Generation Y CAs: Who are they?

Understanding generation y
By Generation Y’er, Alex Burden, Student Blog

8 April 2019

In the first of a short series on Generation Y in the accountancy field, self-confessed Millennial, Alex Burden, reports on who this generation are, where the myths lie, and why the CA qualification is suited to this highly-skilled and adaptive generation.

The date range for Generation Y or Millennials changes depending on which paper you read – it starts as early as 1980, and ends in the late 90s or early 2000s. Whenever you gauge the start or end date, millennials all have one thing in common: growing up in a world of rapidly-advancing technology, connected spheres and uncertain economic outcomes.

In less than ten years, Generation Y will make up the majority of the global workforce, and they already make up the vast majority of our CA Students. By 2030, Gen Y will outnumber all baby boomers across all industries.

In 2008, Robert Half International produced a research paper on what Millennial workers want from life, just as they were beginning to enter the global workforce. It noted the considerable amount of time Millennials are likely to spend online, whether that’s reading the news, playing games, job hunting, researching, or watching films, for example.

This generation is also more likely to consult parents or similar figures when making decisions about employment or career paths. Most notably, Generation Y has been unfavourably credited as a self-obsessed, demanding group of individuals who seek instantaneous gratification; but the truth couldn’t be further.

The Robert Half research showed that survey respondents were more likely to be engaged on retirement issues, healthcare, work/life balance, setting personal budgets and even environmental issues; a by-product of living through recessions, falling employment, and declining natural resources.

The new generation of accountants

Having grown up in this changing climate, the Generation Y ability to constantly innovate new ideas to the alternative is a key skill for lateral thinking. This style of thinking also lends itself to resourcefulness by adapting to changing situations.

Millennials will need to use their lateral thinking and adaptive practices to get around the fact that they will earn less than Generation X did, and are spending £25,000 more on rent by the time they reach 30 years old. That figure is £44,000 more when compared to baby boomers.

This can be partially linked to Generation Y entering the workforce around the 2008 recession, and is evidenced in a lack of buying power for property. The Resolution Foundation think tank has launched a commission to examine inequality between generations and what impact this will have upon the future.

The Robert Half report also found that 26% of respondents were worried about career longevity, and whether their chosen role-type will stay relevant in a changing world. The job that millennials choose needs to be fulfilling and provide a sense of stability.

“Accounting as a profession has perhaps been a bit reluctant to embrace new technologies, such as the cloud. Millennials have no such hang-ups.” Sage VP, Jennifer Warawa

Employers shouldn’t feel offended if their millennial employee seeks a new role after a few years, as this generation is known for adaption and flexibility in the job market; moving on when even better (and engaging) opportunities present themselves. And the legacy of all that school testing, video games and online connectivity? Generation Y expects regular performance critiques to gauge progress – feedback is an important part of nurturing and growing our skills.

We will also pay special attention to how we increase these skills; around 73% of survey respondents believed they were likely to return to education to obtain another degree or certification – which is exactly what our student CAs have done in their bid for a fulfilling career.

What is encouraging for CA Students is the fact that their qualification can take them almost anywhere and into a variety of roles; creating lifelong career flexibility through their studies with ICAS. What's more, the qualification equips individuals with a complex and enviable range of skills that can be adapted to corporate finance, charities, tax firms, insolvency, auditors and more, so there is scope to inhabit whichever role will bring the most fulfilment.

Forbes even reported on how millennials are ‘changing the accountant of tomorrow’ after the generation overtook Gen X as the largest group of individuals in the US Workforce in 2015.

Sage VP, Jennifer Warawa, commented that a collaborative and forward-looking environment is essential for Generation Y: “Millennials are driven to make an impact. They are ambitious and goal-oriented. Accounting as a profession has perhaps been a bit reluctant to embrace new technologies, such as the cloud. Millennials have no such hang-ups.”

As more millennials rise to higher positions within their firms, we’ll start to see a shift-change in how businesses operate and what resources will be used to achieve success.


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