The Generational Gap: How will Accounting Firms Address and Adapt?

Katey Maddux
Founder & CEO of Millennial Accounting

Practice Management, Development, Staff, Accounting

If you’ve had any experience in the corporate world, there’s one thing most employees can agree on: no one likes more meetings. The problem that arises, though, is that the topics that meetings cover are usually relevant and important.  In today’s world of Human Resources, meetings about inclusion and diversity need to cover more than just gender or racial conversations, but also generational diversity.

Oftentimes, the demographic representation in the workplace mirrors that of your customer base. So, if a company wants cross-generational sales, a cross-generational workplace is helpful.  However, even if the right staff demographics exist, the generational gap can still be a cultural division within the company.  Which begs the question, what is the best way to address such topics?

Collaborative Training

Introducing and upskilling employees in the latest workflows and technologies will ensure everyone from gen X to gen Z are on the same page when it comes to technology and tools in the workplace.  A great way to encourage collaborative training is to have one generation teach the next;

  • Have a senior employee lead a lunch-and-learn session on best practices or what they’ve learned over years of experience
  • A younger staff member could host a class on a new software or technology the team is implementing or one that is fun and trending
  • Set up courses with cross-generational panels and allow employees to choose the topic they find most interesting, similar to sessions you’d find at an accounting conference

Make it fun by turning a meeting into a game show like Jeopardy or one where people can submit questions ahead of time, and have a member from each generation on stage to answer it.

If your team is remote, find some other way to make the meeting into a fun activity, like an online bingo game about generational differences.  Companies need to not only invest new work-flows and systems, but they need to ensure the whole team is on board and ready to implement. Collaborative training helps level the playing field, ensuring that while new generations are trained in skills and best practices, older generations are up to speed on systems and digital practices.

mind the accounting generation gapGet instant access to our white paper, Why the Age of Your Team Is Important When Adopting New Technology for more tips on how other firms are avoiding the generation gap.

Diversified Communication

While technology (and Covid) have been helpful in making remote work a feasible reality, email and online message communication doesn’t replace the connection built in face-to-face meetings. Many companies found that purely using Slack or other direct message (DM) platforms actually creates silos in the workplace causing breakdowns in cross-team communication. Additionally, senior employees tend to prefer in-person communication and email, while younger generations prefer direct messaging.  Using a variety of communication styles not only makes life more interesting, but it’s inclusive across generations.  Too many DMs devalue the power of the in-person meeting. If your team is solely remote, encourage your staff to include Zoom or face-time calls into their day, even if just to take a five minute break and say hi to someone else in the firm.

Technology & Tools

If there’s one thing 2020 taught us, it’s that the ability to work in the cloud is crucial. Gone are the days of desktop systems and yelling over the cubicle wall when you need something. Additionally, as firms introduce new areas of expertise, or switch from core accounting work to advisory based services, the software and practice management needs of the company will be impacted. Systems that not only track client work but that also allow teams to remotely collaborate in real time are necessary to complete everyday tasks.  The need for a good accounting practice management software has never been more critical. Additionally, having the right software creates a communication bridge. Work can be done by phone, video call or direct message, often from inside the software, while everyone has visibility to the project and can make changes in real time. Whether staff members are in the office, working from home, or even from a plane, ‘work the way you live’ cloud technology helps bridge the gap when it comes to staff members in different geographic locations and in different stages of life.

Addressing generational differences involves finding ways to narrow the gap in every category of the workplace, including but not limited to, education, communication, and technology. As you strive for a team that is relevant, collaborative, and cohesive, compromise and intentionality in workflow and culture is required. Balancing different generations’ styles, preferences and knowledge requires understanding, patience, and time. As your team spends time learning from leadership and each other, they will not only learn new skills and understanding, but will also bond in a different kind of way, and this will help bridge the generational culture gap.

Any technology acquisition decision that does not have a clear organizational goal will not allow you to realize the full potential of your firm. Download our free white-paper Adopting a Transformative Practice Management Mindset to learn how to align your tech investment to over-arching business objectives.

Katey Maddux

Katey Maddux
Founder & CEO of Millennial Accounting

Katey Maddux is the Founder and CEO of Millennial Accounting, a firm that primarily serves retail and property management small businesses. It is her mission to serve, inspire, educate and problem-solve.

She is a writer, a keynote speaker, and an instructor for CPA Academy and the Miami Association of Realtors, where she teaches classes on bookkeeping, productivity and running a remote business. When she’s not reconciling clients’ books or preparing for speaking engagements, you can find her teaching Zumba dance fitness, paddle-boarding, sun-bathing on the shores of her home city, Miami, Florida, or traveling the world; 50 countries down, 145 to go!