Post by: Jim Boomer, CEO
Over the past several years, a variety of generalizations have been made about Millennials. On the negative side, the stereotypes involve being job hoppers, having no work ethic or respect for authority and unrealistic expectations about their career trajectories. From a more positive perspective, they're changing expectations about work/life balance, take pride in doing meaningful work and are digitally savvy.
Positive or negative, right or wrong, Millennials have made up the largest percentage of the workforce since 2016, according to the Pew Research Center. And that has serious implications – not only for attracting and maintaining talent in your firm but for client service, since Millennials are bound to make up a large percentage of your client base as well.
Here are the main factors you need to consider to prepare your firm for Millennials.
Stimulating office space
Does your current office space have cubicles as far as the eye can see and grey or beige walls and carpets? You likely need a redesign to create an environment Millennials want to spend time in.
According to a report from the real estate service company CBRE, Millennials value the quality of their workspace. In fact, nearly 70% of Millennials surveyed said they would make trade-offs (including a modest pay cut or compromised promotion prospects) to secure a better workspace, and 78% said workspace quality is an important factor when choosing an employer.
While Millennials value collaborative work environments, they’re not big fans of open-concept offices. Two-thirds indicate they aspire to have a personal office.
If you want to keep Millenials happy in your office space, forget ping pong tables. Instead, give them a space that reflects your company culture and provides a choice of places to engage in collaborative work or private, focused work. This gives them more control over their work environment and creates a higher level of engagement.
In recent years, Millennials have become the face of the shift toward remote work. In a survey from American Express, 70% of Millennial workers in the U.S. indicated they want their work environment to be “flexible and fluid” rather than enforcing a rigid structure on employees.
Flexibility offers several benefits for employees. It helps foster better work/life balance, lets employees work according to their own ebb and flow of energy, and helps avoid burnout. It also increases productivity.
Strict 8 to 5 office hours simply don’t resonate with Millennial employees, and there are a number of ways to offer flexibility. Allow employees to work remotely full- or part-time or occasionally. Implement “core hours” requiring people to be in the office from (for example) 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., but let them start earlier or leave later as needed. Focus on results rather than requiring a certain number of overtime hours during busy season.
For many Millennials, flexible work arrangements aren’t a “nice to have” but an expectation. If you’re not already offering them, now is the time to get your technology and policies on board.
Sense of community
Millennials value knowing how they fit in and how they can contribute to their communities. A survey from the video conferencing software provider PGI found that 71% of Millennials want their coworkers to be like a second family, and 75% want a mentor and view mentors as crucial for success.
For some, that sense of community may seem at odds with Millennials’ prioritization of remote work. But the two aren’t mutually exclusive. With technology, we can maintain community between remote teams – but it takes intentional effort.
Collaboration tools, video conferencing and regular meetings can all help Millennial employees build connections and feel as though they’re performing impactful work as a cohesive team.
Dress for your day
Since Millennials entered the workforce 10 to 15 years ago, there’s been a trend toward more casual dress codes – and not just on Fridays. Increasingly, companies that want to attract and retain the best employees are moving away from strict dress codes and implementing Dress for Your Day (DFYD) policies that let employees use their judgment when it comes to clothing.
Most DFYD policies permit employees to wear business casual clothing any day of the week. If a professional has a meeting with a client or external vendor, they’re expected to dress per the client or vendor’s dress code.
Some firm leaders may be hesitant to adopt a DFYD policy for fear that employees will abuse the policy, or employees will be dressed too casually if a client drops by the office. But remember, client expectations are changing as well. As Millennials (and Generation Z) take over the workforce, fewer clients associate suits with professionalism.
Is your firm open to the change and transformation Millennials are forcing on the workplace? If not, you may have trouble attracting and retaining talent. However, if you build a culture that this generation can thrive in, you’ll gain a competitive advantage.
Is your team aligned with a focused strategic plan and a strong vision for the future?
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Jim Boomer, CEO of Boomer Consulting, Inc., is an expert on managing technology within an accounting firm. He serves as the director of the Boomer Technology Circles, The Advisor Circle and the CIO Circle. He also acts as a strategic planning and technology consultant and firm adviser to CPA firms across the country. Accounting Today called him a “thought leader who can help accountants create next-generation firms.” Jim is a prolific writer with a monthly column in The CPA Practice Advisor and has been published in a number of industry publications including Accounting Today, Accounting Web, the International Group of Accounting Firms and several state society publications.