Managing Entry-Level Accountants: 3 Keys to Developing Gen Zers

entry level accountants

Given the strong demand for skilled talent, experienced accountants are increasingly difficult to find. As a result, we’re seeing a boom in the number of positions being filled with entry-level candidates. The most promising accounting and finance graduates are being placed into more advanced roles that can really stretch their abilities. Organizational leaders responsible for managing entry-level accountants have an obligation to ensure that these new team members swim rather than sink.

Leaders who find themselves managing entry-level accountants are responsible for giving recruits real-world experience and an environment in which they can master new skills and hone existing abilities, all while making sure they don’t get overwhelmed. Let’s take a look at three ways managers can rise to meet this challenge.

1. Provide guidance and regular feedback

A recent report by Robert Half looked at the main characteristics of Generation Z, the generation currently entering the workforce. The report notes a common misconception, which is that this generation prefers to work with peers but not authority figures. However, survey responses indicate that Gen Zers place an emphasis on communication and collaboration, and they especially want to work with mentors. If you’re managing entry-level accountants, set up a structured method for offering feedback, such as weekly review sessions. Also, encourage them to discuss with you any concerns they may have.

2. Play to their strengths

Undoubtedly, new recruits will have weaknesses that require attention, but placing too much emphasis on improvement areas can seem negative. This may affect their confidence, which leads to them feeling overwhelmed and — ultimately — impacts their performance.

Set them up for success by discovering their strengths and building on their strong points. Explore their educational backgrounds to find areas of accounting in which they excelled, and encourage them to develop those abilities. They may also demonstrate certain soft skills, such as communication abilities, which are likely part of the reason you hired them. Give them a chance to apply those skills in the workplace to help them stay motivated, with an eye toward professional growth.

3. Encourage them to engage with colleagues

The initial focus, for both new hires and leaders managing entry-level accountants, is usually on developing skills strictly related to the job. Eventually, however, activities such as sitting on committees, cooperating with other departments — or even joining the company softball team —  can sometimes take a back seat to sharpening skills.

Though it may initially seem like putting the cart before the horse, these “extracurricular” activities can be vital to the success of your new team members. For one thing, they help Gen Z accountants quickly gain a feel for professional life and networking, which is different from what they experienced in college. For another, this helps them feel like they’re a part of the company, which increases their sense of loyalty to your organization. The last thing you want them to do is let building silos become a habit.

It’s true that managing entry-level accountants in more advanced roles will take more time and effort on the front end. But it’s important to note that Gen Zers are also known for having the motivation to quickly work their way up the ladder. They also want to add value to your company immediately. It may not be your dream scenario to fill open positions with less-seasoned professionals, but you certainly couldn’t have asked for a more enthusiastic incoming generation.

To learn more about the abilities and expectations of emerging graduates, download the full Robert Half report on Generation Z.