Slowly and cautiously, companies in the financial community that downsized staff at the height of the economic crisis are beginning to build up once again.

A drop, perhaps, in a still quite considerable bucket, but unquestionably an indication of movement, and certainly good news.

The fact is that accountancy, in particular, held up well throughout the crisis. Unemployment among tax specialists is much lower than the near 10 percent among the larger population. In California, for example, where 12 percent are without jobs, 95 percent of workers with tax expertise are employed. Accountancy is a skill, after all, that complements the mindset of most companies right now. Businesses want to save money - and accountants do just that. A good accountant comes with a built-in incentive for any lean, cost-conscious company, which these days, of course, may be the same as saying any company. It makes for a nice counterweight to offset the cost of hiring someone.

 

THE MOVE TOWARD CONVERGENCE

Accountancy is a talent likely to remain in demand for another key reason, beyond companies' need to steady the bottom line. As business emerges from the recession, the accounting landscape faces the most dramatic change in generations.

In February 2010, the Securities and Exchange Commission re-affirmed its support for moving to a single set of global financial reporting standards. The convergence of this country's generally accepted accounting principles with International Financial Reporting Standards is moving forward.

It has been pushed back from 2014 to 2015, but smart companies are aware that, as the sideview mirror says, objects may be closer than they appear. The year 2015 will get here fast. Many U.S. companies have already begun to change over, some having started the shift as soon as the SEC approved it in 2008, and more organizations are moving in that direction every day. This will certainly change how accounting is done in this country, and it is going to demand more and more skilled staff.

Some are predicting a race for talent. Right now, IFRS knowledge and experience coats a resume in platinum. The challenge for companies that need the expertise will be to balance hiring regimes that remain conservative against the need for specialized talent. One argument from proponents of IFRS is that bringing on staff to manage it pays off quickly because the standard reduces expensive layers of complexity in GAAP. In addition, of course, for any global company it pays to follow the same guidelines adopted whole or in part by 120 other countries. In any event, for better or worse, IFRS is coming. Companies need the right talent, ready to greet it at the front door.

 

A 'TEMPORARY' STRATEGY

A balanced strategy can be to hire expert temporary staff. Amid a still tentative economy, every company interested either in a degree of expansion or in moving to IFRS should consider the possibility of bringing in part-time expertise. It increases an organization's flexibility, expertise and productivity all at once, and also is a great way for employer and employee to get to know each other at this pivot point.

Staffs are generally expected to return to pre-recession levels in 2012 and smart companies will gradually gear up now.

With that awareness, temporary staffing can be a terrific bridge to the other side of the Great Recession. Commitments made now should come with flexibility. When it comes to accounting, that's an approach that can work for both sides of the hiring equation. Skilled accountants are in demand, and as a result many of them actually currently prefer to keep their options open, waiting to see just how the economy shakes out.

Temporary staffing can be the precise way, amid continuing levels of uncertainty, to cope with a quite certain need for skilled accountancy, as companies grow again and long-embedded rules change. It is a compelling middle way, amid our continuing economic muddle.

 

Trent Beekman is senior vice president at Accounting Principals, a finance and accounting specialty-staffing firm.

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