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Millennial and Gen Z employees walking together

Disruption by younger generations is changing the way the world turns, and that means accounting firms and employers in the accounting industry and the workforce are changing to keep pace. Despite or perhaps because of the changes, accounting thrives as an attractive career choice. The accounting industry provides benefits that appeal to all generations, including the two age groups that will make an impact worldwide in the years to come: Millennials and Gen Z.

In addition to causing shifts in buying patterns and generating a foodie culture, Millennials are making waves in the workforce. Gen Z is not far behind, which is why it’s crucial for the accounting industry to pay attention to what these populations expect from employers in order to recruit and retain top talent.

How Millennials and Gen Z are causing shifts in the workforce

In this article, we’ll share the results from Gallup’s study on the expectations that Millennials and Gen Z have at work, what accounting firms have done to meet these expectations, and what we can expect accounting firms to do to attract Millennial and Gen Z employees in the future. Finally, we’ll cover why becoming a CPA can future-proof your career by preparing you to meet and take advantage of these generational shifts in the workforce.

What do Millennials want from work?

In a 2016 study titled How Millennials Want to Work and Live, Gallup states, “Millennials will change the world decisively more than any other generation.”

One of the areas most changed is the workforce. There are workplace needs that Millennials and Gen Z consider more important than their senior counterparts did at comparable points in their careers, which requires employers to re-evaluate and reshape company culture, benefit packages, and employee-manager communication.

Below are some of the top attributes that Millennials and Gen Z workers consider when seeking a job:

  • Opportunities to learn and grow

    Millennials value a work environment that offers challenges and developmental opportunities. This attribute represents the greatest difference from what other generations value. Beyond a bigger check or a better title, Millennials want to improve themselves as people, and they expect their work to be a part of that. This desire is partly informed by the fact that many Millennials are still early in their careers. Many were seeking their first jobs or felt the aftermath of the 2008 recession, and they understand that ongoing learning can help them find stability.

  • Quality of managers and management

    58% of Millennials rate quality managers and management high on their list of attributes when searching for a potential job. Millennials connect quality of management to an organization’s overall reputation or culture. Rather than tough it out under a boss they don’t agree with, many Millenials will seek opportunities elsewhere.

  • Purpose in their work

    Unlike previous generations, Millennials and Gen Z employees want a job that not only provides a decent paycheck, but one that has meaning. A meaningful job offers a sense of investment in the time they spend at work and keeps them engaged. In addition to improving themselves, Millenials want to improve their communities. And that goes far beyond a neighborhood. Both Millenials and Gen Z are making ties globally, coming together over all manner of shared interests, and seeking employment in the things they like. Fortunately, every business needs good accountants.

  • Opportunities for advancement

    Millennials aspire to gain more abilities and skills, and expect to use those gained abilities to advance in the workplace. Room for advancing within a company is another important factor Millennials consider when applying for a job. They want to know concretely what steps they can take to earn a promotion and how their company makes advancement decisions.

  • Overall compensation

    Although other factors play into their decision, pay is still an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to Millennials saying “yes” to a job opportunity. More are entering the workforce with a college or advanced degree compared to previous generations. They also carry the most student loan debt, so they want a reliable income that returns on their investment.

  • Work-life flexibility

    Millennials are increasingly expecting employers to invest in them as employees and as people, creating more ways for them to balance work and personal life. Gallup found that this group values how a company can help them lead a better life overall. Whether it’s flex-time, telecommuting, or something else, Millenials value work that works with them.

Find tips about work-life flexibility in our blog, “Work-life Balance in Accounting.” It also shares what accounting firms are doing to improve work-life balance.

Why becoming a CPA is a smart career choice in the changing workforce

The transition from traditional to a more unorthodox work culture will touch all industries, and while the accounting and finance world is no different, every business will always need a good accountant. If you want a career that provides optimal salary and non-salary benefits, consider a career as a CPA. As a CPA, you can choose whether you want to take a public accounting or private accounting career path. You can learn more about both career tracks in our blog, “Choosing the Public Accounting Path.”

The non-salary benefits of becoming a CPA can offer Millennials, Gen Z, and others a more satisfying career and life overall.

Here are the top non-salary benefits to pursuing your CPA licensure:

  • Increased growth and benefits

    As an accountant, your financial rewards are already off to a great start. They’ll only grow over time as many companies offer bonuses for passing your CPA Exam. You’ll earn higher-level promotions, which bring higher salary, increased authority and responsibility, and excellent experience you can leverage further.

  • Increased job security

    Businesses need reliable accounting professionals on their side to succeed. The demand for CPAs will remain high, particularly in the next few years as Baby Boomers retire and experienced accounting professionals grow scarce.

  • Increased career opportunities

    The range of jobs available to CPAs is vast and so is the variety of locations in which CPAs can work. They are in demand all around the world, opening plenty of doors for those looking for jobs in a new city or even abroad.

  • Increased personal and professional developmental

    Millennials and Gen Z are passionate about developing their skill set and growing in their personal and professional lives, which is why becoming a CPA is a good fit for these two groups. After passing the CPA Exam, CPAs are required to continue learning and updating their skill set to stay on top of current trends and maintain their license. As the accounting industry evolves, the roles and responsibilities of CPAs grow with it.

  • Increased trust and respect

    A CPA is an empowering position that is associated with expertise, a great work ethic, and admiration from clients, employers, and society. Millennials and Gen Z can find the meaningful purpose they seek at work by earning CPA license.

What are accounting firms doing to meet Millennial and Gen Z workforce expectations?

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) conducted a NextGen Study with the University of Southern California and the London Business School on how they could encourage Millennials to join their staff. Since its release, smaller firms have begun following suit to tailor their work culture to draw more Millennials and Gen Z to apply to their firms.

PwC’s NextGen Study shows that revisions are necessary to adapt to the growing demands these two generations expect from the accounting workforce. The following are the lessons that other organizations can learn from the NextGen Study and some examples of changes that PwC and other firms have already made to meet these demands:

  • Create a more flexible work culture: Adopt policies that promote improved work/life balance.
  • Leverage technology: Accelerate the integration of technology into the workplace to provide workers increased efficiency and flexibility.
  • Increase transparency: Inform employees about compensation, rewards, and how advancement decisions are made. Create a meaningful rewards structure that recognizes contributions made by employees.
  • Build a sense of community: Encourage teamwork and support from supervisors while communicating feedback to employees face-to-face.

What can we expect accounting firms to adopt to meet workforce demands in the future?

Let’s take a look at policies non-accounting organizations have implemented to adapt to the expectations that Millennials and Gen Z bring into the workforce.

The following are a few examples of how other organizations have made adjustments to accommodate the changing expectations of younger generations:

  • Set appropriate targets and goals for their engagement strategy

    Many organizations understand the need to create separate engagement strategies to keep their employees motivated and engaged instead of using a “one size fits all” approach in relation to each generation in the workforce. Employees who feel valued and that they’re an active part of the team will be more engaged with work. That doesn’t mean that all employees are driven by the same motivation. Employees have individual learning styles and preferences, which are often relevant to their generation. Therefore, organizations that show their employees that they’re listening by employing effective engagement strategies depending on the generational preferences will produce a more positive outcome from their team.

  • Identify key engagement drivers that most significantly impact the workforce

    Companies have focused on training and retaining top talent by making sure individuals have access to different opportunities, which include business development, challenging/interesting engagements, and international assignments. These engagement drivers that encourage employees to increase their career opportunities are important to the younger generations, because it gives them a greater sense of meaning to their career and purpose to their work.

  • Give proper discretion to managers

    Management provides more real-time feedback, positive and negative, that allows employees to know the expectations of their role and exactly where they stand instead of waiting on an annual review or only receiving occasional feedback. By providing real-time feedback on a regular basis, younger generations will feel more confident on what they can do to improve and advance in their career.

How Gleim is helping Millennials and Gen Z earn their CPA license

We understand the evolution happening in the accounting workforce and that Millennials and Gen Z have different expectations as they grow in their careers. We’re here to embrace the shifts and help you earn a fulfilling career that allows you to be successful and content not only at work, but in your personal life.

Our passion is to make passing the CPA Exam not just a possibility, but your reality. Our self-study CPA Exam Review Course provides rich, comprehensive content, support, and SmartAdapt technology that will help you stay focused on what you need to learn and not waste time studying what you have already mastered. Our CPA Exam Review Course builds your confidence as you study so you are prepared to pass and one step closer to achieving your career goals. Learn how you can get on the right track toward your CPA career today by learning about the CPA Exam process in our free CPA Exam Guide!