How to attract and recruit the very best millennial accountants

Millennial accounting professionals don’t want ping pong tables.

Often, when trying to appeal to a younger generation of workers, business leaders tend to assume certain aspects of their work habits and desires.

But gone are the days when promises of a ‘fun’ culture, free Friday lunches and a ping pong table were enough to attract and retain top, up-and-coming accounting talent.

These days, the very best young talent (the talent you want working for you) want different things.

As a business leader, it’s important that you understand the way younger generations work and what they value. After all, it’s a candidate’s market, so it’s important to appeal to the right talent in the right ways.

Here are some tips for recruiting millennial accountants.

Millennials want a workplace that allows for growth and self-development

Firms that make learning opportunities available and actually encourage employee involvement are more attractive to millennial accountants. In fact, nearly 9 in 10 millennials say professional development or career growth opportunities are very important to them in a job.

Millennials aren’t satisfied with crunching numbers out of sight—they understand that continued self-development is critical to their professional evolution and success, and they can’t achieve that by simply churning work that is out of context.

They need to be challenged and feel empowered to make decisions that affect their own career path, plus understand how they impact the firm’s goals overall.

Actionable takeaway: When recruiting millennials, take the time to learn their personal professional goals. Then, make it clear that you will support their career growth by implementing their own personalized growth plan that will get them from point A to B and beyond.

Millennials want more flexibility in, and control of, their work-life balance

Work-life balance will never be the same. It’s been proved that flexible working arrangements can not only enable firms to operate successfully, but actually grow their business.

So, millennials seek out progressive firms that enable them to work from anywhere—pandemic or not.

On top of that, millennials want productivity to be measured in a different way—by the quality of output and not numbers of hours. Performance tracking is still relevant, but millennials also need the freedom to work the way that best suits them—they have the means, now they just need the go-ahead.

According to The CPA journal, “Allowing younger staff to make decisions about their work can help them feel more in control, which is an important element of engagement."

Actionable takeaway: Ensure your team is set up to work from anywhere, including having the right processes, policies, tools and tech stack.

Millennials value tech-savvy employers

Millennials have a digital sixth sense, so access to state of the art tools at work is a selling point. At the same token, they’ll get frustrated by firms that either delay their progression with technology, incorrectly implement new tools and/ or place tech adoption as a low priority. 

Their hunger for technological progress is an advantage for your firm—they are always looking for the next app, program or device to get things done more efficiently.

Actionable takeaway: Really take a look at your tech stack and ask some hard questions about usage and benefits.

Millennials want to work in firms that make an impact and reflect their values

Making a positive difference matters to millennials. 44% have made choices over their employer based on personal ethics and how they align with a company’s.

Generally, they’re socially conscious and thrive in teams that are inclusive. So it’s important that firms demonstrate:

  1. The firm’s broader social impact

  2. The millennial employee’s direct impact within the firm

Actionable takeaway: During your interview process, make it clear how your firm is positively impacting their world. Bonus points if you can outline how the role you’re interviewing for drives the firm towards these impacts.

Millennials have a deep desire to do work that benefits society and may gain enthusiasm for their work if they appreciate the firm's larger purpose.

Employee Engagement in Public Accounting Firms, The CPA Journal, by Hilda Carrillo, Joseph F. Castellano, and Timothy M. Keune

Millennials value innovation above all else

Millennials don’t want to sit still and have zero interest in employers that are afraid of change and still operate the same way they did 10 years ago.

Not much has changed since Deloitte’s 2015 Millennial Survey: "A company’s reputation for fostering innovation is the single most important factor driving millennials’ employment decisions."

Successful accounting firms need to be bold and willing to evolve—to the point that innovation becomes ingrained in everything that firm does. This is the really big picture, culture-creating stuff.

Everything else mentioned until now—flexibility, self-development, impact and technology—requires an innovative mindset in order to appeal to millennials.

The most innovative practices will always be at the top of a millennial’s employment wish list.

According to Gallup’s 2016 report, How Millennials want to work and live, the millennial generation is the driving force behind workplace change:

“In their relatively short tenure as employees, millennials have led the charge to break down traditional organizational structures and policies and have pushed companies to rethink their work environments."

Actionable takeaway: Take a look at your firm’s goals, mission and value. If they don’t mention innovation, take the time to update them. Make innovation the core of your firm, and everything else will follow.

What millennials want (and why it matters)

Ultimately, millennials want what reflects society today. It’s the same progression that drove baby boomers towards the stability of 9-5 in a post-war era. But this generation is driven by innovation, flexibility, purpose, technology and career development.

But why does it matter to accounting firms?

Apart from being more attractive as an employer during the Great Resignation, your firm will:

  • Be better-equipped for change

  • Build a more diverse team that creates productive dissonance, making people think differently about creative solutions to complex problems

  • Be prepared for the next level of growth

  • Be well-positioned to adapt and thrive as the industry continues to evolve