The Invisible Generation

Last week I was lucky enough to attend Accountex in London with the Karbon team. Over 6000 attendees, 200+ exhibitors and 185 sessions certainly makes accounting events in Australia look small! Over my 4 days in London I talked to hundreds of Accountants about what was working in their business, what the biggest frustrations were and how they were overcoming these challenges.

The recurring theme in so many conversations: the team

This really got me thinking. A lot of accountants I talk to in Australia also talk about their team, how to attract the right talent, how to deal with millennials, how to skill the team, how to motivate or engage, and how to retain as being among the biggest issues they face running an accounting firm today.

On Tuesday night I presented “Accounting for the generational shift” a report put together by Karbon, to a group of Accountants in London. The report looks at how to attract and retain millennials as well as changes the industry needs to make in order to manage the change in generations. The room was lively with discussions and questions from accountants sharing what is working and not working for them. The good news, most of these accountants all realised Millennials are different. They were putting in place self-development programs, implementing & using technology, formal mentoring programs, flexible employment arrangements and really taking an interest in this new generation.

As the days progressed and I spoke with more and more accountants an issue became clear. There is a Invisible Generation. The generation in the middle between the Millennials and Baby Boomers. So much emphasis, training and research has been put into the up and coming generation, and there are loads of resources on what to do if you are a baby boomer. But what about those that are part of the in-between generation or the invisible generation as I’ve called it?

The invisible generation value feedback & recognition, they want time with their managers, they value independence, are hard working but lack self-confidence. The invisible generation have some baby boomer and millennial traits.

What do you do if you are part of the Invisible Generation? What do you do if this generation makes up a large portion of your current team? I’ve answered these questions on #stephqa.

In my discussions with accountants around the globe one thing is clear: we, the accountants, have the data, knowledge and ability to make an enormous difference in our clients lives and that flows directly to the economy. We don’t need to be having debates on whether compliance is dead, or if we should be using timesheets, we need to be focused on building the knowledge base in our Industry, on empowering all generations to use our skills to really make a difference in our clients lives.

I’ve got a team of people from the Invisible Generation

The most important thing to understand is whatever you decide to do, you need to do it now. For all of you baby boomers (and millennials if you are the owner) there is an urgency around the actions you should take. For those of you wanting to sell your business, members of the invisible generation are the ones most likely to purchase from you.

If you want to attract & retain the generation who have experience your business needs to be attractive. You need to allow this generation to grow. To give them challenges, but at the same time guide them. If you want them to take over when it’s time for you to retire you need to engage them in the decision making process for your business. What services you are providing, what systems are you using, who you work with and how things progress.

Whilst the invisible generation is generally less restless than millennials if they aren’t engaged they will still look elsewhere. So you need to implement formal training programs, mentor programs, and a clear path of progression.

But most importantly you need to engage. The more secretive you are, the more controlling you, the less you let go, the less likelihood of retaining the key players in your lost generation team. What do I mean by letting go? Relinquishing the control of decisions to your team, letting them come up with solutions to problems and really taking into consideration suggestions.

I’m part of the Invisible Generation

For my millennial friends, I do love you, but we, the invisible generation, need to own this industry. We have the experience to be able to advise clients what they need to do, we have the experience to lead our teams and the experience to help the millennials grow, learn and develop. For those of you even in your late 40’s there is still at least 15 years for you to build your legacy.

Does that mean you need to quit your job today & start something new? Certainly not. Does that mean you need to be insane? (ie doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result) Certainly not! You need to find the right balance for you.

Stop making excuses. Find what you are really passionate about. Is there an Industry you love working with? Are there certain services you know you are brilliant at that you want to concentrate on? The invisible generation should not be settling for the status quo. We need to be focused on doing what we love.

Sure you can get more involved in your current firm with the ultimate aim of buying in. If that is your game plan you need to start to make your moves now. Don’t be afraid to talk to your boss about what you want. If you want to branch out on your own, find your passion and create a business that is solely focused on that. If you don’t fancy yourself a business owner go and find a millennial who has the same passion as you and team up.

Absolutely LOVE what you do now for the people you do it for? Brilliant. But go tell your story. Tell people who are thinking about getting out of the Industry. Tell the millennials coming through. Tell the kids still in school how awesome your job is.

We have so many opportunities. Which ones are you going to grab?

I’d love to know what’s working for you. Or any specific issues you are having with either millennials or the invisible generation.

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