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Filling the skills gap - new ways of attracting and retaining professionals Back  
A lack of qualified professionals in certain sectors is leading to companies seeking out new ways of attracting and retaining staff. Trips to Eastern Europe, mortgage allowances, training programmes and referral fees are all being used by international financial services companies to hire candidates and fill their skill gaps.
and business analysis skills, within the international funds industry. She says, ‘at present, the market demand for these profiles certainly surpasses supply. Part and fully qualified accountants are also very much sought after across all areas of financial services. We predict that this trend will continue well into 2007, and that we will see more of a demand for client relationship and product development skills as financial services companies try to enhance service levels and broaden product and service offerings’.
Dermot Butler

David J. Hannon, division manager for Professional Placement Group, believes that finance and accounting professionals should be positive about the jobs market, as, ‘structured finance, equity and credit derivatives, hedge fund services, treasury, commercial and mortgage lending are all key areas in the Irish market place’.

He adds that, ‘those professionals pursuing fund investment accounting opportunities should be particularly cheerful, as there is still a high demand for those pursuing funds careers’.

Attracting candidates
It is a long time since a single print ad guaranteed a sufficient response from potential candidates. Now financial services firms have to use an increasing variety of mediums to reach their target market – and this target market is also changing, with firms more open to hiring staff from other countries.

Thomas says, ‘road trips through Ireland to promote the company are becoming common, plus more adventurous trips to countries such as India and Poland to source well educated staff’.
The shortage of candidates is also impacting on the hiring and interview process. Joanne McCarthy, manager of Brightwater's banking division, advises clients to act quickly on strong candidates while still maintaining their standard interview process.

She says, ‘Offering a role after one interview may sound like a time-saving exercise, however, offering too early in the process can have the opposite effect. We also recommend that clients organise a pool of interviewers to choose from, to ensure candidates can be interviewed without delays due to annual leave, business trips, sickness etc. This will ensure that the interview process can run smoothly while still maintaining high interview process standards’.

Existing staff are also being used as a tool to source and attract new staff, with excellent internal referrals being offered of up to €5000 for senior level positions, says Thomas.

Blair adds that the difficulty in hiring staff has led firms to respond in a number of ways, including spending more on advertising; fully utilising their own websites and advertising on a variety of well known internet sites (usually more than one per company). ‘In particular the internet advertising has opened up countries from much further afield, in particular Eastern Europe,’ he says.
Financial services companies are moving towards a more ‘open minded’ approach, says Thomas, giving an example of SMEs within the tax and practice sector, ‘who are becoming more flexible in this tight labour market and are now recruiting experienced accountants from a variety of sector backgrounds’. She adds that financial services will probably also follow this lead and widen their candidate net by seeking candidates with non financial services backgrounds.

The shortage of available candidates is also leading to an increased emphasis on training.
‘Most companies have in-house training (mainly due to the uniqueness of their system, processes and services), and fund dedicated training companies have entered the Irish market and supplement training in specialist areas,’ says Blair.

Perks and benefits
Faced with such a tight labour market, companies are becoming increasingly innovative when it comes to hiring staff.

According to McCarthy, a number of companies are now introducing ‘flexi-benefit’ packages to combat the candidate shortage. She says, 'these allow candidates choose how they would like to spend their benefits, eg one candidate may want increased annual leave as opposed to one who wants to increase the private health cover they can avail of. By and large, employees within the international financial services industry in Dublin enjoy attractive benefits including; sports & social clubs, education assistance, travel allowances, bonuses, to name a few.

Thomas says that companies are offering novel perks to attract candidates such as sign-on bonuses, which, she says, are on average 10 per cent of salary. Other perks offered include mortgage and cash subsidies - ‘at times over ?2000 per annum’ - is now very common, she says.

For senior candidates, re-location packages are very common, says Thomas. ‘Accommodation and flights are usually organised for the employee and family, along with every effort to support decisions such as schools, social & housing options,’ she says.

Moreover, human resources teams have become very focused on the benefits side of packages, as well as being more conscious that ‘bad news travels fast within such a close-nit market’ says Thomas.

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