This issue of Generational Viewpoints features two of the approximately 150 employees from Houston-based Pannell Kerr Forster of Texas PC. Generation Y audit manager Erin Phillips, CPA, born in 1984, and Baby Boomer audit director and practice leader Sonia Freeman, CPA, born in 1962, share their perspectives on the following question:

"What do you think are the top three generational differences are in your firm?"

PHILLIPS' GENERATION Y VIEWPOINT

Progressing in my career at PKF Texas from an associate in 2007 to a manager has given me the opportunity to make observations about my generation compared to the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers in our firm.

As Millennials, we know what we want and are not afraid to speak up. We aren't shy when pushing for life-work balance. But sometimes being vocal about our needs is a double-edged sword, because it can be perceived as being too bold or arrogant and that we are trying to find shortcuts to get ahead. That's not the case, though. We are willing to work hard; we just work differently than prior generations.

In this new economy, there is an increasing emphasis on efficiency. As the "technology generation," we are well-equipped to help drive efficiency-related change. We ask more questions and prefer to gain an understanding of what outcomes should be and why. Being successful at multi-tasking is essential to maximizing efficiency and using our time to the fullest. This may give the appearance of a lack of focus or organization to some, but if the desired results are achieved, we feel that we should have more control over when and how we accomplish this. As Millennials, we have to be aware of the perception that we are easily distracted by constant connectivity and recognize that we cannot afford to sacrifice quality for quickness.

The Boomers and Gen Xers expect a lot from us because they worked hard to blaze the trail we're following. As a woman, I don't feel I have to sacrifice family to excel in my career or vice versa. At PKF Texas, flexibility is an important part of our culture. Four of our directors are women and have modeled that you can do both if that's what you choose. There's no stigma attached to having a family and a career.

With the 24/7 connectivity of today's world, I fear our generation is losing the personal touch. Why make a phone call or, heaven forbid, walk down the hall to ask a question when I can send an e-mail? This mindset may ultimately be career-limiting for our generation, and is one of many lessons to be learned from the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. Our profession is relationship-based, and if we lose the personal touch, it will not serve us, our clients or our firms well in the long run.

 

FREEMAN'S BABY BOOMER VIEWPOINT

I have spent my entire career with PKF Texas, starting as a staff associate (almost 30 years ago!), progressing to where I am today as the audit practice leader and shareholder.

A Millennial team member recently asked me what has changed between when I started and now in terms of balancing career and family. That question centers on a firm's culture. In other firms, this may present a significant difference between generations, but PKF Texas has made flexibility with accountability a priority and an integral part of our culture for as long as I can remember.

From my first days, I saw the support and collaborative atmosphere that allowed balancing family and career from the leadership, both male and female. As Baby Boomers and leaders of our firms, we need to continue to demonstrate this way of doing business so the next generations are able to see that it can be done. As technology has evolved, it has become easier to have that flexibility.

Technology has allowed us a greater ability to multi-task and accomplish things more quickly. I see this especially with our Millennial team members. They seemingly bounce between work papers, answering e-mails on their phone, checking in with clients, and using social media all at the same time. My fellow Boomers and I sometimes wonder, "What if they didn't have these 'distractions?' Is it efficient to do everything at once?" On the other hand, the majority of the time, they are accomplishing their objectives and are finding the time to add more to their plates - whether that be business or personal.

Millennials have a natural curiosity and ask the "why" about what they are doing. They want to have an understanding of how they are contributing and how they can apply this knowledge to their projects and clients. When we were staff, we did as we were told and figured things out as we went.

I think that by asking the questions, this generation is getting a better sense of the clients' businesses earlier and can turn into trusted advisors more quickly than if they were just pushing the work out the door. I'm seeing the universities where we recruit emphasize this way of thinking within their accounting and business programs. Students are graduating with a better foundation, which is definitely beneficial to the future of our profession.

This column is facilitated and edited by Krista Remer, the Generation X 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 krista@convergencecoaching.com.

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