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What You Can Learn from the Younger Generation

Younger employees may provide innovative ideas that can help your business evolve.

Turnover in the aging accounting workforce means that employees who are quite a bit younger than many current staff will be making their presence known in the workplace. Although knowledge has traditionally been passed down from more experienced accountants to new ones, this younger generation can teach older professionals in the office some new tricks.

The 70-million strong Generation Y, sometimes called Millennials, is generally classified as individuals born between the late 1970s and the mid-1990s. Valuing work/life balance, this technology-savvy generation differs significantly from the highly skeptical Generation X and the work-focused Baby Boomers.

Here are some ideas for tapping into the best attributes of Gen Y workers:

  • Growing up with video games and cell phones, Millennials are used to immediate feedback and instant communication. This generation also grew up with "helicopter" parents giving constant, positive feedback on everyday achievements. Play into this preference by setting both short-term and long-time goals. Rather than providing feedback during a six-month or yearly review, catch up on a weekly or monthly basis.
  • Gen Y has a need for speed. These employees are likely to suggest faster or more efficient processes. Implementing these ideas whenever possible may help you improve accounting operations and reduce costs.
  • Millennials who watched their Boomer parents put in long hours at the office treasure work/life balance and will ask for flexible working arrangements. Carefully consider options such as telecommuting and nontraditional work hours. Although prompted by your Gen Y employees, all employees are likely to get a morale boost from additional flexibility in their work environment.
  • If your firm has nixed the idea of leveraging social media, rethink that strategy to bring in new talent. According to the 2011 Cisco Connected World Technology Report, one in three college students and young professionals would trade lower pay for the ability to use social media and mobile devices at work. Embracing technology familiar to Gen Y will likely result in new ways of doing business and attracting clients.

Note that each generation brings positive attributes to your business. The key is to create intergenerational work teams so employees learn from each other and harness each other's strengths.


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