Generation Z, or those born in 1997 or later, now make up nearly 26% of the country’s population and are about to enter and redirect our workforce. Similar to their millennial peers, Gen Z’ers have unique distinguishing characteristics and behavior patterns and will be bringing a lot to the table. Now we, as business owners, must get ready. We’ve seen the power and potential of our millennials. Now, it’s time to gear up for the next group, Gen Z, as we usher in interns and prepare to welcome them into our organizations as full-time hires.
Elizabeth Harkness, Weinstein Spira’s Human Resources Manager, and Kristin Murray, Shareholder and proud mom to a Gen Z son, recognize the unique ways that this generation will bring the accounting industry into the new age.
Technology is everything.
- They are at ease with technology. – While millennials learned how to use desktop computers in school, Gen Z’ers were practically born with an iPad in hand. They bring an entirely new comfort level and tech awareness to the table and Elizabeth notes that top accounting firms need to take note. With this also comes an expectation of productivity optimization. A Gen Z accountant expects to have documents searchable, sortable and transferable. Companies need to either have the technology to do these types of tasks or be prepared to effectively explain why they do not.
- They see the value in technology for building their personal brands. – Kristin is impressed by how Gen Z’ers have mastered utilizing social media platforms to not only build their brands and network, but manage it. Overall, Gen Z team members have shown their peers how to not only develop their personal brands, but to protect them, as well.
- The interwebs have all the answers. –Seriously. They value finding answers quickly and independently. Search engines like Google prove to be their answer-bot of choice. That being said, companies will need to spend some serious time training their Gen Z’ers on when to rely on their Google-search findings and when to ask someone who can relay the knowledge first-hand.
Resourceful, entrepreneurial and solutions-focused group.
- These traits make them great problem-solvers. – Instead of relying on others to solve their problems, Gen Z’ers are solutions-focused. Elizabeth finds that “if they don’t know the answer, they will Google it. Then, ask a buddy down the hall and then, talk to their manager, showcasing that they’ve gone through several steps to try to come to a solution on their own before asking for help.”
- Their resourcefulness makes them confident in their abilities. – Kristin notes that Gen Z’ers are truly entrepreneurial in their ability to decipher and find information. “They won’t be afraid to roll up their sleeves and dig in. They don’t need to be spoon fed and are more confident in their ability to handle things than we’ve ever seen before.” This group is more independent and wants to be judged on their own merits. This confidence means that new challenges aren’t so scary. The hard part: providing opportunities for them to develop, produce and showcase their individual talents.
- They value efficiency. – Quite frankly, they don’t even understand inefficiencies. This plays a particularly unique role in the public accounting profession where productivity, realization and timely client service are so strongly encouraged. Gen Z’ers understand the need and desire to be efficient. They will struggle with those traditional processes and procedures that make older generations feel comfortable but don’t equate to ultimate productivity.
Flexibility is a must.
- They demand work/life balance. – While most employees talk about their desire for a work/life balance, this generation demands it. “While Weinstein Spira has always offered flexible work hours, we know that this generation really plans to utilize it,” Elizabeth notes. “This means we’re more proactive about encouraging our entire team, not just younger staff, to take advantage of anytime, anywhere work.”
- They value flexibility in processes. – In a conventional industry, it’s easy to rely on the tried-and-true processes and tactics we’ve always utilized. That being said, Gen Z professionals will come in nimble and eager. Where there is a problem, they will propose a solution to fix it. Kristin remembers a time when a Gen Z intern pointed out an inefficient process surrounding work papers and recommended we just scan our notes in.” Kristin said the team took the suggestion and recognized that the five minutes saved meant that time could be spent elsewhere. Be open to suggestions even if Gen Z’ers lack the “experience.”
They are realistic.
- They care about the living they make. – Unlike their millennial peers who are known to place a high value a purpose-driven workplace, Gen Z’ers are more focused on how to make a great living. Elizabeth finds that “they are looking for a survive-and-thrive environment, competitive salaries and strong benefits packages.” Corporate social responsibility and purpose-driven careers are still important, but there is a much stronger push for solid salary, medical benefits and other monetary perks of the job.
- They don’t bother with what’s unnecessary. – This group is acutely aware and afraid of educational debt. Realizing that accountants don’t necessarily need master’s degrees, many Gen Z’ers are shying away from post-graduate degrees, opting to dive directly into the workforce instead. They have witnessed the struggle with unemployment and are prepared to dive into a paying job to learn instead of taking out student loans to amass educational knowledge.
With Gen Z interns joining Weinstein Spira, the team is more than ready to benefit from their strong values and reliance on technology, efficiency and flexibility. We look forward to seeing their positive impact on our organization and the accounting industry in the years to come.