The Ever Widening Generation Gap in Accounting

Gina Deveney
Posted by

Accounting firms have a possible crisis on their hands thanks to a perceived generation gap between younger, up-and-coming CPAs and old-school partners who believe in making their own advancement. Even though the salaries at firms continue to escalate faster than normal, new polls show many employees do not feel as if firms care about newer hires.

AccountingWEB cites numbers from a new survey released by CPA Trendlines Research as to the disgruntled nature of this generation gap. Partners and staffers may feel underused and under too much pressure to bring in big bucks for firms. Instead of putting up with overzealous bosses, many of these CPAs strike out on their own.

For example, Derek Davis of Los Angeles left a position with the Big Four, partnered with a software developer, and then created an app to launch his own business geared toward freelancing CPAs who own their own small firms. The trend of employees leaving accounting firms continues to grow.

People leave their firms for several reasons. Services at many companies expanded after the economic collapse of 2008, and with this expansion meant more hiring. To lure top talent, companies had to increase salaries to get young kids fresh out of MBA programs. Smaller firms decided to merge so they could compete with larger companies, and these new acquisitions faced a lot of pressure to perform well.

One concern younger workers have is some partners put profits ahead of anything else. Many places do not offer mentoring, and one managing partner even tells his employees to find their own advancement. When salaries are not enough, this generation often leaves for better firms after cutting their teeth at entry-level jobs.

Statistics from the survey show what is happening with this generation gap. Wages for accountants rise faster than the rest of the economy, while one-third of staffers believe accountants at the same firm fail to work as a team. Some disgruntled staffers feel upper management seems distant and unaccountable for their actions. Even more startling, some younger employees feel as if they cannot have decent contact with clients to get work done.

The generation gap among millennials and older workers faces differences of opinions on the job. Employers in general, not just accountants, want employees who can contribute to the company and improve the bottom line. Companies want people with good communication skills who show initiative while having great analytical abilities. Meanwhile, younger workers enjoy companies that accommodate attitudes from this new generation. Companies may have to deal with highly technical, app-savvy, balance-seeking people who enter the workforce with extremely different skills than partners who have been in the industry for 50 years.

For the first time in American history, four generations work together under the same roof, going back to the greatest generation, baby boomers, generation X and then millennials. Everyone has to get along and resolve generation gap issues if firms want to survive in the high-tech world of accounting. It all starts at the top with personnel management.

Photo courtesy of Alexander Baxevanis at



Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

Jobs to Watch