[IMGCAP(1)]I meet with a lot of accountants, and I'm starting to hear a consistent concern. Who is going to lead our firm once we retire? And why is this younger generation not rising to the opportunity to grow with our firm?
This is not only coming from the Boomer generation, but even from some Gen X management as well. It seems the things that motivated the older generations—money, prestige and power—simply don't matter as much to the younger generation. You do yourself a disservice if you try to force them into your mold.
Just because this is the way you've done it for years doesn't mean it's the way of the future. Each generation brings with it some amazing skills, and also some frustrating traits. But if you can learn to build on the positive and diminish the negative, you might just be able to grow like never before.
Here are a few ideas regarding your younger employees to consider. It might just enhance your firm and take you to the next level.
Never bore a Millennial. Remember, these are the kids that were constantly stimulated by their parents. If they weren't at soccer practice, music lessons or ballet recitals, they were at play dates and swim lessons. For better or worse, they rarely sat still, and this has shaped who they are today. Therefore, they will quickly grow distracted if expected to do the same thing over and over again. So do what you can to move them around and allow them to learn new skills and contribute to your firm in a variety of ways. You'll get more well rounded employees that will stay at your firm because they are challenged.
They are great networkers. This generation was socialized more than any previous one. Most of them started out in daycare, moved on to school, and then hung out with friends at all their extracurricular activities. Frequently, they list their family and friends as more important than their careers, and they tend to have a large circle of people with whom they communicate on a regular basis. Take advantage of this. Encourage them to network on behalf of your firm and reach out to their peers who may be great referral sources or clients. Make sure you train them on how to network appropriately and how to talk about your firm when they do. And remember, networking is not just an in-person activity for them; social media works on this front too.
They thrive with multi-tasking and technology. Watch your average 25-year-old. He or she can talk on the phone while answering emails and surfing the Web at the same time. In fact, building on my first point, they tend to get bored if they don't have multiple things to do at once. This can be a challenge for work that requires attention to detail, but it can be an advantage when you need to get a lot of things done at once. Additionally, they are incredibly adept at using social media and the latest technological tools. In fact, most can't imagine a time when we weren't constantly connected. Why not let them shine at this and use it to your firm's advantage. Give them your social media policy and direction on how to use it, and let them promote your firm using Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. They can handle that along with their other job tasks, but make sure they are well-trained and know what is appropriate, and inappropriate, to say. This can backfire on you without the proper guidance, training and oversight.
They want, and need, true work-life balance. While everyone wants to be compensated fairly, money typically isn't as big a motivator for them as a work-life balance. Boomers were happy to work 60-hour weeks to make a nice big paycheck, but Millennials and Gen Y will often trade money for time to do what they want. Remember that big group of friends they have? Well, they want to spend time with them. So, make sure you are clear with expectations when you are hiring younger staff, and as much as you can, allow them to have the work-life balance they crave. They will be loyal to your firm in turn.
These are just a few things I've noticed over the years, and I've seen them work well for those that are willing to make some changes. At some point, the current generation will want to retire, so spending the time now grooming the young staff is time well-spent.
What have you noticed? What advice do you have? What frustrates you? I'd love to hear your thoughts and get input from readers!
Bonnie Buol Ruszczyk is president of BBR Marketing, a firm that provides marketing strategy, services and tactical implementation for professional services providers.
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