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What makes experienced and new accountants so different?

Accountancy profession

​Accountancy is one of many fields that is changing rapidly. The growth of technology and a changing economic climate are just two of the reasons why the finance sector has changed so dramatically over a short space of time.

This means the younger people starting their career often bring different skills to the field, compared to experienced accountants. But what are the generational differences between those in the top positions of the field now, and those who are just entering it?

Intellect and skills

Having been educated at completely different times, people who are just getting their accountancy qualifications are likely to be intellectually different to professionals holding the top positions now. Although both are valuable, it's important to identify how these groups of people differ on this level to ensure that you are getting the most from them, and vice versa.

Of course the basics of accountancy - finding revenue and calculating expenses – have remained the same, but being an accountant now is very different to just five or ten years ago.

Regulations, legislation, and firms themselves have seen big changes happen. Growing up in a different time and being given a different educations, means that young professionals bring skills to the workplace that older people may not have. For example, young professionals are likely to know a lot more about social media and technology in general and how this can benefit an accountancy firm. Methods such as cloud computing have significantly changed how most companies store and share their information.

On the flip side, people with a number of years' experience are likely to have strong skills in in-person communications and how to get what you need for a meeting or pitch, as this was the only way to do it before technology. 

Utilising both these different skills will ensure an accountancy firm is able to remain flexible and adapt to any situation.

Attitude to work

Research from Securian found that millennials were more confident when it came to investing, and about the future in general, when compared to their older counterparts. This confidence carries through to the workplace and could help companies to predict how their workers are going to react to times of instability, such as the US elections or Brexit. 

With this generational split, older accountants are more likely to be hesitant when it comes to making big deals with such an uncertain future, while younger professionals will be more prepared to take a leap of faith. 

Motivation and aspirations

When it comes to recruitment, there are stark differences between what more experienced people and younger professionals are looking for. Even if an accountancy firm isn't planning on recruiting at the moment, these differences can also affect how satisfied professionals feel in their current role, and whether they are likely to look elsewhere or not. 

Experienced accountants are still largely driven by salaries and traditional benefits, such as commission schemes, while those just qualifying are far more swayed by the workplace as a whole. The culture of an office and benefits such as flexible working are more likely to be important to younger accountants. 

When it comes to work itself, millennials are more focused on having a good work-life balance, while older and more experienced accountants are likely to feel tied to a project until it's completed. Another difference is that a key priority for older professionals is that results on their current project that really matter. For younger accountants, looking at the connections and influence a certain job has made will be a major factor.

Managing a multi-generational workforce

Having a mix of experienced older professionals and young people who have just qualified in a company can seem like a logistical nightmare. How do you make sure both groups of people - with such distinct and different needs and ambitions - remain happy and content? 

More and more management is moving towards individual development plans, which can be a brilliant way to ensure each and every one of the professionals at your firm are getting what they need to progress. This is just as important for the people who have been there for decades as it is for those who have just started. 

Encouraging collaboration is another good idea if you are noticing a divide between your older and younger workers. This allows the more experienced members to give support and advice to people who have just joined the company, and enables younger professionals to get the support they need to excel.

This rich workforce can bring much-needed diversity and breadth of talent to your company, and ensure it's far more prepared for any challenges that arise.