Balance, teamwork part of vision for future

AICPA’s 400,000th member says Millennials are eager to provide perspectives.

The 400,000th member of the AICPA said her generation of Millennial CPAs is intent on achieving a balance between work and home life, and gaining acceptance for a team-oriented work culture.

Resolving these issues is crucial to keeping the profession strong and vibrant, said Jennifer Highsmith, CPA, 27, who joined the AICPA this year, helping it reach the membership milestone.

“You’re more readily available at any time these days than you were before. It’s not like it used to be when our parents worked and they could come home and they didn’t have emails going off at 9 o’clock at night,” said Highsmith, a senior audit associate in the Jacksonville, Fla., office of Johnson Lambert LLP, a regional public accounting firm with offices in eight states. Highsmith is married, has a 1-year-old daughter, and is expecting another child. “Initially [technology] was something that was exciting. People said, ‘OK, if there’s a fire drill, we can handle these situations quickly and easily.’ But now trying to disconnect becomes harder. That’s where work/life balance comes into play. You want to be able to put it down for a second and walk away and not have to feel so connected to work all of the time.”

Highsmith’s assessments mirror the findings of a 2013 PwC study that revealed important information on workers born between 1980 and 1995.

The NextGen generational study, which included more than 40,000 responses from workers of all ages, concluded that many younger workers aren’t sure that excessive work demands are worth the payoff.

“Millennials value work/life balance, and the majority of them are unwilling to commit to making their work lives an exclusive priority, even with the promise of substantial compensation later on,” NextGen researchers said in the report.

But they aren’t alone. A significant number of workers from all generations would give up pay to get a more flexible work schedule, the study found.

The AICPA has long stated its commitment to helping the accounting profession grow and evolve. In the late 1990s, the AICPA and state societies brought together CPAs from across the United States to develop a vision for the profession. The CPA Vision Project identified the profession’s core competencies, core values, and core services (see The CPA Horizons 2025 initiative calls on CPAs from all areas of the profession to embrace the future. The initiative made the following findings, among several others:

  • To hire and keep younger CPAs, employers must increase flexible work arrangements and work-at-home options.
  • The profession must strive to reflect the demographic shifts of incoming accounting students, clients, businesses, and society.

Highsmith said younger CPAs are eager to provide their perspective on decisions being made in the profession and at their workplaces.

“The most important thing is to be able to have a platform to give ourselves a voice to be heard so that we can communicate our ideas and our input,” she said. “We want to feel like we have an active role in shaping the culture of our office or of our firm.”

Sheon Ladson Wilson ( ) is a freelance writer in Durham, N.C.

To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Ken Tysiac, editorial director, at or 919-402-2112.


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