The Next Generation

Our kids have been out of school since May 26. Every day I come home from work and ask my son what he did all day — same answer — Xbox. I ask my daughter what she did — same answer — nothing. Really? When we were kids, we rode our bikes to the bike shop for candy (most were a penny or a nickel), went to the local plunge, walked to the movies, and rode the bus to the beach for 75 cents. We also read books that we could actually hold in our hands, instead of downloading onto a Kindle or an iPad.  

So, I brought the chess and backgammon sets out of the game cabinet and set them up on the kitchen table — and an amazing thing happened … they actually started playing the board games and interacting with each other and their parents. (Although I do think it’s curious that they kept running back and forth to the computer between chess moves. Seems they found a website that teaches them how to reach checkmate in four moves. Is that cheating?)

As leaders and managers of a new generation of audit and finance professionals, I think we are faced with a great opportunity. Having staffed two departments from scratch, I’ve interviewed and had many conversations with Gen-Xers, Millennials, and my own N-Gens at home. Although there was a transition period where I marveled (and probably complained) about how the new generation viewed work/life balance, “paying their dues,” overtime, and smiled at their “unrealistic” salary and paid-time-off expectations, I’m now seeing the value of how this new talent pool processes information, uses technology, and sifts through data quickly to get to an answer.  

I think the true trick in developing the team will be to stop trying to make them more like “us” — because they’re not. Remember that they are the product of baby-boomers (people like me), who told them that they could do anything they set their mind to do. We gave them medals for participation (rather than for winning) and awards for perfect attendance. They watched as we backed out of family vacations because of work commitments — and they formed a view that they didn’t want to be like us. So they aren’t. (Of course, they weren’t forced to walk uphill, both ways, to school in the snow either.)

I think that to lead future generations successfully, my generation needs to keep these talented team members motivated, interested, and challenged. We need to leverage what they bring to the table as well. I’ve found that providing some structure and frequent feedback works well (although many will prefer to hear only praise ... remember ... we raised them) — and keeping variety in the job assignments helps as well.  

And … the Millennials should meet our generation halfway as well and understand that every starting salary is not going to be six figures (no matter what your professors told you in college), vacation is not going to be 5 weeks a year … or if it is, then your regular work week will not be 40–50 hours, and employers aren’t typically impressed by seeing multiple job changes on the resume — especially if you say your move was to get to a “cooler” company that had a free gym membership.

If you think about it, the audit profession has a lot to offer the Millennials. There is a great deal of variety in the work, lots of data to crunch, projects of relatively short duration, and a structured work environment. If you sprinkle in some travel and the opportunity to move up in the organization — you should have a pretty content and successful team.  


Posted on Jul 21, 2010 by Kiko Harvey

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  1. 3 Cheers for Kiko!

    The understanding and analyses of yourself and the new talent pool is very insightful....and telling of who we are as Americans.  My wife who is German feels that we (Amercians) are not direct and upfront enough.  I agree with her; neverthless, this is what we have created and musy manage in our business affairs.

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