Generational Viewpoints: The evolution of flexibility
This edition of Generational Viewpoints features two professionals from Top 100 Firm Honkamp Krueger, a 491-person firm headquartered in Dubuque, Iowa, with locations across the Midwest. We asked Baby Boomer partner Martha Sullivan, born in 1959, and Millennial partner Renee Hesselman, born in 1983, to share their perspectives on the following question:
“How do the different generations in your firm view workplace flexibility? How are your views similar or different?”
Sullivan's Baby Boomer Viewpoint
As a Baby Boomer, my peers and I were trained to “do what it takes” to get the job done — on time and in perfect shape. We went to the office and stayed until we either finished the project or couldn’t see straight. Working remotely was not an option, technologically speaking, for the first decade or more of our careers. When the technology advanced, those in supervisory positions were highly suspicious of how it could help the workplace.
The early career experience of other generations looks far different. Technology made it possible and acceptable for the Generation Xer to dial in to work systems and work extra hours from home — although they may have still felt guilty about leaving the office when they did. For Millennials, technology is an extension of the person that is nearly granted at birth — going everywhere they go.
Supervisory models have also evolved. Each successive generation sought more independence and autonomy compared to the command and control structures that the Boomers grew up under. In many regards, this transition makes sense. Employees who have flexibility in when and where they work are empowered to work to their potential and take more ownership. In other regards, the need for supervision is still quite strong and may be more intense as we experience these shifts.
We Boomers may continue to struggle with letting go of the mind-sets of “command and control” and the “heads-down, tail in the chair” work ethic. Even though it is taking some time, many of us Boomers are accepting and adapting to flexible and empowered environments. It’s vitally important to maintaining a life-work balance for our team members and ourselves. I also find myself wanting flexibility and enhanced life-work balance. While the Millennials may be driving the change, it’s healthier for us all.
Hesselman's Millennial Viewpoint
I view workplace flexibility as being able to provide quality service to my clients while maintaining a flexible work-life balance.
At our firm, our workforce spans four generations who value different things from their workplaces and careers. We recognize that younger generations like mine value life experiences and, therefore, a work-life balance above almost all other attributes of their employer. My generation has grown up and developed in an interconnected world, and Millennials are looking for careers and employers that provide opportunities to work how, when and where we are most comfortable. Our employees with young families embrace the ability to complete their work and spend quality time in their children’s formative years. They value the opportunity to move up in their careers without having to give up their personal life for the sake of their advancement. Our seasoned veterans desire the ability to step away while maintaining confidence that work is being managed and completed to our established standards. I am excited by the idea that I will be able to maintain flexibility as I progress in my career.
Regardless of which generation we belong to, technology allows us to meet our workplace needs. We prioritize education on new technology for all team members so that we can stay relevant in today’s global economy.
Our firm is over 50 percent Millennials, and we’re embracing the reality of a changing workforce that challenges the traditional workday. We have established mentorship programs and we welcome feedback on initiatives through company-wide surveys.
By instilling trust, we have been able to provide a flexible workplace that meets the needs of all generations and the needs of our clients. Technology and connectedness, coupled with our firm culture, has helped create happier employees and, in turn, happier clients.
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 (www.convergencecoaching.com), a leadership and management consulting and coaching firm that helps leaders achieve success. To have your firm’s generational viewpoints considered for a future Accounting Tomorrow column, e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.