Ambitious young professionals working in small and medium sized practices (SMPs) are seeking out professional development opportunities and greater career progression, according to a study from ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants).

ACCA’s Generation Next – Managing Talent in Small and Medium Practices (SMPs) uncovered:

  • 88% are focussed on attaining a more senior position in their next move or later on
  • 63% expect they will have to move outside their current organisation to achieve this.
  • 47% see a lack of available roles as the largest barrier to their career progression.

The research takes a closer look at the aspirations of younger finance professionals working in SMPs and builds on ACCA’s Generation Next survey, which polled close to 19,000 professionals under the age of 36.

Across the profession, opportunities for growth and development are top attraction and retention factors; however these are perceived to be limited in the SMP sector, indicating a potential risk for talent deficit in the long-run.

Liz Hughes, Head of ACCA Ireland said: ‘These trends clearly have implications and place new pressures on SMPs to rethink how they attract, develop, and retain young talent. Employers must acknowledge that this goes beyond the pay cheque; it’s the whole package that matters.

‘For Generation Next, the key to retention is development: 93% agree that the availability of opportunities to learn and develop skills is key to remaining with an employer. They are nearly split on whether those development opportunities are available at their SMP: 41% say their employer does not have enough roles available to allow for career progression, and 34% say their employer offers insufficient opportunity to achieve career goals.’

‘The aspirations of younger professionals working in SMPs are focused on gaining more seniority and leading a team within finance. 83% of Generation Next professionals working in SMPs believe that a finance career background will be valuable for business leaders in future’ Liz concluded. ‘On-the-job training and mentoring are seen as the most effective learning activities. If employers are to retain the best and brightest, they must look to develop effective talent management strategies that are suited for a generation with ambition.’

Looking long-term, technology is reinventing the SMP service offering and is expected to be a game changer for the profession. Unsurprisingly, half of respondents agree that technology will replace many entry level roles from the profession. 38% of young professionals in the sector see technology as an opportunity to focus on higher-value activity.

Generation Next – Managing Talent in Small and Medium Practices (SMPs) is the second of a four-part series of reports that brings deeper talent insights into specific sectors across the profession, offering guidance to attract, engage and retain future finance talent around the world.