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Embracing the millennial in your practice

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Anthony Hunt in Accounting Today reports that millennials are now the single largest generation, ranging from people in their mid-20s to mid-30s. This diverse group grew up in the information age and early on adopted the technology we now take for granted. It’s important for tax professionals to learn how to embrace this generation, and future generations, to accelerate their firm’s technology goals and increase overall employee engagement.

Break away from the desktop. Change is hard, and switching over from traditional desktop programs to cloud-based solutions is one of the biggest challenges tax firms face today. Caleb Jenkins, leader of client accounting services at RLJ Financial Services, says that Gen X and baby boomers are far more hesitant to change than younger generations, such as millennials and Generation Z.

“Many firms with older generations won’t tackle change,” Jenkins said. “With younger employees, there isn’t as much hesitation since they don’t have the experience or resistance based on a longer work experience. Younger employees are more adaptive to new technology and change.”

Firms usually ask themselves questions about their productivity and workflow, such as, “Are we in need of a client communication tool? Do we need an improved workflow solution? What is the one solution that gives us the most IT headaches?” During this time, when you are evaluating your processes, invite younger staff members to learn the pains that your veteran staff members experience. Ask the millennial employees to do research on cloud solutions that meet your firm’s needs and inform and educate your firm on the new and exciting tools they discover. A fresh perspective can bring about positive change and promote innovation within any company, especially when looking to refresh workflow and technical solutions at tax firms.

Work where you want to work. Work-life balance is extremely important to millennials and should be to everyone (but that’s for another article). Oftentimes, you only need to be physically present in the office when you are meeting with clients and not for day-to-day work. There are plenty of times where life gets in the way and you have to run to the dentist or leave early for a kid’s sports game. This is the perfect time to lean into the cloud and take advantage of mobile technologies.

From Jenkins’ experience, he says system and software automation is very important for creating a collaborative environment and keeping younger employees engaged. It’s important to automate software to create a collaborative, integrated system so employees can tie everything together and work from anywhere, anytime.

“Our firm attracts and retains millennials by using up-to-date technology that works as an ecosystem, such as QuickBooks Online,” Jenkins said. “These tools create a collaborative environment where everything integrates together, on every device and platform.”

Consider taking a cue from your millennial staff, who are already running their lives from their phones, to find those easy-to-use, always-on tools for your business so you can control where and when you work – rather than letting the work control you

Grow and attract talent. Once you find talent, you want to keep them. Investing time in growth will help retain great staff and make your firm more attractive to others early in their careers. In my personal career journey, Intuit has encouraged my career growth with mentorship, support and a hands-on approach to learning, as well as thoughtful discussions on focus areas, and commitment to me personally.

In Jenkins’ experience, he says tax firms are attracting younger talent by using new technologies and focusing on the culture of the firm. “We’re attracting younger people with the newer technology we use, as most people don’t want to do manual data entry like the past and want to be on the cutting edge of technology,” Jenkins said.

It’s important for firms to continually stay up to date on new technologies, including ProConnect Tax Online, by using Twitter and social media to stay connected, reading top technology trade magazines and attending conferences to learn new concepts.

A strong culture and new, digital technology is important for the workplace, especially when trying to attract and keep young talent. Jenkins says that from his experience, younger employees want to see that they are making a difference, rather than just being a number moving work for the firm.

You can use the following ideas to cultivate connections with your millennial staff members:

  • Hosting mentoring pairs, wherein a millennial is paired with an employee from another generation. The millennial can learn about the history of the company and the older employee can learn about technology and new processes and procedures.
  • Holding brown bag lunches with different generations in the workplace. This can create a space for employees to speak openly about the culture required to support a multi-generational workplace. Employees can also take the opportunity to share new ideas and technologies, their favorite podcasts or articles, TED talks and/or books to foster a culture of continuous learning and promote connecting all generations in the workplace.

Now is the time to invest in the millennial (and even younger staff) in your office. Choosing to learn from younger staff can help your firm become more productive through the adoption of new technology and can serve as both a retention and attraction tool for talent.