Journalist ACCA
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Harness the potential of Gen Z workforce


In the wake of a testing 2020, businesses must play their part in rebuilding economies and providing jobs, seizing the opportunity to attract talented young people to a repurposed world of work. But how will they respond to the aspirations of the Gen Z workforce?

2nd Jul 2021
Journalist ACCA
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A good case can be made for saying that Gen Z are the unluckiest UK generation for 100 years. This was the view of Pete Ward, deputy CEO at Leadership Through Sport and Business, a key participant in two recent ACCA online events, which brought Gen Zs and employers together to gain mutual insights into aspirations and expectations around a workplace transformed beyond recognition by the advent of Covid.

“A decade of austerity, which saw public funding cut dramatically, had already had a major impact on Gen Zs, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable and disadvantaged,” he pointed out in an introduction to the GenZsplaining event, which focused on the hopes of young people from non-traditional backgrounds. “However, despite this we are seeing incredible talent, optimism and grasping of opportunities from young people who want to change the world, while recognising the barriers to doing so.”

The aspirations of these 18-25 year-olds have been captured in the recently published ACCA and IFAC report Groundbreakers: Gen Z and the future of accountancy in the UK.

The report shows that 91% of the 9,000 respondents surveyed globally expected to update their capabilities continually to remain employable in the future; 81% said their peer group valued higher pay; 64% expected to have multiple careers in different disciplines in the future; 58% cited job security as a key concern; and 46% agree that long term career prospects are the key attraction factor for accountancy.

“Interestingly, data from this report showed that, globally, issues such as sustainability, climate change, inclusion and equality were tracking lower than mental health, personal well-being and job security. I think this shows the true impact and immediacy of the Covid-19 pandemic on this generation.” Jamie Lyon, Head of Business Management at ACCA said.

“However, sustainability did rank fourth among issues of high concern in the UK.” One young contributor pointed out that Gen Zs were always being told that the world was their oyster and that they’d grown up with a greater awareness of the need to protect that world.

GenZsplaining participants identified good communication between managers and themselves over work pressures and wellbeing as a key need, along with feeling welcome, being given the opportunity to put forward ideas both formally and informally, personal development and more diversity and ethnic representation - “people like ourselves.”

Employers talking to this group were keen to show their commitment to empowering new entrants, improving access to those at the top and helping them to understand their organisation’s road map for the future. They agreed that the ability for Gen Zs to do some tasks better and more quickly through a greater understanding of technology needed to be married with an understanding of the merits of experience.

All employers taking part in the online events recognised that digital know-how was key to creating competitive advantage and transforming businesses. With this in mind, they said they saw Gen Z candidates as potential technology ambassadors, prizing those who could bring their tech know-how to the organisation quickly, innovating and using technology to solve challenges differently and more efficiently.

They shared concerns about the risk of human relationships within the workplace suffering as remote working became the norm, citing the importance of their younger employees building the emotional resilience to help cope with the risks of increased isolation while accepting their own responsibility to find a way to make work engagements more personal.

Key advice from the employers included: “Don’t be afraid of sideway moves to broaden your experience; “take a holistic view of what your company does”; commit to your personal development - no-one can do it for you”; show ambition and drive; and “accept the fundamental truth that it is still so often who you know and not what you know and understand the importance of networking from the day you join your first company”.

These important messages from both young people and employers were reflected and expanded on in the Grilled: Gen Zs get inside the minds of employers get inside the minds of Gen Zs event.

“Gen Zs are looking for flatter company structures, a work life balance, fast progression and good renumeration,” Chengai Ruredzo, financial controller at Open Energy Market, observed.

“A lot of job candidates find themselves in large pools of peers - it’s very competitive out there. The trick is to separate yourself from the many by asking questions, demonstrating resourcefulness and setting up meetings with line managers and above so you can learn from them. Take time, pass exams, embrace training opportunities and learn about the different aspects of the business you work in. Success is built on a solid foundation!”

These expectations of Gen Zs came with the recognition that those employers who failed to recognise the need to invest in up and coming talent were not going to be best placed to fight the storm in the economy that everyone realised was brewing.

Read the full ACCA report: Attracting new generation talent

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