BY jo Y reu TTer
Effectively managing diverse generations in the workplace
As Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials all work together, developing an understanding and
appreciation of how the different generations think, work and value rewards is critical to the long-
term success of today’s accounting firms.
With their different backgrounds, life experiences and value systems, the generations
approach the workplace with different expectations and attitudes. It may be natural to assume that everyone will adapt to established
ways of thinking and doing things, but the
multiple generations need to respect their
colleagues’ perspectives. By doing so, accounting firms can take full advantage of the
knowledge and experience of older generations while developing the talents and leadership skills of younger professionals.
Some in the leadership ranks who have
already paid their dues may dismiss these
generational differences. But firms that
make a real effort to develop understanding
between multiple generations can leverage
the strengths of each group, increase productivity, retain valuable talent, develop strong
career and succession planning, and improve
There are some common issues that accounting firms face now as multiple generations share an office, a firm, a culture and
One big difference between generations lies
in the idea of the traditional work day. For
Joy Reutter is field human resources director for accounting industry services at RSM
McGladrey. Reach her at (800) 537-7188
older generations, it has long been accepted
that everyone will show up at the office or
the client site no later than 8 a.m., and that
everyone will stay at their desks until the work
is done. Time off is planned and scheduled.
But many in the younger generations view
this approach as unnecessarily rigid. For
those who grew up in a completely wired
world, being in the office isn’t essential to
ensure productivity. They may be able to get
more done working from home or starting a
bit later, and they may not see why this isn’t
obvious to everyone else.
Providing feedback is another area where
up-and-coming professionals may have
very different expectations from those in
leadership positions. Gen Xers and Millennials thrive on regular feedback so they can
calibrate their level of performance appropriately. Rather than only providing annual
performance evaluations, firms should offer
frequent formal and informal feedback opportunities.
Younger generations also tend to consult
their parents to a degree that is incompre-
hensible to more experienced accountants.
This generation’s parents have been closely
involved with their children’s lives, and that
won’t change even as those children launch
professional careers. More-senior members
of a firm may be startled that Millennials may
involve their parents when considering new
positions. Firms would be wise to accept
that reality as well. To set themselves apart
during the recruiting process, firms should
create informational sources geared towards
Millennials as well as those who influence
young accountants, including their parents
and friends. Firms that use new media in
their recruitment efforts, such as podcasts,
Facebook and Twitter, can set themselves
apart from other accounting firms.
move laterally and geographically, firms can
help keep them engaged.
At the other end of the spectrum, young
accountants may think that they can take
on responsibilities and tasks before they are
ready. Many younger professionals grew up
when the emphasis of extra-curricular activities was on participation, rather than winning
and losing, and participants received trophies
just for being on the team. Therefore, in the
workplace, Boomers and Xers need to offer
appropriate increasing tasks and set clear expectations for promotions to manage younger
accountants’ progression and careers.
SUCCESSION AND RESPONSIBILITY
The recession has wreaked havoc with the
retirement plans of many Baby Boomers. Unfortunately, the inability of more senior partners to retire or scale back work hours can
thwart succession and advancement plans.
Firm leaders must honestly acknowledge the
situation and creatively think of ways to keep
younger workers challenged and invested
in the firm. By varying tasks and allowing
younger professionals more flexibility to
REWARDS AND RECOGNITION
The multiple generations also value rewards
and recognition differently. What is important
to one generation may not matter as much
to the next. A corner office may be a status
symbol to Baby Boomers, while Millennials
are likely more interested in flexible working
hours. Individuals closer to retirement will
probably be more motivated by financial rewards, while those with young children may
be looking for more paid time off. Personal
preferences must be considered as well. One
person may be pleased with public praise,
while another will prefer quiet acknowledgement. Firms need to take into consideration
all generational perspectives on rewards and
recognition and use them according to how
they are valued by each generation.
More than ever, accounting professionals
from different generations need to listen to
and understand each other. All generations
benefit from firms that know how to navi-
gate the challenges of the multi-generational
workplace by respecting different genera-
tions’ perspectives and desires. While firm
leaders can, and should, set expectations,
every firm should strive to accommodate
their people while effectively serving clients.
Firms that fail to adapt will find that they can-
not attract and retain the next generation of
accountants or clients. AT
minute, let’s face reality: There are too many investors in this
world who would much rather sink their money into the Amer-
ican economic system than risk their funds in countries run by
dictators, communist regimes or corrupt bureaucrats.
reach your destination faster and with fewer obstacles.
2. Appoint a POC. Assigning a champion to oversee your
marketing process is critical. A dedicated point of contact
will help ensure that your program keeps pace internally, as
well as ensuring proper, consistent follow-up.
3. Build your arsenal of collateral. You can’t expect your
efforts to be successful if you don’t have the proper materials.
Your marketing collateral, which includes printed and electronic pieces and your Web site, should be brand-tastic!
4. Pick your first campaign and go for it. At some point
you have to stop questioning your marketing acumen. You
can’t become a skilled marketer if you don’t try. Identify a
FRoM paGE 31
niche to market to, define your communication and follow-up plan, then hit the Go button. Refine your initiatives as
you move forward.
By implementing your marketing program in increments,
you stand a much better chance of success. Your staff will
appreciate being allowed to approach this unknown territory slowly and with caution—and you will find it far less
overwhelming. You are also more likely to design successful campaigns when you focus on a smaller group. As your
comfort level grows, so will your marketing efforts.
These tips are a good place to start, but it should be noted
that this doesn’t mean you won’t feel a little lost from time to
time. In fact, seeking the help of an experienced marketing
professional may be a necessity at some point. For now, take
those first steps. You can do it, baby! AT