There is no need to alert this audience to the acute shortage of CPA talent. But it’s still worth underscoring how important it is for CPA firm leaders to closely monitor the job satisfaction of these precious resources — especially at a time when many of these professionals might be thinking about making a job change soon.
Research from Robert Half found that 41% of accounting and finance professionals either have a job search already underway, or they plan to launch one by year-end. There’s a generational twist to our research as well. Our broader survey results, which include several professional fields, show that significant percentages of employees from every generation represented in today’s workforce — baby boomers, Gen Xers, millennials and Gen Zers — are actively on the job hunt or will be soon.
The urgent message for CPA firm leaders is this: It’s already tough hiring and retaining CPAs, and the risk of losing staff at all levels of experience is high. But you can improve your chances of holding onto valued talent by increasing your understanding of what motivates all your employees, from every generation, to work for your organization and perform at their best.
Outlined below are a few things employers need to know about the professional preferences and expectations of baby boomer, Gen X, millennial and Gen Z workers — based on research Robert Half conducted for our e-book, Examining the Multigenerational Workforce.
Fact: Gen Z covets flexible work opportunities
Among the four main generations in today’s workforce, professionals in the Gen Z contingent value the ability to work when and where they want to the most. So, if your CPA firm isn’t offering flexible work arrangements, you’re going to have a hard time attracting and keeping Gen Z workers.
That’s bad news for your firm, as Gen Z is the fastest-growing generation in today’s workforce, as well as the most well-educated and diverse. And separate research from Robert Half found that 74% of Gen Z professionals are already seeking new jobs or looking to do so soon.
Response: Permit all staff to work a hybrid work schedule if they choose, giving them the option to work some days in the office, and some days at home.Hybrid work can be a happy medium if fully remote roles aren’t a good fit for your CPA firm. Plus, it can strengthen employee morale. As I noted in a previous article on the “remote work reckoning,” a recent Conference Board survey found that “employees with hybrid work arrangements report the greatest job satisfaction compared to fully remote or fully on-premises workers.”
Fact: Millennial professionals seek autonomy
It wasn’t so long ago that millennials were the new arrivals in the business world. But today, many of these professionals are executives and leaders at their companies. And one thing that came through loud and clear in Robert Half’s research on the multigenerational workforce is that employees in this generation are keen to spread their wings. More than half (55%) of millennials surveyed said they want autonomy to make decisions — supplemented by feedback from their manager.
Response: First, understand that millennials’ desire for feedback does not mean these workers want to be micromanaged. So, be timely and specific when providing constructive criticism or praise to millennial employees, but also be strategic.
Also, look for opportunities to help millennial professionals feel empowered to build skills and advance their career track. Offering stretch assignments and leadership development are options. So, too, is creating a culture of continuous learning at your CPA firm, which can benefit all your employees.
Fact: Gen X professionals feel underpaid
Gen Xers seem to be at a good place in their professional life. Workers in this generation were most likely to say they don’t plan to make any changes in their career path over the next decade. However, Gen Xers aren’t very satisfied with the compensation they’re earning. Nearly one-third (33%) Gen X professionals report feeling underpaid. That’s significantly higher than other generations we surveyed.
Response: First, make sure that your CPA firm is paying competitive salaries for all staff. (Robert Half’s latest Salary Guide can be useful in your research.) And in one-to-one meetings with your Gen X employees, be direct in asking them if they feel fairly paid. If you can’t bump up salaries for deserving employees due to budget constraints, consider other rewards, such as bonuses.
Fact: Baby boomers are unsure what the rise of AI means for their career
It might be because many of these workers are at or near retirement age, but Robert Half’s research shows that baby boomers are the least worried about how artificial intelligence (AI) will change the nature of work. 73 percent of these employees report they are unconcerned about whether AI will affect their job. This is the lowest level of concern among the four generations. However, one-third of baby boomers also say they are unsure how they would react to AI impacting their job.
Response: Your boomer employees are also your most seasoned employees. They have institutional knowledge that is hard to replace, and their insights can be incredibly valuable to workers from other generations at your CPA firm. And just because they are nearing retirement, your baby boomer staff may not be ready to step out of the workforce just yet.
Help these employees prepare for the future of work, along with everyone else on your team. Provide relevant training opportunities to keep everyone’s skills current and be proactive about managing change as you adopt new technologies.
Take care to lead with empathy — which appeals to every worker
The strategies outlined above can help you become a more effective leader for a multigenerational workforce. They’re only a starting point, though, as every workforce is complex and dynamic and has its own generational makeup.
One parting tip for success is to be an empathetic leader. Empathy is the key to understanding what other people are feeling, thinking and understanding. Applying empathy in the everyday management of your CPA practice will help you to support and nurture your entire workforce — and build trust with employees from every generation.
For more tips and insight on managing the multigenerational workforce, download a complimentary copy of Robert Half’s e-book, Examining the Multigenerational Workforce.
Steve Saah is the executive director of the finance and accounting permanent placement practice at Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized financial talent solutions service. The company has more than 300 locations worldwide. He is responsible for leading U.S. operations, based in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. He was named executive director in 2017, previously serving as director of permanent placement services.
Saah has been with the company since 1998, where he started as a recruiting manager, following a career as an internal auditor and assistant controller. He is a noted expert, author and presenter on career, management and hiring trends, particularly those affecting the accounting and finance fields. Saah earned a finance degree from Virginia Tech.