A new report from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, dubbed "Generation Next: managing talent in large accountancy firms," found that young professionals are more satisfied at Big Four and "mid-tier" firms compared to the rest of the profession, yet they still seek improvements in the area of work-life balance and career advancement.

The report represents a follow-up to the ACCA's 2016 Generation Next reports, which focused on the professional ambitions of 19,000 ACCA members and students aged 16 to 36 years old. The new report focuses on more than 2,200 of those previous respondents, who work for either one of the Big Four firms or another top global firm.

"Across the profession, 48 percent of all Gen Next respondents said they were happy in their role," stated Maggie McGhee, director of professional insights at the ACCA. "At large accountancy firms, job satisfaction scored higher, particularly for those in the Big Four where almost 60 percent of our respondents said they were either satisfied or very satisfied with their job. They appreciate the value of the experiences they can gain, and they see clear potential for progression, recognizing the learning and development opportunities available to them."

The new report found that 59 percent of Big Four respondents were at least "satisfied" in their current roles, with 51% of mid-tier respondents agreeing (compared to a 48 percent rate across all sectors). Thirty-one percent of Big Four professionals and 37 percent of their mid-tier peers also answered that they were "neutral" in their level of satisfaction.

On the other hand, 48 percent of respondents at Big Four firms found their work-life balance to be "worse or much worse" than expected since joining their firms, with another 48 percent of Big Four respondents considering their workloads to be "too great." Thirty-nine percent of mid-tier respondents also found their work-life balance to be worse than expected, but only 35 percent considered their workloads to be too much.

When considering the "most important factors in [a] decision to stay with an employer," 60 percent of Big Four and mid-tier respondents responded that "career progression opportunities" was the key component. The "opportunity to learn and develop new skills" and salary followed closely behind.

"While our report reveals how large firms are taking steps to improve the work-life balance for staff...this growing appetite for flexibility and change is perhaps adding another layer of pressure on firm’s strategies to retain the best and brightest," McGhee added.

Other notable findings from the report include:

  • 80 percent of Big Four respondents and 77 percent of mid-tier respondents are looking for a "more senior position" in their next career move.
  • 41 percent of Big Four respondents would like to move on to their next roles within a year, with 35% wishing to advance in under two years. 38% of mid-tier respondents would like to change roles in under a year, with 36% under two years.
  • 48 percent of Big Four and 60 percent of mid-tier respondents expect their next career moves to be outside of their current employers. Conversely, 52 percent of Big Four and 40 percent of mid-tier respondents expect their next career move to be internal.
  • 60 percent of Big Four respondents and 57 percent of mid-tier respondents consider "on-the-job learning" to be the most effective learning method. Only 15 percent of Big Four and 10 percent of mid-tier professionals consider e-learning classes to be the most effective.
  • 85 percent of Big Four and mid-tier respondents believe that advances in technology will give professionals more time to "focus on much higher value-added activity."

For the full report, head to the ACCA's site here.

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