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How to Successfully Integrate Millennials Within Your Firm

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With the growth of millennials in the accounting sector, bringing with them a knack for technology and a keen, entrepreneurial spirit, industry insiders are again heralding another seismic shift to take place around the way accountants work.

Now the largest living generation in the U.S., it’s important to understand exactly how millennials fit into your firm – for the combined interests of your business’ success today and succession planning.

At this year’s Accountex in Las Vegas, Mathew Heggem, Co-Founder and CEO of accounting consulting firm, SUM Innovation, led a session outlining how millennials are driving changes in the industry and how accounting firms can adapt. Here’s what you need to know.

How millennials are shifting the industry

Millennials have a completely different view of their careers to their boomer parents. The majority of them are of the opinion that it’s more important for them to find a job that enables them to do what they love than to find a job that pays well.

It’s a mindset that is reflected by findings from a survey of more than 1,200 millennial small business owners conducted by Xero. The research found that, for 67 percent of respondents, one of the most important benchmarks for success is having a job that gives them time to travel and pursue personal interests.

Mathew highlighted that more millennials are entering into roles seeking leadership and growth opportunities, another characteristic that aligns with Xero’s research, which found 52 percent of these millennial entrepreneurs started their business so they could be their own boss. Another interesting insight that shows the drive and determination of this group.

That said, millennials seem to have no concept of work-life balance, rather, they’re flipping the traditional view of the line between home and office to create an integration of the two. Unlike their parents and even the culture of accounting firms of the past, going into the office every day and working tirelessly is an unpopular notion to millennials.

With the rise of cloud technology, the ability to work flexibly is becoming a demand for this generation. This is evidenced by Xero’s research that found one-third of millennial entrepreneurs run the majority of their business in the cloud.

Why you need to pay attention and how you can change

While millennials likely make up the majority of the workforce now, if they don’t already, they will in the future. Put simply, if you don’t pay attention to this generation you run the risk of not only competing against more adaptive firms for the right talent but potentially losing the ability to grow your client base and have the right people in your firm when it’s time for someone else to take over the reins.

Millennials, a generation raised in the depths of social media and technology, are particularly adept at engaging with current and prospective customers online, as Mathew pointed out. And it’s true, Xero’s survey found that, for 62 percent of millennial entrepreneurs, social media is their channel of choice for one-on-one communication with customers. It’s important for firms to leverage that energy and extend their brand’s reach, converting it to new customers.

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Mathew further outlined a series of steps firms can follow in the next year in order to encourage the attraction and retention of millennial employees, emphasizing the importance of marketing strategy in this:

Today: Talk with your team about the significance of the millennial workforce and your firm’s employee value proposition.

Tomorrow: Connect with a colleague and discuss their challenges and recommendations when it comes to this process.

Next week: Schedule a meeting for management to discuss the firm’s millennial attraction and retention strategy.

Next month: Reassess your firm’s website career page and ensure it includes and aligns with the employee value proposition.

This quarter: Get feedback from current employees on how to attract and retain talent including on how the firm’s culture stacks up.

Next quarter: Audit your branding and online presence. To begin the overhaul, ask your target customer what they’re looking for when it comes to content so you can get accurate marketing advice.

Next year: Implement a new professional development program for emerging leaders in your firm including communications and client services training.

By understanding the expectations and mindsets of millennials, and having a willingness to reflect them within your firm, you’ll be able to attract and retain employees in this unique generation.

One comment

Mathew Heggem
February 27, 2017 at 7.51 am

Thank you for sharing this! I am super passionate about helping our industry with this issue and would love to see a full-forced, industry-wide push to elevate the next generation of accounting leaders. Not only is it important for succession planning purposes, but our clients desperately need this next gen numbers person to help them break through their business challenges. And our collective clients’ success means more jobs in our economy and thriving communities. It does the world a disservice to hold these emerging leaders back.

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