September 21, 2018

What Generation Gap?

What Generation Gap?

One of the biggest challenges I hear about from our clients is managing a multigenerational workforce. When you have recent college graduates who grew up with smartphones working alongside colleagues who started out in the punch card era using typewriters and dialing on rotary phones (wow – am I dating myself), they’re bound to have different attitudes about when and where they want to work and what the ideal workday looks like.

There definitely are challenges in bringing everyone together but I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the ways our team members have bridged the gaps between the generations.

At Marcum, we take pride in how the seasoned professionals on our team mentor junior members and share their specialized knowledge of the field. With people staying healthy and working longer, many of our team members who are in the pre-retirement stage still want to remain active in their field and keep making a contribution. Even if you took money out of the equation (well, not all the money), I suspect they’d still want to work.

Seeing the way these senior team members have mentored newer members of our team is truly inspiring. Their deep knowledge of their specialties is very hard to come by, and it’s exciting to know that it’s being transferred to the next generation at our firm. Many team members in their 20s and 30s are studying to become CPAs and have long careers ahead of them, so our clients will ultimately be the beneficiaries of what they learn. And often the mentoring goes the other way, too, with the younger members of our team sharing their know-how, use of technology, flexibility, and fresh ideas with our older partners.

Interestingly, there are many areas where the generations have a lot in common, despite being at different stages of life. Workplace flexibility is a good example. It’s something many of our team members want regardless of their age. But their reasons are often shaped by where they are in their life right now. For some it’s because they’re young people who like mobile work. For others, it’s because they’re working parents or pre-retirees who want time for other activities, like volunteering or travel.

We’re paying close attention to what they want. We’re continuing to refine our flexible work options so we can attract and retain great people as they grow professionally and advance in their careers, while at the same time making sure there are no lapses in client service. Talk about a juggling act!

Doing this takes some flexibility on our part, but it’s worth it in a job market like the one we have today. There’s intense competition among accounting firms for the best talent. The growth of the gig economy and inexpensive tools like video chat have opened many people’s minds to different ways to work, and most in-demand employees expect employers to change with the times. Firms that only want accountants who work a traditional schedule from a single office are going to miss out on many great hiring opportunities and fall behind.

There’s a give and take to this, as with any relationship, and we pay attention to what’s working and what’s not. I’ve found that the more we accommodate our team members’ need for flexibility, the more loyal they are and the more they give to our clients. Because of our entrepreneurial culture, we tend to attract people who are self-motivated and self-managing, so I don’t worry about looking over their shoulders. Ultimately, the quality of their work tells me everything I need to know as CEO. That’s true no matter what age they are.