Managing Millennials and Baby Boomers in Today's Workforce
By Christopher R. Cicalese, CPA, Alloy, Silverstein, Shapiro, Adams, Mulford, Cicalese, Wilson & Co. –
November 17, 2017
Millennials and baby boomers make up the majority of today’s workforce. Both generations bring their own expectations, and this can create a divide when trying to manage a multi-generational workforce.
It is important to maintain a diverse workforce that fits the culture of the company and complements the needs of clients.
The Millennial generation has varying definitions, but it typically includes anyone born between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s. Millennials require a management team to think outside the box so that they can be challenged by their work, and they expect to be rewarded. This generation also, to some extent, has a small divide amongst themselves as older Millennials can sometimes set themselves apart from the younger Millennials and the related stereotypes.
Most Millennials have grown up in the open-air workspace era made popular by Silicon Valley tech companies. While accountants are not quick to adopt this workplace model as it may not be functional in the accounting industry, certain elements can be adopted to help keep Millennials interested in your firm. More often than not, Millennials shy away from long-term commitments and strict schedules. Flexible work schedules have become popular with Millennials and even other generations as they allow the employee to come and go as they please as long as the work is being completed. While flexible schedules are important to Millennials, it is even more important for employers to communicate the importance of client service while working outside the office, even if that just means maintaining email.
Unlike Boomers, most Millennials grew up with everything at their fingertips on a smart phone. When communicating with clients, some Millennials can find it hard to be professional in emails and may use acronyms or slang typically used in text messaging. Even when texting clients, employees should try to communicate in the same way they would as if it was through email. Employers should make clear the expectations of employees’ communications with clients. When working with a mixed workforce, it is easy to see that Boomers are more comfortable than Millennials talking over the telephone with clients. Until a Millennial is comfortable using the phone with clients, they may depend on emailing clients, even if the client prefers to communicate by telephone. A best practice for Millennials and Boomers would be for employers to go over telephone etiquette in the workplace so that everyone can see how to effectively communicate with clients.
Baby Boomers include those born in the mid-1940s to 1960s. They make up a good portion of the workforce and bring their own set of challenges as management tries to bring on younger staff. Millennials can learn a lot from Boomers, who have a wealth of experience that would complement the fast-paced mindset of a Millennial.
Baby Boomers typically have already established their families and may not be as concerned about time off. When evaluating a position, they may not consider a flexible schedule as an important fringe benefit and will put more weight on health benefits and retirement planning. Although their family is important to them, servicing clients is a high priority. They are used to the typical work day and do not mind staying late or coming in early to complete a task if needed. Boomers are willing to do what they have to do to make sure the work is done. If treated right, Boomers often stay loyal to their employers and do not bounce from job to job. Millennials, on the other hand, tend to always think the grass is greener on the other side and will move from job to job to try to find an employer that accepts them rather than one that tries to change them.
Although they are not quick to adopt technology, Boomers are open minded and can accept change over time. It is important to not rush Boomers to change completely as they need time to adapt to new policies and procedures. Rushing technology changes can lead to frustration and may create unnecessary stress. The best way to have Boomers adopt new technology is to include them in the evaluation of the products and allow them to give input. This will provide them comfort that the technology is meant to help them and show them that it was evaluated before purchasing.
When Boomers and Millennials work together, they can learn from each other and will complement each other. Millennials will learn the ways of the Boomers and become better at communication. They also will have the opportunity to see that, as an employee, you need to make sacrifices and work late or come in early without being asked and not expect to receive something in return. Not only does this help get tasks completed on time, but it also helps reduce stress when at work for set hours.
Boomers can benefit from the enthusiasm and willingness to try new ways of doing things that Millennials so easily embrace. Mentoring a younger co-worker can be rewarding. Soft skills, such as knowing how to discuss a difficult situation with a client, are learned after years of experience, and a Boomer can share this accumulated knowledge with younger staff. Boomers can also learn a great deal about new technology from Millennials.
Both Millennials and Boomers have their positive and negative traits. For any employer, it would be helpful to maintain a diverse workforce that fits the company culture. Recognizing that clients are increasingly managed by Millennials, CPA firms need to be able to relate to their focus and concerns. Just as diversity in gender or race can bring various and interesting perspectives to the table, diversity in generation is also valuable. It is important that employers recognize and support the skills that employees possess instead of stereotyping them according to their age. As long as all employees share the common goal of building a successful firm, working together will be more rewarding than challenging.
This article appeared in the November/December 2017 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.