How Your Firm Can Attract and Keep Millennial Talent

Jun 17th 2015
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Attracting and retaining talent from the millennial generation has been a significant challenge for many organizations. As an employer, it is important to know what will appeal to this generation of employees and adjust your recruiting and training practices accordingly. By adapting to the new way of thinking that millennials bring to the workplace, staying attuned to the things they value, and creating career-long learning opportunities, accounting firms can attract, develop, and retain skilled millennial talent.

Based on a number of surveys of millennials carried out by prominent global accounting and advisory firms, a number of trends and best practices can be identified and leveraged.

It All Starts with Effective Recruiting
Establishing your practice as an attractive destination is an important first step to recruiting millennial talent. Millennials want you to give them a reason to be interested in your business – preferring to join organizations they see as benefiting society and the environment, not just their checkbooks. Being involved in charitable activities, cultural sponsorships, and networking events are all key to attracting millennial talent. Highlighting your environmental and social obligations also makes your brand more desirable. Social media, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, are all important tools for developing your practice's brand.

Millennials also expect honesty and openness in the workplace. Transparency is crucial, beginning with the interview process. Businesses that insist on the “need to know” style of communication will find their pool of millennial talent drying up fast.

In certain instances, millennials may also appear to emphasize their personal development over the short-term organizational needs of the company. This is not necessarily an egocentric view, as it may derive from a belief that these actions will allow them to have a direct, positive impact on the organization in the long-term.

Millennials also desire flexibility in terms of where, when, and how they work. They tend to prefer organizations that allow them to leverage technology to perform their duties in a nontraditional or tailored manner. A business that can offer them opportunities for career growth, along with flexibility on the means of achieving it, will have a major advantage in recruiting and retaining the best talent.

How to Retain and Develop Millennial Talent
Like any other employee, newly hired millennials receive orientation and onboarding. However, millennials have higher expectations when it comes to professional development than previous generations. They believe that training should be focused, customized, and directed toward their career advancement and personal development.

Individual growth plans are key to developing talent in a manner that is mutually beneficial to the individual and the organization. Creating such plans collaboratively with a coach or mentor enables the individual to take control of their career development, while ensuring that it aligns with organizational goals. It is also necessary to include substantive milestones, such as obtaining an industry certification or advanced degree, that align to the individual's career development.

Millennials, generally, prefer to learn by doing. Therefore, interactive training and real-world problem-solving experience appeals to them. Pairing inexperienced millennials with seasoned executives, who can provide guidance and regular feedback, is an effective development technique.

Millennials want to clearly understand how the work they are doing impacts their organization as a whole, and how their ideas can be communicated to management and potentially implemented. Helping individuals understand larger organizational goals requires employers to offer a diversified work experience that promotes interaction with colleagues in other functional roles. Millennials thrive on this type of broad work experience and collaborative action. Rotation programs that provide exposure to multiple functional areas and working in cross-disciplinary, multilevel teams enhance the work experience and may improve the retention level of millennial talent.

Also, while it is unnecessary – and quite impractical – to include all resources in high-level organizational decisions, it is important to provide a clear and concise rationale for these decisions. This will increase organizational buy-in and prepare your team for the tough decisions they will need to make as the next generation of leaders.

Finally, annual reviews are no longer sufficient. Organizations that provide regular, timely, and detailed feedback are very attractive to millennials as it allows them to course-correct as needed. Feedback should be a combination of informal, on-the-job discussion and coaching, as well as more formal milestone- or project-based reviews. It is important to understand that it is not only the substance of the feedback, but also the delivery of it, that will make an impression. Informative feedback that takes into account big-picture decision-making will have the most impact.

In conclusion, attracting and retaining millennial talent requires a significant shift in the way organizations view younger resources. Millennials view more experienced colleagues not only as potential mentors, but also as peers, and they want to be treated as such. Effectively communicating organizational goals and how the individual fits into them is a great first step in attracting talent. Allowing millennials to develop through individualized career tracks with support and guidance from organizational leaders will keep them vested in growth – both the organization's and that of their own careers.

Developing these individuals into the next generation of organizational leaders is a tremendous task, but you may find that their perspective and the insights they bring are key to propelling your organization to future success.

About the authors:
Robert Cummings, CPA, is a partner; Sheila Grice, CPA, is a manager; and Nicole Modzelewski, EA, is a senior tax accountant at WeiserMazars LLP.


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Rachael Power
By Rachael_Power
Jun 30th 2015 10:22 EDT

There's a lot to being forward thinking and implementing flexible working hours, being tech friendly and letting the younger generation 'take the reigns' on some projects. Great article!

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