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Accounting Firms Need to Change Their Approach to Managing Millennials, Or Else

accounting firms management millennials cpa

With so many articles written about how to manage millennials, what’s wrong with millennials, etc., it’s easy to assume that there is something difficult about the millennial generation. Some say it’s the millennials’ fault for being so damn entitled and not showing respect for the “way things are done” while others say it is a problem with myopic management skills. I see something bigger happening.

While firms tout how accommodating they are to millennials with their “work-life balance” and their “work hard, play hard” culture, there’s something important missing. Firms are focusing too much on a “fun culture” with their fully-stocked open bar and making the office “modern” with their colorful beanbags all the while they are drastically missing the point.

Millennial tax staff are spending all of their time hand-keying numbers into a tax return and hand-writing on the tax processing sheet. Even if they are sitting in a fancy beanbag chair, do you know what the millennial tax staff are thinking? “A computer could be doing this. I should be worried. I should be doing something else.” And honestly, nothing kills employee engagement more than an employee thinking, “I should be doing something else.”

Maybe you’ve noticed, but there’s a bit of a technology wave going on. And millennials are riding it. Hell, we grew up with it. We grew up with new technologies being built and expanded at a pace of change that can be difficult to grasp at times. So while firms spend their time and energy stocking their open bar and buying fancy beanbags, their best, brightest, and most creative employees are leaving.

Enter the millennial management paradigm.

This millennial management paradigm is the idea that most millennial employees (including the older millennials that are now becoming managers themselves) are still being shoved into a status quo box. A box filled with:

All the while, firms say that their culture is progressive, modern, and innovative. It’s time to see the forest for the trees, people. It’s time for a millennial management paradigm shift.

This millennial management paradigm shift involves a 3-part process:

  1. Adopting a culture of flexibility This bases billable hour compliance requirements on each employee’s goals and strengths to allow for more consulting, more business development, and more innovation overall.
  2. Focusing on leadership training that cultivates the skills needed to be successful outside of traditional compliance work.
  3. Creating a culture of “SPACE” for innovative employees to develop new initiatives and technological advances.

If we stop stifling our best and brightest millennial minds through endless billable hours and compliance work, then we can start giving these minds the space to innovate and the space to create progress.

Because here’s the thing. If we don’t start thinking about the change that needs to happen and allowing employees the resources to develop it, then the startup down the street will.

Image: iStock/jgroup