By Sara Albert, MBA – PICPA Firm Services Manager
Many firms are evaluating and adjusting their cultures to attract a new generation of employees. Firms are realizing that work environment, not just salary and benefits, is a strong way to draw in and, more importantly, retain top talent.
Certainly some firms still have work to do when it comes to this firm culture issue, but to be successful in your career you also must find ways to bridge the gap between the generations. In this blog I’ll share just a few of the generational and workplace issues that firms are facing. Use your knowledge of these challenges to think about what you want in a workplace and where you see yourself happily working for many years to come; finding that one job that is on fleek.
The difference in communication styles between generations is one of the biggest barriers firms are facing when it comes to developing and enhancing their firm cultures. It’s nearly impossible to meet the needs and wants of all generations.
For instance, older generations want personal phone calls or a face-to-face meetings. They prefer more formal work relationships and appreciate manners and respect. On the other hand, millennials prefer e-mails, texts, and using collaborative work spaces. They often use informal jargon and their casual way of speaking to superiors can often be perceived as a sign of disrespect.
During an interview be sure to ask your potential future supervisor about their preferences and how they currently communicate with their employees.
TIP: Try to attend meetings face-to-face if you can. Every now and then pick up the phone instead of sending an e-mail. Most importantly, always be respectful of other people’s time. While the younger generations appreciate an open-door policy, that doesn’t mean you can always pop in to someone’s office unannounced.
Another area where firms are finding a gap between the millennial generation and the baby boomer generation is the area of benefits. Benefits that may once have been viewed as added perks to a job are now expected.
Take, for instance, work/life balance. A substantial portion of the workforce are from a generation where this wasn’t a defining part of their career choice, but it has become an expectation of many younger workers. In fact, for many employees, flexibility in a job is more important than the compensation package or corporate ladder opportunities.
Think about how you value work/life balance. If it is important to you, during your interview ask how the company handles telecommuting, comp-time, and overtime.
TIP: On the flip side, while it’s important that you find a company that offers the flexibility you prefer, be sure to take into consideration the value of time spent at an office and the importance of networking with peers and superiors. Additionally, recognize that there is a hierarchy, and you are expected to put in your time – whether it’s putting in extra hours during busy season or handling extra projects for your superiors. Eventually you will be the one delegating tasks to others, but until then see these as an opportunity to learn, grow, and prove your worth to the firm.
Millennials are often deemed by other age groups as entitled, seeking promotions prematurely, and requiring constant praise. Millennials see themselves differently: as buried in historically high student debt and thwarted professionally by an outdated workplace structure.
When preparing for an interview, do your homework and learn about the company ahead of time so you can ask relevant questions. And, while this seems obvious, it’s worth saying you should dress professionally, arrive on time, and send thank yous right away. When interviewing and when on the job, do your best to debunk the stereotypes.
TIP: As you begin your career, you will definitely hear more than once, “That’s just how we’ve always done it.” But you will start to see a lot more firms who admire and hire employees who challenge the way things have always been done. Start to think about some unique skill sets that you bring to the table. Do you have a marketing background that will allow you to help with the firm’s website updates or creation of marketing brochures? Do you have IT skills that will help your firm on the backend or allow the firm to offer a new service to clients? Are you social media savvy? If so, offer to take over the social media for the firm. Take all of the things that might be seen as negative stereotypes of the millennial generation and flip them to work for you.
Take the time to do your research when looking for a job. It may be tempting to accept the position with the higher salary or the first offer that comes your way, but consider all the aspects of what is being offered. Statistics suggest that millennials will change jobs 15-20 times in their lifetime, but that doesn’t have to be the case, especially if you take the time to find a firm or company whose culture meets your specific needs. Like I said earlier, ask yourself, “Is this place on fleek?”
Over the past year and a half, the PICPA has been working to bring the issue of firm culture to the forefront. We conducted surveys and research, which was followed up by a white paper. Visit www.picpa.org/firmculture and download the white paper and survey results. Although the paper is written for the audience of firm leaders and decision makers, it can provide you with more important information about the shifts in firm culture and what benefits you might want to consider asking about as you interview for jobs or internships.