Millennials are a new force in the workplace. They expect to be promoted quicker, want greater flexibility, demand continuous learning, want their bosses to be mentors, want access to the C-suite to hear their ideas, will on average have 11 different employers by the time they are 35 and can have three separate careers by the time they retire.

This lack of loyalty and a perception of entitlement is a challenge. Considering it is projected that 50% of the workforce by 2020 will be millennial, how does the finance function adapt? What impact will this have on the other generations in the work place? What role do the accounting bodies have to play?

Role of organisations

The starting point for millennials is recruitment. The cycle has started to shorten to compete with start-ups. The Google led redesign of office space, has also resulted in organisations competing on aesthetics. Those unable to invest and change their culture, may be left behind.    

Once employed the need for continuous improvement and mentoring can sometimes cross the line into handholding. This can be time consuming for all involved. While training is incredibly important, a balance does need to be struck so that management can perform their own day-to-day roles. We found in our FSN forum research that CFO’s already felt over-stretched.

So layering on the additional needs of millennials, could create added stresses. One solution could be that training incorporates some expectation management. Perhaps embrace ambition, but set realistic goals and educate millennials about the time CFO’s need to spend with other stakeholders both inside and outside the organisation.   But it also suggests the millennials need stronger systems of support and mentoring. 

Role of accounting bodies

We also need to address if the professional bodies have the structure and resources to keep curriculums up to date more rapidly, in order to support employers. Could we see a lack of innovation, result in the end of some bodies? Will social media be the public forum by which bodies lose valuable market share?

And, how will this innovation be funded? Will older qualified members be prepared to subsidise this change with their annual subscriptions or will trainees/employers be expected to pay?  

Impact to millennials

Traditionally, those entering into the professional workforce knew they had to wait and have patience with their employer.

However, millennials ambition has seen a negative side, with worryingly reports of burn-out before 30, on the rise. In the UK, this generation faces mounting university debt and crippling living costs for those in London. They are under huge pressure to achieve financial gains, resulting in longer hours and job hopping. Is this generation under too much pressure to achieve early in their careers?   

Could a balance be achieved by adding more career breaks? Perhaps driven by later retirement ages, mental health awareness and fewer roles in the finance function, will we see a rethink about how long we spend in roles?

Millennials have already communicated a need for flexibility, so perhaps knowing they can take off 3 months every few years to travel and do volunteering without penalty to their careers CV’s will be the solution? Or do we simple restrict the hours people work formally through legislation?

Final thought

77% of senior finance professionals in our FSN forum research believe there will be fewer but higher skilled roles in the future finance function.

A more skilful role does imply more money, but less opportunities and this could deter millennials. To promote finance as an attractive career choice, accountancy needs to become the route of choice, to the top. This can only be achieved by accounting bodies enhancing the range of skills on offer and CFO’s ensuring all talent has a prominent role within the organisation.

With millennials already arriving in the workplace, CFOs and their HR advisors need to start thinking about how to change talent management in the finance function


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  • 2016-08-25 20:31:32
  • Darryl Bannon
  • Accounting Bodies, Milennials, People Development