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Are Generational Biases About Millennials Inhibiting Your Ability to Hire Them into Finance & Accounting Positions?

Recruiting Millennials into finance and accounting positions is no easy task. Not only is this generation being presented with more opportunities than there are people to actually fill them, but they have their own biases about the finance and accounting industry.  These biases are deterring some into ancillary roles, and in some cases, shifting them into other industries altogether.

When it comes to finance and accounting, both Millennials and employers seem to be carrying some level of preconceived notions about each other with them, and it’s creating a hiring standoff in some cases.

Like anything else however, facts are freeing, and they go a long way in creating truth and mutual understanding. To set the record straight, I have aggregated employer biases about Millennials, as well as Millennial biases about the finance and accounting industry, to turn both sets of biases on their heads.

Generally Believed Biases About Millennials

Adding to the difficulty of recruiting, hiring and retaining Millennials in finance and accounting, are some of the hiring prejudices that surround this generation.

Over the years, I have heard several stereotypes about Millennials, some true, others not at all.  In fact, most need more context in order for them to come close to being true.

A summary of these stereotypes includes:

  • Millennials were born to helicopter parents and they require special acknowledgement or treatment at work.
  • Millennials are entitled and don’t want to put in hard work.
  • Millennials only want to do work that is meaningful and tied to a greater purpose; they do not understand or connect with company profits.
  • All Millennials want flexibility and other special treatment.

The truth is:

  • Millennials have grown up and learned in a different environment. They aren’t looking for special treatment, but they are pushing for more innovative and collaborative ways to get work done. In fact, a study by IdeaPaint discovered that 74 percent of Millennials prefer to collaborate in small groups, and 38 percent of Millennials feel outdated collaboration processes actually damage their company's innovation (Inc.). For more on this, check out our article: Creating a Successful Multi-Generational Workplace. As for compensation and special acknowledgement, it may be that company reward programs are out of date, not that Millennials are looking for something extraordinary. Check out this article by The Intersect Group on the need to modernize tenure programs in order to acknowledge employee performance more quickly: The Modern Tenure Program: How to Reward Today’s Employee.
  • Millennials’ work ethic isn’t less, it’s just different. They have grown up in a hyperconnected world, and they are used to having to bring work home with them. Just because they aren’t working from the office as much, or don’t want to work from the office as much, doesn’t mean they aren’t working or don’t want to work.
  • Myths about Millennials wanting more purpose at work is actually not true at all. In fact, research comparing data from U.S. high school seniors in 1976, 1991 and 2006 shows that contrary to popular belief, Millennials don’t favor “altruistic work values (e.g., helping, societal worth)” more than previous generations. In fact, they place slightly less emphasis on “a job that gives you an opportunity to be directly helpful to others” than Boomers did at the same age (Harvard Business Review). As for profits, there is perhaps no one more attuned to the importance of money than a Millennial. For context, remember, they are carrying about $1 trillion worth of student debt (Inc.). They know the importance of the bottom line and have to work hard to try to balance their own.
  • Because of how plugged-in Millennials (and all people, in general) are today, flexibility is becoming more important. Emerging needs for independence and employee/employer trust are on the rise, across the board. According to a Deloitte study, nearly 75 percent of Millennials do believe that a "work from home" or "work remotely" policy is important (Inc.).

Biases Millennials Have About Finance & Accounting

Conversely, Millennials have their own biases and built-in skepticisms about the finance and accounting industry. For employers looking to hire this generation, these biases are good to know in order to proactively counteract them.

They believe:

  • Finance and accounting firms and jobs have rigid workplace policies, starting first with archaic wardrobe requirements.
  • Similarly, there is a general lack of flexibility when it comes to hours and telecommute options.
  • There are rigid reporting structures and old-fashioned hierarchies; meaningful working relationships with higher-ups is hard to come by.
  • They won’t be able to relate to their coworkers who are generally older, traditional finance and accounting types.

As a company employing finance and accounting professionals, it’s a good idea to get out in front of these assumptions and/or acknowledge them.  That will allow you to put your company’s spin or perspective on it.

For instance:

  • Having a well-defined employer brand; complete with a strong employer value proposition (EVP), a clear mission and vision statement, means getting the opportunity to set forth what your policies are in addition to why you have them.
  • It is also a good idea to update job descriptions and other company material to address certain topics; like working hours and other expectations, so that they are clearly defined and not left up to the job seeker’s imagination. If most work is done in the office, be sure to say it – and be sure to share why in-person collaboration is so critical to your operation.
  • In a lot of ways, the finance and accounting profession is modernizing. Which means, what some Millennials and others might be assuming, is actually not true. For instance, if your CFO or CAO is highly plugged into the rest of the executive team and is anything but ‘just a numbers guy’, be sure that image is shared with your talent community. Add pictures on platforms like LinkedIn, Glassdoor and other profile sites to show personality, collaboration and that the senior-level finance and/or accounting professionals are not in some gated ivory tower they cannot access.
  • Get in touch with your target talent community before they graduate or start looking for you. Have employees of your company attend college career fairs and other networking events to put a face to your workforce. Creating that relatability and building relationships early, will most certainly help with recruiting efforts down the road.

In Closing

Biases like these and any kind of stereotype, come with a lot of generalities, which of course lead to assumptions. That is why it’s so important to know the people you are looking to invite to come work for you.  Not by listening to all the headlines and misnomers, but instead by validating what is true.

This generation, which is estimated will make up nearly 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, is wildly misunderstood – and they are worth getting to know better.

Cheryl Bentley is a Senior Client Manager for The Intersect Group. She works in Atlanta on the Finance and Accounting team and can be reached at cbentley@theintersectgroup.com.

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