Getting and Keeping Millennials as Accountants

Gina Deveney
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The accounting sector of the finance industry faces a dilemma moving forward as baby boomers retire and the millennial generation replaces them. Young accountants have different needs than those of their parents, and hiring managers at accounting firms have a challenging problem to solve. Plenty of people attend college to be accountants, but companies may not step up to give millennials what they want in a job situation.

Communication remains the best way to bridge any generational issues between the head of a firm and any young accountants starting fresh out of college. People who have been in the business 30 years need to understand that the millennial generation represents a unique demographic position in American society. These people rely more on technology, love to innovate and have different skill sets than accountants who went to school in the 1980s and 1990s.

Managers at accounting companies should remember their first day on the job and the 10 million questions they had as young accountants. Newcomers, when they first started, wanted their desires, wants and goals to be heard and understood. Millennials remain the same way. Graduates just out of college have their own aspirations and they want new bosses to keep open lines of communication. Millennials want instant feedback that works both ways, and they want bosses who explain why things work at an office and understand the need for a work-life balance.

Millennials want to be challenged and get paid what they're worth. Lack of salary and small opportunities for advancement represent two main issues this younger generation cites as reasons to move on to another job. Accounting firms must communicate, up front, that if you become a rock star at the office, you might be rewarded. Otherwise, high-energy candidates may go elsewhere, and the company with the initial hire loses out completely.

Young accountants have more opportunities now than they would have had 20 years ago, thanks to technology and growth in American businesses. The Big Four accounting firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, Deloitte and KPMG, all represent great places to start an accounting path. However, millennials may not stay with those companies for an entire career as they would have in years past. After cutting their teeth for five to 10 years, younger people may want to head the finance departments of other firms as a career opportunity. Gaining valuable experience with a company that carries a lot of weight in the accounting industry could lead to a more lucrative CFO position at any company.

The Big Four have done well to attract candidates right out of school, but these large companies may not remain on the radar of young accountants for long. Millennials, even at such great firms, usually stay at one job for three years or less. As they gain experience, young people may seek their passions elsewhere, no matter how many benefits accounting firms throw at them. Open channels of communication help alleviate or eliminate these transitions.

Managers on all levels of accounting firms should listen to young accountants from day one. Choosing to work with millennials, instead of against them, brings out the best in everyone. Firms don't have to completely redo the company culture, but they must adapt to new ways of thinking or falter within the industry.

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