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Young and demanding group

Published on Friday, 27 Aug 2010
Illustration: Bay Leung
The war for top professionals is intensifying, and one of the most critical talent pools is Generation Y. According to a survey, local professionals are not too different from their peers overseas.
Photo: Bloomberg

Employers are finding an increasingly ambitious and inspired young workforce which is motivated by career progression and a good work-life balance, according to a global survey conducted by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and human resources firm Mercer.

The survey, "Generation Y: Realising the Potential", which involved the participation of more than 3,200 individuals from 122 countries, aimed to identify the traits of young professionals in the finance and accounting profession, and the career factors that drive them.

"In an ever-changing competitive environment, the one constant seems to be the war for talent, and one of the most critical talent pools is Generation Y [those born from the 1980s and 1990s]," says Patricia Milligan, president of Mercer's human capital business. "Companies are aware that to be considered an employer of choice by the most recent generation to join the workforce, they have to find new ways to attract and retain talent. A one-size-fits-all approach will no longer work."

The survey found that young professionals from Hong Kong and the mainland were not too different from their peers overseas. They value career development and learning opportunities, and work-life balance, but place greater weight on competitive remuneration packages - including base salary and bonus opportunities - and are less bothered by job security.

"Young people here did not rank job security among the top five factors that attracted them to employers. This is probably because Hong Kong and the mainland were less affected by the global economic crisis," explains Bernard Wu, vice-chairman of ACCA Hong Kong.

Career progression for this generation is different. Young professionals are anticipating a varied career where demand for financial professionals with specialised financial knowledge is as great as for those with broader commercial insight and business experience.

"The story of Generation Y in finance is that of dynamic career progression where careers paths are continuously evolving," the report says, with more than half of those surveyed expected to pursue new pathways by following a career path outside of traditional finance roles at some point. Learning and development opportunities are considered especially important. Mentorship programmes offered by companies are helpful, Wu says, though the allocation of development resources will vary depending on the size of the firm. Transparency and monitoring employees' expectations through career discussions are also important in order to provide a clear route of progression and an idea of the future roles available.

Individuals in Hong Kong and the mainland are also more prudent when it comes to moving jobs, with 31 per cent of young professionals saying they intend to remain in their roles for 3 to 5 years, while 37 per cent expect to change their jobs globally after just 12 months.

Work-life balance was ranked consistently high for Generation Y, indicating a generation driven by lifestyle. "This is a generation that seeks a much broader range of benefits from working life, and actively seeks out organisations that can deliver this," the report adds. 

Highly motivated

  • Young professionals take on broader roles and gain more knowledge outside of finance
  • Experiential learning and face-to-face courses are the preferred forms of learning
  • Employers should offer mentorship and monitor staff expectations
  • Job security not as high a priority for Hong Kong and mainland professionals

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