Developing the Next Generation of Leaders

By Robert Traphagen, CPA, CGMA, Traphagen CPAs & Wealth Advisors – July 18, 2023
Developing the Next Generation of Leaders

With a demand for services at an all-time high and a decline in the number of people entering the accounting profession, attracting, developing and retaining the next generation — Generation Z (GenZ) — is crucial to the success and sustainability of CPA firms.

Gen Z is the demographic cohort following the Millennials. Born between 1997 and 2013, they are the first generation to be born into technology. Initially, this generation was branded as the “iGeneration” with information and connectivity at their fingertips.

Gen Z traits can be traced to the 2008 recession, which fosters their entrepreneurial vision. In a survey, 72 percent of Gen Zs indicated they would like someday to start a business. Gen Zs want to bring value and change to the workplace. They define themselves by their work; they desire an independent, flexible work environment; and they seek innovative training strategies.

By 2025, Gen Zs will account for approximately 27 percent of the workforce and are positioned to become a major catalyst of change in their future workplaces. This generation focuses on the use of social and emerging technologies and expects firms to provide robust learning and development programs, as well as a different workplace culture to attract and retain them. Research shows that Gen Z associates value:

  • Emerging technologies
  • Flexibility in the work environment
  • An entrepreneurial vision
  • Culture, culture, culture

When asked about factors that are important in the workplace, one of our firm’s Gen Z associates, Nicole L. Garcia, an accountant and an Affiliate member of the NJCPA, said, “1) flexibility, 1) learning and developing with growth opportunities and 3) firm culture.” She added, “I want to know there is a clear career path to be successful in my career, but I also want to have a social life. I want to know that with the right technology I can get my work done from anywhere…including the beach!”

I also have personal knowledge of this generation thanks to my entrepreneurial son, a Gen Z college sophomore who is already thinking about his future impact in the workplace. 

Attracting Gen Z

Gen Z candidates will review your online presence before they make any career decision.

Our most recent hires shared that what distinguished us from other firms was our “50 Acts of Kindness” presented on our website and social media platforms. This specific campaign was launched in celebration of our 50th anniversary to highlight our firm’s history of giving back to the community. This was a significant influence in their decision to join the firm because they felt our social responsibility aligned with their values.

To appeal to Gen Z, your firm should:

  • Share your story and state your firm’s purpose online
  • State your vision, mission and values
  • Highlight how your firm gives back to the community

Providing Professional Development

The best leaders show team members the potential that lies ahead and create pathways to success.

Gen Zs are entrepreneurial and ambitious; therefore, creating a work environment that promotes growth is essential. Firms need to demonstrate how they invest in their associates’ develop­ment. Our firm has adopted a Competency Performance Management (CPM) model that establishes personal and professional goals and objectives. This incorporates a learning environment with individualized training that represents a vision of success.

To foster the development of associates, firms should:

  • Adopt a CPM model or other development plan
  • Establish a learning environment
  • Embrace individualized mentoring

Engage and Retain

Gen Zs value engagement and inclusion with an emphasis on a healthy work environment and flexibility.

The culture of a firm is centered around whether an associate feels valued, supported and truly part of the team. It is the culture of a firm that will dictate retention.

For optimal engagement and retention, firms should:

  • Encourage engagement and inclusion
  • Offer flexibility
  • Provide wellness programs

As Gen Zs continue to enter the work­force, it is imperative that firm leaders embrace the value of this new entrepreneurial generation and recognize their potential impact as key to their firms’ success!

Robert J. Traphagen

Robert J. Traphagen

Robert Traphagen, CPA, CGMA, is the managing partner of Traphagen CPAs & Wealth Advisors. He is a past NJCPA president, a member of several interest groups and can be reached at

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This article appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.