CPA INSIDER

5 books to help you manage Millennials

These insightful reads reveal what makes the younger generation tick.
By Cheryl Meyer

Management has always faced plenty of challenges, but today’s accounting managers and partners have a new one to worry about: how to manage Millennials. This generation grew up with mobile devices, social media, and attitudes and desires that do not always mirror those of employees past.

Managing this new group of CPAs can be enjoyable, but it is also tricky. Miscommunication and misunderstandings can leave Millennials and their bosses feeling alienated from one another. To assist, we’ve identified several books that can help members of more-experienced generations connect with their Millennial employees and co-workers.

Bridging the Soft Skills Gap, by Bruce Tulgan (2015). In this book Tulgan, a noted management guru, provides techniques for managers to tackle numerous problems, including lack of professionalism and respect and too much reliance on technological devices. Millennials especially have created a different set of management challenges, especially in regard to technology. As Christie Bell, human resources director at Porter Keadle Moore LLC in Atlanta, noted, “Several times I have had managers come to me with issues related to staff using personal mobile devices excessively during the workday or in front of the client.” Also, she said, “We have had staff that wants to be partner before they’ve even learned the basics.” Tulgan also suggests ways leaders can help younger employees progress.

Carrie Steffen, president and co-founder of The Whetstone Group, a marketing and consulting firm, said the book is a “must-read for CPAs who are struggling to not only understand the Millennial generation but to encourage them to embrace the CPA profession and their roles in firms.” The book helps close the gap “between expectation and execution,” she said, and also is a great resource for Millennials who care about their professional development.

Sticking Points: How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart, by Haydn Shaw (2013). Four generations working together under the same roof can translate into a complicated workplace, writes Shaw, a management consultant. Shaw lists 12 “sticking points” that may arise between generations and suggests ways to improve one’s staff.

Sticking Points is specifically appropriate for accountants, since older managers and partners are retiring, Gen Xers are moving up the ladder, and Millennials are often impatient to make partner, said Robert M. Tilton, CPA, and partner at WebsterRogers LLP in Florence, S.C. “The point of the book is to explain that although these sticking points exist, they are opportunities to leverage strengths and not focus on differences,” he said.

When Millennials Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business, by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant (2015). This recently published book focuses on changing business culture to support the next generation of workers, managers, and—in the case of public accounting firms—partners. When Millennials Take Over aims to persuade struggling managers to tap the energy and potential of young workers, use their insights to understand today’s clients, and stay fresh and competitive.

“This is not a book celebrating, or otherwise trying to convince the reader of how the Millennial generation will be better, but rather it provides well-researched facts as to how this generation differs from those previous,” said Paul Johnson, CPA, CGMA, co-founder of Atlasphere Consulting. “Clearly articulating what the Millennials value in their occupations or organizational affiliations, as well as how they define leadership and success, this book provides a great discussion of how their generation will change business.”

5 Millennial Myths: The Handbook for Managing and Motivating Millennials, by Gabrielle Jackson (2014). Jackson, herself a Millennial, wrote this book to help managers “get inside the head” of her generation and figure out how to inspire and manage these young workers. The book “addresses common misconceptions about Millennials head-on, like the idea that they won’t work hard, or aren’t loyal,” said Jennifer Wilson, a partner and co-founder of ConvergenceCoaching LLC. And it “offers very practical strategies for harnessing the power and incredible potential of the very entrepreneurial Millennial generation.”

Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y, by Bruce Tulgan (2009). This older book by Tulgan “debunks the prevailing myths surrounding Gen Yers: that they’re job hoppers and individuals who lack loyalty and respect for management,” noted Jeff Mariola, president of Brilliant, a staffing and recruiting firm in Chicago. In the book, Tulgan explains what makes Millennials tick—namely, that they dwell on the present and value their time.

“Understanding how important their personal lives are to them is the cornerstone to managing Gen Y effectively,” said Mariola, who recommended this book. “Further, cause and purpose are two important subjects that are very top of mind to many Gen Y professionals.

“Companies that are not strategizing now on how they plan to embrace and engage this demographic will certainly lose out in the current war on talent prevalent in today's marketplace,” he added. 

Cheryl Meyer

Cheryl Meyer is a California-based freelance writer.

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