By 2020, Generation Z (those born between 1995-2010) will make up 25% of the workforce.
They are, reportedly, more entrepreneurial, emphatic and tech savvy than their millennial predecessors, and they value authenticity and collaboration over working individually.
How employers can tap into their entrepreneurial spirit
So how can employers get the best out of them and what can they bring to the finance and accountancy sector?
Zoe Whitman, founder of But the Books accountancy and bookkeeping firm, says Gen Z are more empowered than previous generations. “When I worked with some Gen Z interns earlier this year I was impressed by their enthusiasm and desire for improvement. It’s hard to decide whether that’s a Gen Z thing or just due to being new to the workplace, but they had ideas and weren’t afraid to say so,” she notes.
Whitman, a millennial, thinks that older generations can learn from their younger peers. “I don’t remember feeling that empowered to speak up so early in my career so maybe there is a difference in attitude between Gen Z and the millennial generation, which means they can bring their ideas to the table and let us learn from the way they see the world.”
Gen Z’ers are also ‘digital natives’ (rather than ‘digital immigrants’) and will, no doubt, be at the forefront of tech changes in the financial sector. “Gen Z have been brought up with technology and what is second nature to them, we millennials and Gen X’ers may feel a little less sure of,” Whitman notes. “Accountancy systems have changed so much since my early career and there are new apps and add-ons coming through every day.”
Reviving accountancy and finance
Julian Hall, founder of Ultra Education, which teaches entrepreneurship to young people in schools and workshops, says Gen Z will bring a fresh, dynamic way of thinking to the accountancy and finance world. “Transparency, relevance, simplicity and flexibility is something the finance sector could do with an extra helping of and Gen Z has an abundance of these skills,” he notes.
Hall predicts that they will also shake-up the traditional 9-5, process driven working culture which is still ingrained in many large firms. “Gen Z think very differently from millennials; their expectation of the world around them is far more connected, they have a wider moral compass at a younger age and no longer follow the rules for the sake of it,” he says.
“They bring new ways of approaching problems into the workplace and new ways of approaching work/life balance. Some of the newer ideas around productivity come naturally to them (like shorter, more frequent working habits) and are more accepting of the types of new ideas which the workplace desperately needs.”
However, While Gen Z may be more entrepreneurial and creative, employers will still need to set clear boundaries. “There’s a fine balancing act between giving Gen Z’s the freedom which allows them to be creative and reining them in to make sure the job gets done,” says Whitman. “I’d be looking to set a clear brief and firm boundaries but give Gen Z the freedom to get on with things within those limits.”
Autonomy is, says Hall, key to managing the next generation effectively. “The persona of a ‘boss’ is socially regarded as an archaic was of dealing with staff,” he notes. “Being part of a ‘flat’ team or having partners working towards a common outcome is an approach Gen Z responds more favourably to. However, they still need guidance and moral support.”
Less process more action
Whitman says smaller businesses may find it easier to work with and manage the next generation as they may be less process driven than their larger competitors. “I was talking to interns who were excited to implement task management tools which are the norm for small businesses but which are very difficult to get around the strict software approval processes that large organisations need to go through. I don’t see smaller organisations having the same kinds of issues so in that respect I think they’re much more ready for Gen Z,” she notes.
Andrew Dark, co-founder of Custom Plant branding and printwear specialist, says Gen Z still have a great deal to learn and may struggle to adjust to traditional working structures. “In my experience they find it hard to adjust to working life,” he comments.
“I find that most Gen Z’ers don’t necessarily know what they want to do with their life yet, and are still trying to find their place in the world. This means it’s sometimes difficult to get them to understand they need to put in some hard graft before the opportunities open up to them.”
Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.