Working with Millennials

I recently read Wesley Middleton’s book Violent Leadership and was struck by his take on millennials. As a consultant, I hear a significant amount of frustration about this generation, but I also think about the ramifications. If it’s a challenge to work with your millennial staff, how will you be able to attract millennial clients? With this in mind, it becomes even more crucial to find ways to deal with those frustrations and find positive ways to work together.

In his book, Wes lists the positive traits of millennials as follows:

– Smarts, especially in the use of technology
– Sociability
– Open to feedback
– Sense of community

He also lists the traits that cause frustration:

– Lacking a sense of accountability
– A sense of entitlement
– Less driven work ethic
– Overly concerned with life balance

Since millennials are our future clients, as well as our current and future staff, leadership needs to understand where they are coming from so they can identify how best to work with them. Millennials bring a lot of positive attributes to the work place, but they also have different priorities and mindsets about their careers than previous generations, which can lead to misunderstandings and friction in the work place. Open communication is key to avoid misunderstandings.

The best way to accomplish this is to sit down with them and negotiate. Millennials will have to adjust to the expectations of the workplace, but it is also important to stay open-minded and allow flexibility where it’s needed. Remember, negotiation starts with listening not telling. They want to be heard. It is part of their sociability and community mindedness. They want to be part of a community and part of the solution.

Since millennials grew up with technology and have used it extensively in their daily lives, you might need to trade off updating your technology, so they can be as effective working from home as they are in the office. For instance, do they have a work station at home as technologically advanced as they do in the office?  And are you willing to pay for this? Frankly, it is in your best interest to provide them with the technology and flexibility that they want. Allowing them to work from home helps satisfy the need for a healthier work-life balance that is of such high importance to them and satisfying that need helps retain those employees. If you do not, they will likely go somewhere else that does. But it is also important to set clear expectations from the start to avoid permitting lower work ethic. Compensation is merit-based. If you accomplish this trade off, I believe you have created a WIN-WIN.

In her book, Integrate Advisory Services, Amy Vetter contends that as the need for tax and audit services continue to be supplied increasingly by artificial intelligence, accounting firms will need to concentrate on advisory services and serving vertical industries to prosper. This is not bad news. Amy suggests this shift can attract a new generation of accountants who offer special skills to innovative firms. Millennials are that new generation.

We know that millennials are looking for the potential to grow in their field. They want an opportunity for career progression but are not interested in working 60-hour weeks doing redundant work. They want to move beyond traditional roles of accounting. They are open to the new direction where building client relationships leads to growth. They are more accustomed to sharing and connecting with people through technology.

According to a recent University of Wisconsin article, “The millennial generation, which will comprise over half the workforce by 2020, is known to frequently “job-hop.” One of the ways you can keep this generation loyal is by giving them opportunities for professional development.

Aside from salary, work-life balance is the most important thing to millennials. However, according to a recent Deloitte study, professional development is also high on the list. Millennials tend to be more loyal to employers who support their ambitions and professional development. Many employers achieve this through mentoring, and 94% of millennials say their mentors provide good advice. But only 61% report having a mentor, the study said.

“It is likely no coincidence that where Millennials are most satisfied with their learning opportunities and professional development programs, they are also likely to stay longer,” Deloitte stated. “It is, therefore, disappointing that less than a quarter (24%) of Millennials are ‘very satisfied’ with this aspect of their working lives.”

This is a WIN-WIN for you. Providing new employees with mentors furthers their professional development, which allows them to produce better work, and choosing to invest in them helps you retain hardworking, loyal employees.

Overall, it is most important to understand where millennials are coming from and what they want out of their career. Most tension comes from generations misunderstanding each other’s expectations, which makes it important to have open communication from both parties and an open mindset with new employees going forward. Most likely the compromises will be different from firm to firm, from region to region – just remember listening is key.

Next Steps

If you need assistance implementing mentor programs at your firm and investing in your people, Contact Us to schedule a complimentary phone consultation. You may also wish to visit our website to learn more about ways The Rainmaker Companies can help you Grow Your Firm or Grow Your Practice.

Burt Bierman – Consultant at The Rainmaker Companies