How young accountants will navigate the future

Accountancy profession is fast becoming unappealing to young people as per a report by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) published yesterday.

The report gathered the views of 9,000 18 to 25-year olds globally, including 158 in Kenya and decodes the age old problem of aspirations and fears of this up-and-coming generation of young professionals, while also offering employment advice for them and employers alike.

Steve Obuogo of ACCA says the findings present both challenges and opportunities for the accountancy profession and business both in Kenya and globally. That’s simply because Gen Z will demand more accountability and transparency from the leaders of the organisations in which they work. They young lot will also have high expectations of their work-life balance and how their welfare is managed.

“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 to achievement in 2030 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” he says.

Three waves of opportunity shaping the careers of Gen Z

According to the latest report, Kenyan based Gen Z respondents question the motives of the business world. While 47% say that businesses are fighting climate change, 37% agree business leaders have integrity and do what they say. In addition, 58% say business prioritise and take good care of employees. However, a significant 82% also believe that business has a positive impact on wider society.

In addition, early half (49%) of Kenyan respondents see accountancy as having an attractive image that encourages people to join its ranks. But this is a generation concerned about the future – 55% identified lack of job opportunities/job security as a concern versus a global average of 58%.

It is also interesting to note that besides 41% of Kenyan Gen Z being concerned about their wellbeing and mental health, they are determined. Looking at their own peer group, a massive 94% say they are ambitious to progress quickly; 93% value work life balance and flexibility and 91% value purpose and meaning in a job.

“The mantra is simple: stakeholders, not just shareholders. For the accountancy profession, this represents a potential turning point and these young people will help create a workforce which is more diverse, more inclusive, and which will make businesses more cognisant of their broader role in society,” says Obuogo.

As expected, young accountants are also tech savvy with 85% saying they are comfortable with technology and pick up new tech fast. And the same amount say technology will enable finance professionals to focus on high-value-added activity.

For those already working as accountants, 50% were drawn to it for the opportunity to develop a broad range of skills and 44% for the chance to work in other countries. This perception is echoed for those respondents who are looking to become accountants with 55% attracted to the profession for the global portability it offers.

ACCA says for young people to future proof their own careers, and realise their career dreams, they should not only bring their tech know-how to the organisation but also brand themselves by making work engagements more personal to build deeper relationships in the workplace.

They should care for their health and build resilience, seek mentors and find sponsors, and 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.

Another rule of thumb is importance of the “early years”. The only person ultimately accountable for one’s career is him or herself, and as a young person entering the workforce, it is critical to recognise the importance of the early years in work.

“The pandemic is 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 longer term,” says ACCA.

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