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Mind the skills gap

Written by: Julie Martin
Published on: 8 Apr 2014

Academies are currently feeling the heat with the spotlight of attention focused on their financial management following the recent announcement of several fraud investigations. Heads of Finance, Finance Directors and Managers play a vital role in securing the longevity and growth of academies, and these senior financial posts require employees with specific skills and behavioural characteristics. Get this right and the organisational rewards are huge. Get it wrong and the results can be disastrous for students, staff and academies alike.

Many academies have a skills gap in their finance teams and find recruiting to these posts challenging. Yet, not employing people with the right financial acumen has left a gaping hole in some education establishments, and six academies are currently under investigation for financial mismanagement and fraud. Therefore, securing talented people for financial roles has become a focal point for senior management teams within academies, schools and universities.

This growth in competition for professional staff means that academies often have a tough time being heard in a noisy marketplace. Also, salaries are not always perceived as competitive within professional financial circles and very few academies incorporate reward packages designed to attract the very best talent within financial management. Other common recruitment mistakes are, using the same advertising medium and fishing from the same pool as everyone else, or not having a back-up plan in place if the initial recruitment campaign fails to attract the right calibre candidates.

However by working with recruitment consultants such as, CIPFA-Penna  who specialise in finance and accounting within education, employers can develop high performing teams who want to work together for the financial success of the academy. Here are five strategies to secure talented senior financial employees:

1. Take a fresh look at the job description and person specification

Rather than just a replacement of the present incumbent, ask yourself what are the needs of the role now? It’s important to seize this opportunity and to secure some measurable benefit for the academy. Do you need an individual to challenge and change; enhance performance; attack the financials; calm muddled minds? Be absolutely clear about the key tasks and what you want delivered.

2. Become an employer of choice

Create some curb appeal for your academy – extoll the benefits of joining your organisation through your branding on your website, marketing materials, PR and advertisements. Also, consider the use of different advertising mediums to obtain a better response, for example, if the academy is searching for a finance specialist then speak to CIPFA-Penna  for advice, direction and suggestions.

3. Don’t forget to use your own network of contacts within the education sector

People always know people and can make referrals. Looking ahead it’s also important to create your own database of contacts. Stay in touch, through regular communications, with people who may be potential candidates for future roles. Remember your contact may not be right for the current role advertised, but the needs of the organisation will change over time and they may be right for you in the future.

4. Sell the benefits of joining your organisation

If the initial recruitment campaign fails to attract suitable candidates don’t just advertise the role again hoping for a better response. Stop, take stock and review the wording of your advertisement. Ask the questions - have you "sold" the benefits of joining your particular organisation, does the salary meet the job requirement, can you succession plan one of your existing team. Alternatively, change the job requirements entirely.

5. Use a recruitment specialist

Recruitment specialists will already have a database of candidates to offer you, and may be a better, more cost effective alternative to advertising again and again. When using an agency, make sure they are a specialist in your field with an understanding of your job market. Other qualities to look for include; a consultative approach, competency, professionalism and honesty.