The lockdown effect: supply of, and demand for, accounting talent in 2021 (Sponsored)

Feb 11, 2021

By Ed Heffernan, founder and Managing Director of Barden

By now many companies have both implemented and become comfortable with virtual hiring processes. The enormous impact on demand seen during the first lockdown has not manifested in either the second nor third lock down to quite the same extent.  Companies that are hiring are getting on with business.  

Demand for talent has now begun to follow a predictable pattern of mirroring restrictions:  dampening during the initial phases of tightened restrictions and surging as restrictions begin to lift. Spikes in demand for accounting talent occurred in September 2020 and December 2020. Should restrictions begin to ease somewhat in March, we predict another such spike in April. In the meantime, demand remains at approximately 70% of pre-pandemic levels. 

Supply of accounting talent has followed a similar pattern to demand but has not perhaps recovered to the same extent. In the initial lockdown period, people were hesitant to consider moving jobs, resulting in a very real dip in supply. Some companies that were hiring in June were surprised that it was harder to get good people at the time. As restrictions eased, people became more confident but the supply of accounting talent at many levels just did not recover in the same way as demand. People had settled into new work from home routines, had other issues taking up their time outside of work and many had neither the capacity nor the inclination to start looking for a new job. Not much has changed in that regard through successive lockdowns, with supply in Q1 2021 continuing to lag demand.

What do we in Barden predict over the coming quarters? Here are a couple of things we think will happen:

  1. Demand will surge again once restrictions begin to ease: Following a possible surge in April (and assuming no further lockdowns), demand will settle back to a higher level than before (perhaps about 80-85% of pre-pandemic levels). We expect that to continue to be the case until the end of the year. Only when industries decimated by the pandemic (and frustrated by Brexit) begin to rebuild both their businesses and their finance teams, will we see a return to 2019 levels of demand.
  2. Supply will continue to lag behind demand over the coming months: Supply will be unlikely to catch up with demand, however, we do see a potential surge in supply occurring towards the middle of the year. Those who have been thinking about moving will finally begin to get market curious, who were due to come home in 2020 but did not will begin to trickle back, and who have been looking after dependents are more certain of the schools/other supports being back will finally put themselves back on the market.
  3. Contract roles will continue to lead permanent roles on volume: As companies rebuild, they will do so tentatively. A commitment to a new person for a fixed-term contract is just less risky than hiring someone on a permanent basis right now. 

In summary, H1 will be more a candidate-driven market, as hiring managers having less choice and having to pay/compete more, and H2 will be a more hiring manager driven market, as demand stabilises and supply of talent increases, candidates will have less choice and will need to be more flexible.  

It will be 2022 before we’ll see a return to more normalised supply and demand patterns. That’ our hunch at least.

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This article is sponsored by Barden.