Generation Z – those born between 1995 and 2010 – are the youngest and newest members of the workforce, joining the profession at a time of significant change. As a generation, they are unusual, being steeped in technology and shaped by the events of recent years.
Drawing from a survey of more than 9,000 18 to 25-year-olds around the world and supported by employer roundtable discussions, a new ACCA report, Groundbreakers: Gen Z and the future of accountancy, explores the aspirations of this generation – described as ‘smart, connected, ambitious yet realistic’ – as they enter the workplace.
Every generation is shaped by the environment in which they come of age – and Gen Z have largely seen only crises
For many, their first experience of working life has been lockdown and virtual meetings. However, as economies recover from the pandemic, their influence will help to shape the future. ‘Young people at the outset of their careers are a key part of this story of renewal,’ says ACCA chief executive Helen Brand in her introduction to the report.
Gen Z are particularly interesting because the world of work they will step into was already changing rapidly before the pandemic, which has accelerated those trends significantly. The report says that the expectations of professions are changing, and that careers are being shaped by a multitude of issues, ‘from changing expectations of individuals in the workplace, shifting social mores and values, to new types and levels of connectivity, and demographics’.
The capabilities needed by accounting professionals, their fundamental role and their career paths are changing. So what does this mean for employers who want to attract the best of Generation Z, keep them, and get the best out of them?
Gen Z’s world
Every generation is shaped by the environment in which they come of age – and Gen Z have largely seen only crises. They saw the global financial crisis wreak havoc, and the pandemic will define the first working years of many. As a result, security and job stability is a priority. That does not mean, however, that they plan to accept any job in order to ‘stay safe’.
The good news is that Gen Z see the profession as a gateway to opportunity, providing a portable qualification that will allow their career to span geographies and industries.
Tips for employers
The report makes a number of recommendations for employers who want to harness the potential of Gen Z:
- Tap into their digital mastery. Gen Z are ‘fantastic ambassadors and early adopters’ of tech, and could help the rest of the business adopt digital (see ‘Digital mastery’ graphic below).
- Think ‘intrapreneurship’. The report argues that Gen Z are natural entrepreneurs. Creating a culture where this flair can be safely tapped into (through initiatives such as innovation hubs or sandboxes) gives space to their ideas while managing risks.
- Use social channels to recruit. TikTok and Snapchat are increasingly being used by employers to reach Gen Z candidates – and also have the power to create brand ambassadors who could influence their peers.
- Be authentic and listen. Gen Z value authenticity and see it as a key factor in their decision to join – or avoid – an organisation. In practice, authenticity means anything from approachable leaders to a culture that values the opinions of all employees.
- Focus on wellbeing. Support is important to Gen Z. Employers should be sure they have resources in place to help address the concerns of younger employees.
- Match purpose with individual development. An organisation’s purpose and impact on society matters to Gen Z – they want to understand what their own contribution could be.
- Create opportunities for collaboration. Gen Z want to acquire new skills, make a difference quickly and be part of a bigger picture. Collaboration generates solutions, fosters intergenerational learning and energises the workforce.
- Reward outcomes not inputs. Gen Z are not naturally nine-to-fivers, and the pandemic has further blurred the line between where and when work gets done. Focus on what is achieved rather than on hours spent.
- Give continual feedback. Frequent feedback and acknowledgement is essential to motivate Gen Z.
- Keep learning short and visual. Gen Z are natural self-curators of learning, using tech to access knowledge at speed.
Join ACCA's webinar live on 13 and 20 May, 'Rethinking careers: Gen Z and the future of accountancy' to hear more from the report's authors and Fatima Baig, financial controller of Network Rail to give the employer viewpoint, and Rochelle Moras, an ACCA affiliate, representing Gen Z.