Generation Y: Young accountants challenge employers for dynamic careers

Wednesday, 13 October 2010 22:55 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

More than half of young finance professionals seek to use their finance training in broader business careers

The young finance professional of the 21st century has a confident and clear vision of their career progression, demands job security and is motivated by money, according to new research from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) and Mercer, the global consulting, outsourcing and investments firm.

The research – called Generation Y: Realising the potential - shows a generation of young finance professionals seeking aspirational and dynamic career paths, both inside and outside traditional mainstream finance careers.

It presents a wakeup call to employers of finance professionals to embrace the career aspirations of the youngest generation and offer dynamic career routes that capitalise on their finance skills, or risk losing future talent.

Over 3,200 individuals responded to the research, from 122 countries around the world, making this one of the biggest ever studies of the youngest generation presently in the workforce. Leading global organisations were also interviewed to provide unique insights into managing this generation effectively, including KPMG, Unilever, Hays, Aviva, RSM Tenon, Santander, UK Government Finance Profession, Pannell Kerr Forster, and the UK’s National Health Service.

While the survey reports that most Gen Y finance professionals suggest they are satisfied with their current role, concerns are expressed regarding the future, with half suggesting their organisation is not able to offer them sufficient career development opportunities.

Jamie Lyon, from ACCA, and co-author of the report, says, “Generation Y finance professionals are smart operators. Our survey suggests they are hard working, but they want quick and transparent rewards.

“In the future, we know many businesses will need a blend of employees, some staying in traditional finance careers, and others taking their finance skills into broader areas outside mainstream finance roles. The good news is that this is what Generation Y wants too – they rightly see the accountancy qualification as a great step to a broader-based business career but for the employer, providing more diverse career paths in the timescales demanded is a big challenge. Managing the career expectations of Generation Y and being transparent about career development will be key to delivering on the career promise. If employers get this wrong, there’s a significant retention risk, particularly if global economic conditions start improving.”

Rob Bebbington, Leader of Mercer’s Human Capital consulting business agrees and says Australian employers are facing a higher calibre of young talent than in the past, and they will need to find new ways to attract and retain them to prove their worthiness as an ‘employer of choice’.

“Technology has played a significant role in giving Generation Y broader skills and a deeper understanding of business and commerce before they’ve entered the job market - their unique skills and ability to apply them is making them a valuable asset to organisations.  Subsequently Generation Y has built higher expectations around pay and reward, and while hard dollars are still part of the equation, a focus on optimising career progression is just as important to them,” Mr Bebbington said.

“Employers within the finance sector in particular will need to ensure they are prepared to meet these expectations as competition for skilled talent in the sector is increasing.

“Given the Australian economy weathered the global financial crisis storm quite well, there is a degree of stability in the financial services industry and the continuing buoyant environment will no doubt increase the demand for young talent. Moreover, with the average age of the workforce increasing, Generation Y are next in line to fill technical leadership gaps making them even more critical to employers in the future,” he said.

Other key findings from the research reveal the following:

Money matters: Remuneration is important to this age group but they also want a good contractual package – they want money, work-life balance, and they want to work for an attractive brand that reflects their own values.

Experiential learning is crucial: Employers and Generation Y themselves see experiential learning as key to developing the skills required of today’s finance professional. Face to face learning still resonates with this generation and they are less reliant on e-learning than may have been previously thought.

Be attractive, be different: Employers need to put career development at the heart of their proposition to make them attractive to Generation Y.

Jamie Lyon from ACCA concludes: “As our report shows, this is an über confident generation, who value security, but who are equally prepared to walk away if their career path is not being delivered. They are a demanding generation to manage, but ACCA and Mercer believe that if employers can offer them interesting careers, and get the career proposition right, this generation can offer a wealth of untapped talent that is waiting to be unleashed.”