Seeking stability: why Gen Z is so attracted to accounting careers

73 per cent of Gen Zers are open to an accountancy career, while 21 per cent have committed to working in the accounting profession.

The latest generation of young people now entering the workforce – Gen Z – is seeking a stable career, and that presents an enormous opportunity for the accounting profession. There are a number of factors going into why Gen Z is attracted to a career in accounting.

By Nina Hendy

A career in accounting represents everything that Generation Z – those born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s* – wants from a job.

New research from the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) reveals that Gen Z members combine an overarching desire for stability with a passion for advocacy.

Concerned about financial security, this new generation tends towards conservatism in government, economics and career.

The IFAC global survey of over 3000 people aged 18 to 23 also found that Gen Zers are focused on the economy and their job prospects. They see accountancy as highly aligned with their priorities, as the profession offers a stable career path (89 per cent important or very important), competitive salary and benefits (87 per cent) and a good work-life balance (84 per cent).

More specifically, the survey found that 73 per cent are open to an accountancy career, while 21 per cent have committed to working in the accounting profession.

Given these impressive numbers, the survey noted that industry needs to ensure it inspires Gen Zers about the variety of experiences and potential to make a meaningful impact in accountancy.

How to attract Gen Z employees

Former IFAC CEO Fayezul Choudhury says Gen Zers will bring a wealth of new and unique talents to the global workforce. Understanding this new cohort is critical for leaders in the accounting sector as they seek to engage this wave of talent entering the workforce.

Accountancy is well positioned to attract and retain this new talent, particularly as the role of the accountant becomes ever more strategic, Choudhury says.

Employers should keep in mind, however, that these new job seekers are looking for more than just a job, says David Cawley, regional director of Hays Accountancy & Finance.

“They want skills training that provides them with digital or multi-tasking skills, for example, and they want to be able to work in different areas of your business to broaden their experience.”

This is a generation that doesn’t distinguish between work and non-work, adds Cawley. Flexibility is important, but that doesn’t mean starting a little later. Similarly, they value highly the ability to engage with technology and understand that it means they can do their work at home or at the beach.

“They want to know if they can work independently one day and in a team another day, and how that cuts across culture and business.”

Firms that attract and retain Gen Z recruits need to understand that these new workers like to share their opinions and insights, and companies must provide an opportunity for them to do so, Cawley says.

What drives Gen Z

Gen Zers’ top public policy priorities are advancing economic stability, quality education and job availability, according to the IFAC survey.

Their desire for stability is also apparent in their workplace expectations. They anticipate digitalisation and emerging technology to be a double-edged sword, bringing new ways of working but also prompting the decline of traditional jobs.

Gen Zers are just forging their professional lives now, but within a decade, they will represent a third of the global workforce.

Australia’s Gen Z

The IFAC survey found that Australian Gen Zers are even more concerned about getting a job and the stability of the economy than their counterparts in other G20 countries.

They list their top priority as job availability, followed by the state of the economy and quality of education.

Meanwhile, in similar results to the other G20 countries, Australian Gen Zers’ three top factors in choosing a career are a stable career path (93 per cent important/very important), work/life balance (88.4 per cent), and salary and benefits expectation (87 per cent).

Cawley says the Gen Z candidates who stand out from their peers can already demonstrate how they’ve gone out of their comfort zone, whether by travel, sport or learning a language.

“They know how to position themselves and use social media such as LinkedIn to make the most of networking opportunities to make themselves desirable to employers.”

Accountancy’s adoption of technology has piqued the interest of Gen Z candidates, who are particularly interested in roles that move beyond number crunching and into business development, Cawley adds.

* Who is Gen Z?
Generation Z refers to people born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s. They’re sometimes also described as the post-Millennial generation or the iGeneration, although Gen Z age definitions do vary between sources.

They’re known as the first true digital natives, having grown up with the internet, digitisation and social media as a familiar part of their everyday lives.

According to research by the US Pew Research Center, Gen Z differs from their predecessors, the Millennials, in being better educated and living in more affluent households (with their parents). They have, however, been slower than earlier generations to enter the workforce in any great numbers because they have stayed in education longer.

The IFAC data
The IFAC study involved 3388 individuals aged 18 to 23, representing a sample size of 15 to 300 participants from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the US and a range of other countries. 

Study participants represent a demographic cross-section and have completed or are completing varying levels of education in a range of disciplines.

Read next: Soft skills or technical skills? How accountants stay relevant in a changing world

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