to asking for a pay rise, remember that timing is key and you need to come armed with a strong, persuasive case to justify the increase.”

Accountants in demand

When it comes to the accountants in highest demand, Cawley says analysts, management accountants and systems accountants are especially “hot”.

“This is being driven by businesses that want to drive efficiencies. We also see demand for finance controllers and CFOs. In particular, newer, tech-focused organisations looking to scale up quickly really need people with that kind of experience. They need to acquire these skills in order to grow.

“We’re also finding companies are really hungry for people with M&A [mergers and acquisitions] experience, especially among larger organisations looking to expand internationally.”

Scardigno also highlights a number of technical skills that are in high demand.

“People with finance and business analysis skills are highly sought after, particularly in the development and interpretation of dashboards and business performance metrics.

There’s also strong demand for business analysts with business information skills and also for accountants who understand how to extract and use big data.”

Accountants with experience in taxation and those with strong technical accounting standards knowledge are also able to easily find new positions. People with knowledge of large ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems such as SAP and Oracle are also finding new roles.

“In terms of soft skills, our survey found that questioning and thinking critically, a continuous improvement mindset, and adaptability are factors hiring managers think are critical for success in an accounting and finance role,” says Scardigno.

4 tips to get a pay rise

  1. Schedule a formal meeting – don’t negotiate in an informal setting such as in a corridor.
  2. Know your worth – use salary guides such as those published by Hays or Hudson to work out how much you should be paid.
  3. Once you know how much people in similar roles earn, go armed with the information when you go into salary negotiation meetings.
  4. If you don’t get the rise you’re looking for, have a fallback position – are you still comfortable to remain in your role without a salary increase?

Read next: Top influencing skills accountants need


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