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5 Facts Recruiters Need to Know about Millennials

Young-professionalIs your CPA firm involved in the scramble for talent? As I give presentations and work with CPAs around the country, it seems like many CPA firms are in hiring mode. Increasingly, I’m telling these firms that to remain competitive, they must understand their younger recruiting candidates—Millennials. Millennials are the generation born roughly between 1980 and the early 2000s.  I tell CPA firms, if they want to get into the Millennial brain, they should be aware of five important facts.

Fact #1: Millennials are poised to take on more responsibility. The oldest members of this generation have now entered their thirties. With about 10 years on the job, they have built the kind of experience that CPA firms need to remain successful. However, if they don’t believe the firm offers them the opportunity to grow and contribute, these younger professionals won’t hesitate to move on to a better option.

The takeaway for CPA firms: Employee surveys or one-to-one discussions can help you better understand staff expectations.

Fact #2: CPA firms must provide growth opportunities. In the past, workers typically left a job because they believed their manager was not a good boss or didn’t appreciate their work, or an opportunity offering a higher salary enticed them away. Today, I find that these issues remain factors, but Millennials, in particular, take a larger view and want to understand what kind of long-term career opportunities the firm offers. They are also far more likely to jump ship than Gen Xers or Baby Boomers. As one Forbes magazine article put it, citing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other sources, job hopping is the new normal for Millennials. This is a relatively new development in the CPA profession, which has long counted on loyalty as a staff retention measure.

The takeaway for CPA firms: CPAs will have to do a better job of communicating the many benefits of working for their firm, including technical learning opportunities, chances to enhance their leadership skills, client interaction and solid career paths. If they don’t, their best people may move to practices that present a more dependable future career trajectory.

Fact #3: CPA firms must become more inclusive regarding decision making. In a typical scenario, the partners go on retreat, identify some of the firm’s significant pain points and develop ideas to address them. The only way the staff is involved is when partners give a presentation on what’s been decided and, perhaps, offer staff the chance to serve on a committee to enact some of those decisions. But Millennial staff members have grown up in a very collaborative world, one where everyone shares their every thought and opinion on social media and in the classroom. They feel shut out if an employer doesn’t solicit their input and include it in the planning process.

The takeaway for CPA firms: Employee engagement is vital. Firms must solicit and, whenever possible, act on staff members’ good ideas. Firms that want to focus in particular on nurturing future leaders and encouraging greater engagement should consider sending their most promising people to the AICPA Emerging Partner Training Forums.

Fact #4: Technology is key. Young people are well aware of the many ways technology—including social media—can benefit a business, whether it’s used to slash the time required to perform a task, deepen ties with client personnel, promote new services or accomplishments, attract new clients or support flexible or virtual workplaces. CPA firms can use technology to run a more efficient practice that can do quality work more economically.

The takeaway for CPA firms: Instead of seeing technology as a distraction or a disruption to the normal routine, find out how your young staff members can help to put it to work to improve your practice. If you need any more incentive, a recent survey by the Sleeter Group found that 85% of small businesses said they wanted their CPAs to be more proactive in technology, so there are many good reasons to amp up your tech capabilities.

Fact #5: Turnover is costly. The estimates vary, but turnover expenses can add up to one to three times an employee’s salary. When an employee leaves, related expenses include not only the hiring process and retraining, but also the cost of covering their responsibilities and the damage to productivity due to short staffing. Meanwhile, 21 percent of employees say they plan to change jobs this year, according to a Career Builder survey, the highest level since the recession. The last PCPS/TSCPA National Management of an Accounting Practice Survey, conducted in 2012, noted early indications that voluntary turnover was on the rise. It will be interesting to see what the 2014 survey, which is being fielded now, will reveal about turnover.

The takeaway for CPA firms: Retention is critical. If you’re looking for tools to help you address retention, I recommend you visit the AICPA’s Private Companies Practice Section Human Capital Center. This center contains resources on employee retention and work/life balance that can help CPAs to hold on to their best people.

Staffing has become an important issue for CPA firms looking to attract and retain Millenials. Firm administrator Janine Zirrith and I will give a presentation on navigating the recruiting and retention waters, and the many generational issues involved, at the 2014 AICPA Practitioners Symposium and TECH+ Conference, June 9 to 11 in Las Vegas. Equally important is providing training for Millennials. At the AICPA’s E.D.G.E. Conference, August 6 to 8 in New Orleans, CPAs with five to 15 years’ experience are invited to join their peers to discuss “Big Ideas in the Big Easy.”

As Millennials reshape recruitment and retention expectations, it’s not too late to shift your focus and become an employer of choice for this ambitious generation.

What techniques are you using at your firm to get a handle on Millennial talent?

Rita Keller, President, Keller Advisors. Rita is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker and author, and a former CPA firm shareholder and chief operating officer. 

Young professional image via Shutterstock

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