The Accountant – Issue 2 of 2021 (MIA Publication)
ACCA / IFAC Research Highlights 10 Recommendations for Employers
As Generation Z (presently, 18-25 years of age) comes of age and joins the working world, ACCA and IFAC undertook research into the key issues facing this generation’s emerging professionals. Surveying 9,000 Gen Z respondents in late 2020, individuals were asked about their career aspirations, needs, worries, and perceptions of business and employers. Analysis of findings are presented in the joint ACCA / IFAC Groundbreakers: Gen Z and the Future of Accountancy1 report. This report offers recommendations for Gen Z as they navigate their careers and provides significant insight for employers seeking to hire, develop and retain this younger generation of talent.
What Do the Results Tell Us?
Regardless of sector, survey findings offer important insights into meeting Gen Z needs and addressing their concerns – both of which are essential for future business success. Survey results identified a number of key findings relevant to attracting, motivating, and engaging Gen Z employees.
It is important to remember that Gen Z grew up during the economic crisis, is presently living through the COVID-19 pandemic, and will face the impacts of climate change. As such, it was not surprising to see job security and well-being rank as top concerns for Gen Z which was closely followed by the 3 Es: (1) global economy, (2) future of education and (3) income inequality. Each of these further aggravated by the pandemic.
The broader concerns around climate change and inclusivity have not fallen entirely out of the chart though, with about a quarter of the respondents identifying them as key concerns.
Although Gen Z is strongly influenced by the desire for job opportunities and security, they are being selective and focusing on job opportunities that build and enhance their capabilities so that they succeed in the workplace of today as well as tomorrow. The good news is that, for the most part, employers are already meeting these expectations.
Personal well-being is very important to Gen Z employees. Over 48% of respondents identified work-life balance as a key attraction factor, yet of those already employed, only 33% are satisfied. While above the median, this suggests employers can still do more to prioritize mental health and well-being in order to attract and retain the best talent.
Remuneration, compensation, and benefits are key to employee retention. Gen Z is looking for fair pay and income equality. Gen Z is also an ambitious generation - with close to 60% expecting their next upward move to be within 2 years. As Gen Z is very comfortable with mobility (i.e., changing employers), despite concerns around job security, this generation will not hesitate to move on if their career expectations cannot be met by their current employer.
Being the most globally aware and most connected generation, it is not surprising that Gen Z desires opportunities for international engagement and exposure.
For accounting firms within networks, and for multi-national corporations, designing a structured exchange or secondment program may be an attractive option for new hires. Smaller and medium businesses may need to be creative in meeting these desires and consider more nuanced ways in which to provide such opportunities.
80% of Gen Z respondents noted that they are very comfortable with technology and are confident with picking up new technology as these become available. 79% are convinced that technology enables finance professionals to move away from the more routine number crunching tasks and towards higher value-adding work. Although this is positive, it is important to note that going forward, as technology continues to advance, Gen Z believe that many entry level roles will be eliminated. More than half of survey respondents were concerned about the impact of technology on their job opportunities in the future.
Gen Z, as a group, are broadly convinced (69% of respondents) that businesses have a positive impact on the wider society. However, the survey also suggests that they see room for improvement in a few areas. Roughly 50% of Gen Z respondents noted that they believe businesses emphasize profit maximisation over taking care of customers and employees. Further, Gen Z are not convinced that business leaders have integrity and do what they say. Even fewer of them believe that businesses are currently pulling their weight in addressing the challenge of our time: climate change. Although alarming, this feedback presents an opportunity for employers to clearly and transparently demonstrate that they are mission-driven and focused on impact. Firms which recognise and make this shift will be better able to attract the Gen Z talent crucial to their business’ sustained success.
On a more macro level, as the central purpose of the accountancy profession is to create sustainable value for organisations while acting in the public interest, the accountancy profession is uniquely suited to meet the desire of Gen Z employees to engage in mission-driven work. The key to this will be ensuring that the accountancy profession and accountancy employers are effectively communicating this message and raising awareness amongst students and recent graduates.
Gabby Kusz, Principal for Strategic Initiatives, International Federation of Accountants (IFAC)