Born in 1995 or later, these 7.7 billion people have begun to enter the workforce, with the oldest amongst them likely to already be several years into their careers.
Modern accountancy firms are multi-generational and benefit from the strengths of both youth and experience, but what will Gen Z accountants want, what will they expect, and how will they operate differently from a technical and cultural point of view from the Millennial, Gen X or Baby Boomer generations? It turns out that Gen Z has a wish list that just might surprise you.
Move Over Platforms, Welcome Workspaces
Gen Z is the Snapchat generation, a demographic that expects, demands and accommodates constant and quick communication. Gen Z accountants expect to be able to communicate with clients frequently, easily and efficiently. The idea of an arm’s-length relationship with clients simply won’t register: why communicate only before key filing dates when you can use technology to facilitate a frequent exchange of information?
The spread of digital technologies has already had a huge impact on the accounting profession, and Gen Z comes to the workforce armed with the competence to put technology to great use. However, in striving to go digital, many professional services-based organisations have implemented platforms only to quickly realise that they are not nearly as visual as they ideally should be, and often not as connected as they would be in an ideal world.
Gen Z isn’t the platform generation. What this generation really wants is the ability to work virtually with clients from a single place. These are visual spaces where both they and clients can log in and communicate and exchange documents easily throughout the year – instead of relying on the tragic mad dash we’ve all seen before key tax filing dates. Perhaps it’s time to think about Gen Z as the Live Chat generation, a nod to the emerging real-time dialogue communication tools that they expect to see in both their personal and professional lives.
When both clients and advisors can access their own workspaces, they can each electronically share documentation, and clients can see deadlines in what is much like a personalised Twitter feed or timeline that keeps users up to date.
Making Tax Digital with the Cloud
It would be wrong to say that Gen Z is the complete cloud generation as some do still interact with on premise systems, but it’s fair to say that many would need an explanation of the term ‘on premise’ vs. ‘the cloud.’ This generation’s first interaction with technology is very likely to have been cloud-based and mobile, and it’s a path they’ll expect to stay on moving forward.
This is not to say that Gen Z will not understand or accommodate the many steps it will take firms with high volumes of clients to become totally cloud-based, but when it comes to initiatives like Making Tax Digital, this generation will have to take on new regulation and facilitate compliance, doing everything they can to help clients to become fully digital.
They will be able to provide value-added services to stand out from the competition like advisory services. As a generation that grew up during the recession, and one that demands Amazon-like levels of customer service, Gen Z wants a workplace environment that delivers more to customers, and one that does so quickly and efficiently.
It’s also important to note that Gen Z is entering a GDPR-driven workforce, highlighting the risk of data breaches and cyberattacks. The ‘not if, but when’ mentality underpins Gen Z’s day-to-day working lives, and they will expect firms to invest not only in employee frontline cyber security training, but also state-of-the-art prevention and detection cyber security tools, while also keeping an open mind to the merits of Blockchain and its strength in distributed ledgers.
They Aren’t AI Shy
While Generation X and some Millennials are lamenting potential job losses due to the anticipated ‘rise of the robots’, Gen Z is celebrating the new digital workforce for a very important reason: they know that AI and other forms of automation are here to take on the mundane and repetitive tasks, which will ultimately make their jobs more satisfying.
Gen Z has grown up assisted by algorithms looking to make life easier, so it’s no surprise that they’ll expect to see analytics and predictive analysis in action to help them deliver new value-added services better and faster, and so that they can enjoy increased job satisfaction from the start.
Those Gen Z job candidates that are in high demand may also look at a firm’s ability to scale automation as a key determining factor for career progression. Firms need to look for ways to constantly improve their employees’ jobs via the use of the digital workforce so that employees can spend more time with customers and less time focused on data input and ticking boxes.
By way of automation, increased communication and the cloud, Gen Z may just deliver innovation the likes of which we have never seen. If firms can balance this innovation with the experience that leadership and management from previous generations bring to the table, they will be future ready for what’s coming next: Generation Alpha. Born after 2010, the next generation of accountant in the making is currently a smartphone-wielding eight-year-old that engages in daily dialogue with Alexa. The possibilities are endless.