What do Young Professionals Want? – Reflections from the EDGE (Conference)

Last week I had the privilege of speaking and attending the AICPA’s Young Professional’s Leadership Conference – The AICPA EDGE in San Antonio, Texas. From that vantage point, I will say that the future of the Profession looks extremely bright if we are willing to give the, a chance.

Last time I looked, we are in a severe talent shortage (of manager level and above) due to the hard trends of demographics.

And we are seeing higher and higher turnover rates in many organizations across the accounting and finance professions.

And we are facing the disruptive risks of technologies changing customer expectations and creating new forms of competition.

All true, or as we say ‘future facts’. So where is the opportunity in all this?

The silver lining is that businesses need us (CPAs) more than ever to add insight to the numbers – businesses and firms are growing again and in this VUCA environment, they need us to look out farther and wider out the windshield (not the rear view mirror).

But how?

I asked them (see slides 5-8 below) and they told me. I used conferences.io to poll this group of primarily millennials. Here are there thoughts via twitter and storify.

The Anticipatory CPA (Accounting & Finance Professional) – AICPA EDGE Conference from Tom Hood, CPA,CITP,CGMA

Which means that we are not listening enough. Our research spans hundreds of young professionals across the U.S.and keeps coming with these consistent themes and answers.

Now what?

Here is what they need to be successful and grow into the leaders we need for tomorrow;

Top Five Skills and Competencies

  1. Communication
  2. Inspiring and Motivating Others
  3. Strategic & Critical Thinking
  4. Anticipating and serving evolving needs
  5. Influencing and Persuading

And an honorable mention of delegation and prioritization.

And we have to help them with some time and space to think, reflect and learn in order to overcome their top challenges:

Top 5 Challenges

  1. Not enough time
  2. Being reactive vs proactive
  3. Information overload
  4. Success and talent development
  5. Doing more with less

So the soft trend is whether you are going to do anything about it or not?

My advice to them was to take five steps (one hour per week):

  1. Focus on the future – start looking at trends
  2. Find opportunities that start with certainty and future facts
  3. Acquire new skills (see top five above)
  4. Protect the core values – our trust and integrity
  5. Build relationships and use collaboration to stay ahead

You will say, we are just too busy to take this on now.

General Eric Shinseki – ‘If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance at lot less’

I will say be careful, because the pace of change and disruption is accelerating and you may miss the signals that things are changing and miss those game changing opportunities.

What do young professionals want? And what can we do to jump start their success, which is ultimately our collective success?

Here is the research that supports this:

Interested in learning these top competencies? We just released a revolutionary agile learning system designed to give you these skills in less time and with increased results and applied directly to your job –  Anticipatory Organization: Finance and Accounting Edition.

And save the date, the AICPA EDGE Conference will be August 3rd-5th at the Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas next year.


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