A decade of opportunity for Generation Z accountancy professionals and their employers is predicted by ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and IFAC (the International Federation of Accountants) in a new report, Groundbreakers: Gen Z and the Future of Accountancy.
Gathering the views of 9,000 18 to 25-year olds globally, including 123 in the Middle East, the report throws fresh light on the aspirations and fears of this up-and-coming generation of young professionals while also offering employment advice for them and employers alike.
Middle East respondents broadly see accountancy as an attractive career, providing long term prospects and portability with access to jobs that span internationally and across industries. But this is a generation concerned about the future – 67% identified lack of job opportunities/job security was ranked above the global average of 58%. Just below half (49%) of Middle East Gen Z are concerned about their personal wellbeing and mental health, and 48% are worried about a global recession.
The report also reveals that as employers, the profession is missing opportunities to attract more young people to its ranks.
Middle East Gen Z question the motives of the business world – just a quarter agree businesses are fighting climate change; 24% agree business leaders have integrity and do what they say, and 42% say business prioritise and take good care of employees. However, 67% also believe that business has a positive impact on wider society.
67% believe that business has as a positive impact on wider society
Just below half (49%) of Middle East Gen Z are concerned about their personal wellbeing and mental health
Fazeela Gopalani, head of ACCA Middle East, says: “Our findings present both challenges and opportunities for the accountancy profession and business across the Middle East and globally. That’s because Gen Z will demand more accountability from the leaders of the organisations in which they work, and they’ll also have high expectations of their work-life balance and how employee welfare is managed.”
- Middle East Generation Z is determined: looking at their own peer group, a massive 91% say they are ambitious to progress quickly; 89% also value flexibility and work-life balance, and 86% value purpose and meaning in a job.
- As expected, they’re also tech-savvy – 89% say they’re very comfortable with technology and pick up new tech fast. The same amount say technology will enable finance professionals to focus on high-value-added activity.
- For those already working as accountants, 35% were drawn to it because of long term career prospects, and 35% also to for the opportunities to secure a professional qualification.
- This perception changes for those respondents who are looking to become accountants, with 56% saying it is because it means being part of an established and accredited profession.
Fazeela Gopalani concludes: “The world now demands more accountability and transparency – the mantra is simple: stakeholders, not just shareholders. For the accountancy profession, this represents a potential turning point. These young people will help create a more diverse workforce, more inclusive, and make businesses more aware of their broader role in society.
“Our report explains how Gen Z will bring their talent and tech know-how to the profession and change it, pursuing careers with purpose and doing jobs that make a difference. It’s a message of opportunity and positivity as we work towards achievement in 2030 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”
To help Gen Z navigate the future, ACCA’s report recommends ways they can future proof their own careers and realise their career dreams as work changes:
- Bring your tech know-how to the organisation: you’ll be greatly prized for doing this.
- Work your brand internally: make work engagements more personal to build deeper relationships in the workplace.
- Care for your health and build resilience
- Remember, it’s a team game: tech helps to build connections, and there are brilliant opportunities ahead to learn from others in the workplace.
- Disrupt yourself: think ‘sideways’ moves and be adaptable.
- Seek mentors and find sponsors: actively seeking mentors and colleagues from different generations to provide you with essential support to help ‘fill in the blanks’ and give you vital knowledge and wisdom from years of experience is very valuable.
- Continuously learn: this is about being future-proofed, about learning new knowledge, but about being adaptable and proactive and having an open mindset to get new skills, to future proof your competence.
- Recognise the importance of the “early years”: The only person ultimately accountable for your career is yourself. As a young person entering the workforce, it’s critical to recognise the importance of the ‘early years’ in work.
- Build life-long networks: keep connected and build a strong external network to expand learning opportunities and new career opportunities. Time invested in important personal relationships over the long term will always pay dividends.
- Pursue your dreams: the pandemic’s making many rethink careers, and jobs in accountancy are changing, offering fantastic opportunities to contribute and make a difference. Pursue things that interest you, that provide purpose and career fulfilment. And even if you haven’t decided yet, finding something that interests you and at which you can become good at will reap benefits long term.