This edition of Generational Viewpoints features four individuals from Wilkin & Guttenplan, an East Brunswick, N.J., firm with approximately 80 employees. We asked Generation X accountants Thomas Pedersen and Len Nitti, born in 1981 and 1974, and Millennial accountants Kaitlin Hodnicki and Elizabeth Perry, born in 1988 and 1989, the following: "How well do the Generation X and Millennial team members in your firm relate? What are the similarities and differences between your generations and how do they impact work?"
HODNICKI'S MILLENNIAL VIEWPOINT
While both generations value an environment and culture that promotes work-life balance, the topic has different meanings to each generation. Generation X team members seem to place a similar or equal value on additional compensation and personal time. Millennial team members seem to place a higher value on time spent with friends and families.
What both generations share is that they are hardworking, driven and motivated. Both generations value their careers, client service, and understand the job must get done. The primary difference is the Millennials require greater flexibility to meet client needs and work obligations, like having the ability to work from home or away from the office. The Generation X team members appreciate and understand where the Millennials are coming from, because they value time off, too.
PERRY'S MILLENNIAL VIEWPOINT
Millennials are open to new technology, finding shortcuts and looking for the most efficient way to do something. Although Generation X team members are computer-savvy, there can be notable differences in how long they may take to complete a task compared to a Millennial.
Millennial accountants adapt more quickly and are eager to provide constructive feedback on new processes. Generation X accountants seem more resistant to the greater reliance on technology that Millennials desire. Our firm culture encourages feedback, suggestions and training on new processes, so it is not unheard of for a manager to ask an entry-level accountant to help them navigate efficiencies or questions. There's a lot to learn from both generations - experience, patience and hard work ethic from Generation X, and adaptability, efficiency and openness from Millennials. Where the Millennial generations pick up on technology changes quickly, they can learn how to deliver solutions to client needs from Generation X.
PEDERSEN'S GENERATION X VIEWPOINT
As a medium-sized firm, it seems the idea of work/life balance becomes more critical with each college class that enters our firm. This is not to say that the Millennials don't have a strong work ethic, as the younger group at my firm works extremely hard and doesn't have a problem keeping up with the Gen Xers from a work perspective. The Gen Xers generally have more of a career focus and seem more willing to spend an evening at a meeting or a networking event, and look at it as an opportunity to "move up the ladder." A Millennial may spend an evening at a meeting, but rather than view it as a career opportunity, they seem to view it as a sacrifice to their "life." I feel our firm does a great job of acknowledging this generational difference. The Millennials who will one day become partners have just as much talent and ability as the current generation of partners.
NITTI'S GENERATION X VIEWPOINT
Millennials tend to be more reliant on technology. Where I will use an adding machine for a quick math calculation, most Millennials will utilize computer software to accomplish the same task. Millennials display a stronger understanding of technology, allowing them to find more efficient ways of accomplishing work, which our Generation X staff then want to learn. We also have very different styles of communication. Where I may make a phone call or prefer to have a conversation in person, a Millennial may initially use e-mail or social media to communicate.
Both groups learn from each other's strengths. I'll often ask for instructions to more efficiently utilize our software, while they will look for guidance on more technical tax issues as they continue to grow. Both groups display an enthusiasm for working with each other and providing high-quality services to our clients. At the end of the day our differences tend to complement each other, while our similarities allow us to relate to each other successfully.
This column is facilitated and edited by Brianna Marth, the Millennial sales and marketing coordinator, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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