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Engaging the Accountants of Tomorrow: Retaining your best people

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How to retain your best people

Last year, I conducted a survey of 131 accountants and held three roundtable events with 27 Generation Z (those born between 1996 and 2012) BHP employees to ask their views on recruitment, training and retention in the accounting industry. In my third and final blog in this series, I wanted to focus on the importance of retaining your best people.

Will trainees stay once qualified?

With all training firms, one of the biggest worries is investing in getting a trainee through their studies only to see them leave once qualified.

In my survey, I asked respondents: ‘Are you concerned about staff leaving once qualified, as they had no intention of staying in practice?’ Most agreed or strongly agreed with this question.

It is an ever-growing concern, especially when hiring younger people. As the market for jobs is so competitive, a newly qualified accountant will have a flurry of opportunities waiting for them, so they can afford to be picky.

In my research, I uncovered that two Generation Z stereotypes identified were ‘not loyal’ and wanting ‘instant gratification’ – which will also fuel the dread around losing staff at such a crucial crossroads in their careers.

My survey asked 46 trainee accountants: ‘Do you intend to leave your current position once qualified?’ Interestingly, out of those who are not yet qualified, 13% were a firm yes, while 59% firmly saying no is higher than I expected. However, 28% represent those who could swing either way and it’s the task of the firm to make those individuals certain of their future career path and ensure that it satisfies their ambitions.

Work ethic

The best action you can take to avoid losing newly qualified staff is to have these conversations early. Make them feel involved. The worst thing you can do is to start making assumptions about what they’re willing to work for.

My survey showed that most employers disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement ‘The younger generation’s work ethic is better than previous generations’. This is a dangerous mindset to have when talking to young people. By presuming their work ethic is limited, you are in turn limiting how far you can foresee them going.

So, what does Gen Z think? According to my research, they believe that:

  • They’re better at producing high quality output in a short amount of time
  • They’re more aware of burnout and therefore more likely to pace themselves
  • Different work patterns suit different people

How to measure work ethic is the question here, and presenteeism is what Gen Zs believe the older generation is measuring this on.

They believe that the older generation perceives Gen Z’s view on the future of the workplace to be ‘laziness’ with Gen Z less interested in being part of the workforce. But in fact, Gen Z are just as committed but are much more aware of how work impacts on other areas of their lives. For them, it appears to be a ‘work to live’, not a ‘live to work’ mentality.


When faced with the question ‘Are the younger generation as loyal as previous generations?’, most respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed. Again, a negative response.

But what does Gen Z think? They believe that:

  • They’re better connected to other people
  • It’s easier to find employment opportunities
  • Their ‘disloyalty’ is related to the environment they work in

Overall, they believe that they’re as loyal as the previous generations, but what has changed is the environment in which they work.

In the past, there would be a limited number of employers in the area who would be offering suitable roles. Not only were you limited by location, but there was no opportunity to work from home and you were also limited to how much you could find out without the internet at hand. This made the job market very inaccessible.

Now, there are plenty of employers within reach, numerous options for one job role within a city centre and, due to remote working being much more prevalent, it’s less likely that you will even need to travel to the office.

In short, the idea that the grass is always greener is more relevant than ever. The best advice when it comes to retaining your best people is to make sure your grass is the greenest, so that no one is tempted to look over the fence.

Read my full report.