29 November 2023 — Stories

Bridging the expectation gap: Gen Z and the attractiveness of the accountancy profession

by Efi Marcou, ICPAC

Bridging the expectation gap: Gen Z and the attractiveness of the accountancy profession

Efi M. Marcou is Head of Learning and Development at The Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Cyprus (ICPAC).

The professional accountants’ world has entered a new era of realignment that is full of challenges. The need to attract high-quality professional accountants is one of the top concerns for Professional Accountancy Organisations (PAOs) across the globe.

Generation Z (Gen Z) holds several misconceptions regarding the accountancy profession which, along with other generation characteristics, deter them from choosing this career. Especially for high school students, misconceptions include a stereotypical portrayal of professional accountants as boring individuals hidden in stacks of papers, pushed to perform uninteresting administrative work requiring no real mental effort.  This conclusion derived from presentations ICPAC delivered to high school students across Cyprus, over the last two years. This is also supported by a recent study exploring Gen Z’s view of accountancy as a career where 53% of the responders “think accountants sit at desks all day.”

The challenge that PAOs encounter is attempting to beat these stereotypes while finding new ways to promote the profession. To achieve that, they try to constructively:

  1. inform the new generation on what professional accountants actually do in this fast-changing world, and
  2. bridge the undeniable expectation gap

ICPAC places particular importance on stressing the advantages that a professional accountant enjoys which include:

  • employability in all sectors of the business spectrum
  • advanced career opportunities available both locally and abroad (easier international mobility)
  • option of becoming part of a highly digitalised setting

Such advantages provide them with the opportunity to increase diversity, inclusion and sustainability in different sectors, helping shape an environment where moral and social aspects have a real purpose.

Those values are part of Gen Z’s identity. Their generation has been shaped primarily by the digital age; the climate change and the global concern attached to it; the total shift of the financial landscape; and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following a firm strategic commitment from its Board, ICPAC has established the attractiveness of the profession as a critical matter. As such, we allocated resources to this focus area, embedding it in our daily operations via a series of actions targeting tertiary/secondary education and the general public.

Those actions include:

  • signing MoUs with Universities and other learning institutions
  • involving ourselves in research work performed by related university departments
  • consulting with learning institutions on their curricula
  • having open info days with presentations and orientation to potential students and parents
  • participating in career fairs and other similar events
  • building awareness amongst career advisors, especially within high schools
  • promoting the profession’s activities through publications, social media and other digital channels
  • having roundtable discussions
  • doing surveys/questionnaires and more

In this war for talent, PAOs need to embrace all relevant stakeholder groups and reflect on their need for social impact. More importantly, in this world of digital transformation, PAOs must become more visible and accessible to the new generation using the same channels as Gen Z.