Accounting – like any other age-old profession – is going through a dramatic transformation and realignment. Structural changes are anticipated with demographics of the profession inevitably changing radically as Baby Boomers (individuals aged between 52 and 70) begin to retire from the workforce.
Using a July 1, 2016, population projection (the latest estimate available) from the US Census Bureau as a gauge, Millennials who are defined as individuals in the 20-35 age group totalled 71 million compared to 74 million for the Boomers generation. Millennials are expected to overtake the Boomers in population come 2019 as their numbers swell to 73 million while Boomers decline to 72 million. Generation X (those in the 36 to 51 age category) is projected to pass the Boomers in population by 2028.
This is obviously an area that both accounting establishments of CFOs and other finance leaders should definitely look in their quest to recruit and retain millennial accounting talent. Like the generations before them, Millennials are driven to make an impact. They are ambitious and goal-oriented.
Striking the Balance
Very much connected to the subject of technology adoption is a concerted effort ‘to balance up’ the typically hectic lifestyle with long work hours and a high degree of stress that is often associated with the accounting profession. In all fairness, regardless of Millennials or Boomers, CFOs and other finance leaders should ensure seamless integration and productive collaboration among their employees by promoting a collaborative environment – in essence, a work culture that values employees’ strengths and opinions.
The Malaysian Institute of Accountants CEO, Dr Nurmazilah Dato’ Mahzan emphasises the need for the Gen Y, Z and Millennials to be both flexible and agile in adapting to the wide array of changes happening within their respective organisations and the accountancy profession. In her view, the accountancy profession offers diverse opportunities. A professional accountancy qualification opens the door to a variety of roles and positions and can take a person places if they have the right soft skills and are prepared to work hard. One is not limited to becoming an auditor but can be inspired to become a CEO or an entrepreneur.
Accounting management software provider Karbon foresees Millennials dominating the accounting industry with 75% of employees falling under this banner by 2025. The good news for the accounting practice is that many of its unique traits suit the direction the industry is heading in. Below are eight common benefits that Millennials are capable of bringing into the accounting practice:
- They want to keep improving: Self-improvement is a big deal to young accountants. 65% say that personal development is the most important factor in their current job. This means they will be open to any training and learning opportunities made available while actively seeking any feedback that will turn them into better accountants.
- They’re quick to adapt: Millennials have grown up in a time of constant change, largely due to rapid progression in technology they’ve seen during their lives. Hence regardless whether the team is adopting a new system, revising a standardised process, or moving from fixed fees to a value-pricing model, young staff members should be quick to adapt.
- They’re driven: More than half of Millennials are attracted to employers who offer career progression opportunities, and they crave added responsibility. Rather than just turning up to work and doing the bare minimum, this generation is heavily invested in the work they do.
- They’ve grown up with technology: These guys are digital natives – the first generation to be raised with a smartphone in their hands. They don’t know a life without computers, the Internet, social media, and hyper-connectivity.
- They’re the best at social media: Social media is a valuable marketing channel for any accounting firm looking at engaging with its community as well as acquiring new clients, and this generation understands it better than most. To give you an idea of just how big a part it plays in their lives, 88% of Millennials get news from Facebook.
- They have a global view: Compared to generations before them, Millennials have a healthy tendency to think globally. Growing up with the Internet, more affordable air travel and real-time news have all contributed to this.
- They’re ethical: 95% of Millennials say their own employer’s ethics are important to them and most believe businesses have a positive impact on the world. However, they think much more can be done to address society’s challenges, and they want to be a part of this positive impact.
- They’re full-stack employees: A significant proportion of Millennials have traits that make them a full-stack employee. They possess a combination of skills that enable them to understand a bit of everything. Beyond the primary role they were employed for, they might appreciate a bit of digital marketing, client-onboarding, and social media.
While there are always exceptions to rules, most Millennials are expected to possess a large quantity of these traits. The challenges it to identify which of these traits are most important to a firm’s success and for it to recruit accordingly.
Below is some food for thought with regard to how “old school” accounting firms can offer an engaging atmosphere that drives loyalty and retention from Millennials:
- Calling their own shots: This is perhaps the single-most important factor Millennials take into consideration when deciding whether to stay with a company. Millennials strive for a balance between their professional and personal lives.
- An employer that lends a helping hand: Now more than ever, people are more likely to be passionate about their job when they know they’re making a positive impact. They’re also more likely to stay with a company that participates in the broader community – beyond an annual display of corporate giving.
- Someone that invests in them: Millennials want to climb the corporate ladder earlier in their career. They are ambitious and aspire to continually learn more to improve their professional persona. Therefore, they thrive on professional development opportunities such as additional training or certification classes.
- Stay on your toes: In the same way that technology continues to impact business practices, so do the dynamics of different generations interacting in the workforce. As a result, it’s important not only to keep up-to-date with industry trends and changes but also to be aware of internal changes that should be made to address the diverse needs and wants to each age group.
This article is published on ProspectsASEAN.com with the publisher’s consent. This article originally appeared in The Malaysian Accountant journal (May – June 2018 edition) published by MICPA.
The Malaysian Institute of Certified Public Accountants (MICPA) is a professional body for accountants and has been developing the accounting profession in Malaysia for over 6 decades by providing accounting graduates with an avenue to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Since its establishment in 1958, MICPA has played a key role in the setting of accounting standards and technical advisory for the Malaysian regulatory bodies responsible for carving out the business and financial landscape of this nation.
MICPA has more than 3,100 members and over 800 registered candidates. Members of the Institute are professionally qualified “Certified Public Accountants” bearing the CPA (M) qualification title. Since 2009, MICPA conducts the joint MICPA-CAANZ Programme with Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand (CAANZ), which provides graduates with memberships into both bodies, adding the Chartered Accountant (ANZ) title to the credentials gained from 1 Programme. Members also gain access to the Global Accounting Alliance (GAA).