Given the latest research within the profession — see our recent conversation with Lexy Kessler for details on all of that — there’s one thing most accounting and finance professionals are thinking about: talent — how to find it, how to keep it, and how to figure out what the best talent wants in the first place.
That last bit is important, because what younger generations want is often different than what the older generations wanted.
To learn more about this generational gap and what you can do to attract the best and brightest of the next generation of accountants, I sat down recently with Monique Malcolm-Hay, a senior consultant at PwC and founder of New-Gen Accountants, which offers a ton of resources to help young accounting and finance professions find their way and forge meaningful career paths within our profession.
In this conversation, we cover:
- What New-Gen Accountants is and why Monique created it.
- What you need to know about the next generation of accountants.
- What you can start doing now to support the next generation of accountants and make your organization more appealing to them.
- The value of mentorship and reverse mentorship
Listen to our conversation here.
A new generation of accountants
This new crew of young professionals doesn’t operate the way we used to. Here’s proof.
A recent New York Times article titled “Young People Are Going To Save Us All From Office Life” does a great job of setting some context for why and how young professionals are looking for different things out of their jobs. Authors Claire Cain Miller and Sanam Yar write:
“When Ariel Coleman, age 28, quit her last job, as a project manager in the corporate office of a bank, it wasn’t because her new employer offered her a raise, a different role or more seniority. ‘The work-life balance is just much better,’ she said.
“At her new company, Omfgco, a branding and design firm in Portland, Ore., everyone works from home on Tuesdays and Thursdays at whichever hours they choose. Ms. Coleman can go for a run or walk her dog.
“At the bank, she said, people judged her for taking all her paid time off. At Omfgco, it’s encouraged, which is why she didn’t mind answering work emails while sitting by the fire on a recent camping trip.
“‘It’s: Get your work done, but don’t worry about when those hours are,’ Ms. Coleman said. ‘A client calls me at 8 o’clock at night and I’m happy to talk to them, because that means the next day at 10 a.m., I can take my dog to the vet. It enables me to make my career more seamless with my life. It makes it feel more like people are human.’
“Many of her friends have chosen their jobs for similar reasons, she said. ‘That’s how millennials and Gen Z-ers are playing the game — it’s not about jumping up titles, but moving into better work environments,’ she said. ‘They’re like silent fighters, rewriting policy under the nose of the boomers.’
“For many Americans, work has become an obsession, and long hours and endless striving something to aspire to. It has caused burnout, unhappiness and gender inequity, as people struggle to find time for children or passions or pets or any sort of life besides what they do for a paycheck.
“But increasingly, younger workers are pushing back. More of them expect and demand flexibility — paid leave for a new baby, say, and generous vacation time, along with daily things, like the ability to work remotely, come in late or leave early, or make time for exercise or meditation. The rest of their lives happens on their phones, not tied to a certain place or time — why should work be any different?
“Today’s young workers have been called lazy and entitled. Could they, instead, be among the first to understand the proper role of work in life — and end up remaking work for everyone else?”
All of that applies to accounting and finance folks as well. More and more, we’re seeing evidence of young professionals looking for ways to combine their career paths in accounting and finance with the things they’re passionate about. Our guest in Episode 60, Tony Nitti, did that. He’s a partner in RubinBrown’s Tax Services Group, and he shared stories from his rather amazing journey along his career path in our profession. You can listen to those stories here.
More recently, in Episode 74, Alan Jagolinzer shared how the often unforgiving and unrelenting expectations of life in a public accounting firm are taking a huge physical and mental toll on young professionals. We’re talking about things like depression, anxiety, substance abuse — Alan has seen it all, and it’s driving these talented young professionals away from our profession, creating a talent crisis of sorts in the process.
But Jagolinzer says it doesn’t have to be that way. If we can connect these young professionals with work that’s meaningful to them, that serves a purpose greater than making money, that truly makes a difference, they’ll stay.
Which brings us to this week’s guest, Monique Malcolm-Hay. Monique is a chartered accountant with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and a senior consultant at PwC.
More relevant to this conversation, though, she has founded an organization called New-Gen Accountants, which hosts events and produces content for students, accounting trainees, and qualified accountants. The organization offers speakers and mentorship programs, advertises jobs to a diverse pool of accountants through its Whatsapp group and social media channels, and provides ad hoc accounting advice to entrepreneurs.
The group is a little over a year old, but it has grown impressively throughout the U.K. and is starting to expand in other countries as well, which speaks to the need for this type of guidance for young professionals in the accounting and finance world.