Organisations faced financial uncertainties during the pandemic, resulting in a huge need for controllers. And this demand for controllers continues: in 2022, the number of controller vacancies was a whopping 54% higher than the previous year.
Meanwhile, employers risk losing time and money due to confusion about the job content of 'the controller'.
This is according to Christophe Paquay, manager at Robert Walters. He explains what organisations can do to attract and retain controllers.
Many organisations have come to realise during the corona pandemic that they do not have enough grip on the financial figures and the potential risks they face. Better control of information and process optimisation can provide more grip, pushing these two topics higher on the priority list of business leaders. "There was already a need for more control on information and tighter processes, but this trend has been accelerated by Covid-19," Christophe says. "Indeed, good risk coverage makes your organisation more agile, which proved essential during the pandemic."
The widespread desire to get a better grip on costs led to a huge demand for controllers. The number of vacancies for this group of professionals was a whopping 54% higher in 2022 than the year before (source: Jobfeed). Organisations are mainly looking for business controllers, and financial controllers who can take on business control tasks. Indeed, organisations increasingly need controllers who can not only distil numbers, but also interpret them and prepare targeted advice for the board. "Doing so, controllers can actively help the organisation hedge future risks," Christophe explains.
At the same time, organisations struggle to attract and retain controllers. This is not only due to the pervasive tightness in the labour market, Christophe observes. "Hiring managers often say they are looking for a controller, but do not always know exactly what the person should be able to do in the organisation's current context." For instance, it regularly happens that an organisation is essentially still on its way to being 'in control', and thus needs an experienced controller to realise this. It may then happen that the selected controller is given different tasks and responsibilities than expected.
In terms of financial controllers, expectations are not always clear either. This miscommunication can cause the organisation to invest a lot of time and money in controllers who leave again after a few months, as the job content turns out differently than expected.
Financial controllers are no longer only focusing on the numbers. Today, they are also expected to take on an advisory role in the organisation," Christophe explains. "But by no means everyone is aware of this broadening of tasks, which can lead to confusion between the organisation and the applicant about the exact content of the position.
Controllers are in demand, and they know it. "They are critical and can be demanding in terms of salary and working conditions," says Christophe. "I try to identify as much as possible with hiring managers what exactly they expect from a controller, which makes the search for the right candidate easier. The problem is that the term 'controller' can be interpreted in many ways, and therefore can be filled in many ways by applicants."
Christophe advises business leaders to sum up exactly what the intended controller will do. "Conduct internal interviews with employees in similar positions and do extensive research into expectations. Then the chance of a match is many times higher, and with it the chance that the new employee will stay with you."
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