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Confidence rises as finance leaders look to hire again

There are positive signs the UK job market is set to improve this year, according to the latest Robert Half CFO Confidence Index. Nearly half (47%) of chief financial officers (CFOs) and finance directors said they felt more or slightly more confident at the economic prospects facing their companies in the next six months. This is a significant change from this time last year, when 84% of finance leaders were pessimistic about their companies prospects.
 
In the bi-annual index by Robert Half, the specialist recruitment firm, nearly one in five (17%) of the UKs CFOs said their companies would be looking to hire permanent accounting and finance staff over the next six months. This is a dramatic improvement from the 1% of CFOs who had plans to add accounting and finance staff this time last year.
 
CFOs based in London were the most optimistic, with nearly a third (29%) saying they resume hiring in the next six months. Rising workloads were cited as the primary reason for increasing personnel levels (65%), with business growth (55%) as another driver. 
 
According to the survey, the majority of finance leaders who hope to recruit over the next six months will be filling new graduate roles (17%) and more junior positions (27%), which is good news for those about to set out on their careers.
 
The index also revealed that two thirds (67%) of CFOs intend to maintain their current accounting and finance staff levels in the next six months.
 
Commenting on the findings, Phil Sheridan, Managing Director of Robert Half UK said: Our index shows that finance leaders anticipate an eventual upturn in the UK market and are planning their hiring strategies accordingly. The increase in confidence currently being felt by finance chiefs is promising for job seekers looking for either permanent or temporary positions.
 
However, our findings also show that half of CFOs are concerned about losing their top performers to other job opportunities. It is, therefore, even more important that workers feel valued by employers and are given access to training, skills development and career progression within their firms. Salary progression is also being taken seriously, with our findings showing that nearly two thirds (63%) of finance chiefs will be looking to attract talent by boosting salaries.
 
Temporary and interim workers
The demand for interim workers also remains strong, with 63% of finance directors indicating they would continue to use the same number of interims, and 17% of those questioned replying they would be increasing the number of interim workers at their company, up from the 13% of those who said the same six months ago.
 
The most common reason for increasing the number of interim workers is rising workloads (48%), nearly triple the figure from six months ago (17%), followed by keeping labour costs flexible (42%).
 
Phil Sheridan continued: While the outlook for the UK job market is improving, some employers clearly remain cautious, and want to keep their organisations lean and efficient. Employing temporary workers is a cost-effective solution for managing fluctuating workloads and accessing skilled talent.
 
Other findings included:
Large (24%) and publicly listed (30%) firms are more likely to hire new permanent staff over the next twelve months
Two thirds of finance leaders believe that the profession has been damaged in the past year, with CFOs saying that the public now view those employed in finance as untrustworthy (46%) or very untrustworthy (20%)
More than two thirds (71%) of finance chiefs feel there is sufficient talent on their teams to take advantage of an eventual upturn in the economy
 The Robert Half CFO Confidence Index was compiled following a survey conducted by independent research firm Illuminus of 180 Chief Finance Officers from across the UK, comprising small, medium and large firms, both private and publicly listed and across all major industry sectors. The research was conducted in February 2010.

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