This edition of Generational Viewpoints features two individuals from HoganTaylor LLP, a 225-person firm with four offices in Oklahoma and Arkansas. We asked Baby Boomer managing partner Randy Nail, born in 1962, and Generation Xer assurance senior manager John Cooper, born in 1978, to share their perspectives on retention and the business model of the future by answering the following question:

“What do you see as the No. 1 business model change that public accounting firms need to make to attract and retain young talent?”

 

[IMGCAP(1)]NAIL’S BABY BOOMER VIEWPOINT

The answer to attracting and retaining talented individuals lies with those who are already in our firms, and the best thing we can do is to simply ask them. We did that at our own firm within the last 12 months, and I’ll share some feedback that comes straight from a few dozen Gen Xers and Millennials.

Mentioned often was the interest for individualized and even specialized development and training opportunities. Our future leaders value a clear career path with the desire for mentoring and coaching. Refreshingly, there seems to also be a desire for accountability in setting and achieving goals. Closely related to this, they want their leaders to deal with under-performing employees in a timely manner. I interpret these things to mean that our people want to know where they are going and how the firm will help them get there. They may not necessarily desire to be a partner, and will almost certainly not be confined to just one service area of the firm.

Flexibility in an environment that promotes life harmony was a message received loud and clear. This includes flexibility in work schedules and alternate locations, but it was not presented in a way that would harm accessibility, responsiveness or teamwork. Our people want to spend time with each other while maintaining the flexibility to work off-site.

One final thing to mention was a strong desire to be involved in community service and for the firm to provide time for this service. The interest isn’t in just any service, but in initiatives and priorities set by the firm to show how we are making a difference in the communities we serve together as a firm.

If we can take the feedback that our talent provides and help implement actions to support their wants and needs, we will see our firms continue to grow and stay successful well into the future.

 

[IMGCAP(2)]COOPER’S GENERATION X VIEWPOINT

Based on recent reports, more than one in three American workers today are Millennials, the largest share of the American workforce. In order for our firm to continue to grow and attract young talent, it is paramount that we understand what motivates the Millennial generation to choose public accounting over many other opportunities.

One of the key business model elements that the profession must embrace is the use of technology in our day-to-day activities. The Millennial generation grew up with computers, mobile devices, the Internet and other technology. If firms empower them to challenge the status quo, new technology could substantially reduce the time spent on mundane tasks.

Another key area that accounting firms need to change is in providing more clarity into each team member’s purpose. When I first began my career in public accounting, there was a clearly defined path to promotion. Essentially, as long as you were still standing after enough busy seasons, the elders of the firm would embrace your tenacity and reward you with more responsibility. This doesn’t work with our new workforce. They want to know why we do the things we do. They are not interested in putting in five to six years to become manager if they don’t believe the firm is headed in a direction they appreciate.

Firms need to become more flexible with dress codes, where and when employees work (flexibility), and allowing time for employees to pursue other passions. If the profession truly wants to attract and retain young talent, we need to understand what they want out of the employee/employer relationship and work with them to deliver it.

The more that established leaders are open to understanding what makes each individual enjoy the profession and thrive, the more likely we will be able to attract and retain the best and brightest future minds.

 

This column is facilitated and edited by Brianna Johnson, the Millennial consultant, and Jennifer Wilson, the Baby Boomer co-founder and partner of ConvergenceCoaching LLC, a leadership and marketing coaching and training and development firm that specializes in helping leaders achieve success. To have your firm’s generational viewpoints considered for a future Accounting Tomorrow column, e-mail them at brianna@convergencecoaching.com.

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