In the age of Instagram influencers and workplace beer gardens, millennials often get an unfair rap for communicating and working differently than their older office peers.
While they may have grown up texting in lieu of talking and “dancing” with headphones at silent discos, like it or not, millennials are now the largest and most prolific voice in the accounting world. And their attitudes and preferences are influencing every part of accounting office culture—particularly when it comes to new technology.
Some say millennials are “lazy.” We say they’re driven, just driven in their own way—a way that includes an insistence on embracing new ways of working. From artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cloud-based computing to project management software and social media platforms, millennials have evolved the accounting industry with technology.
Here are three ways they did it—and continue to do it today.
1. They initiated real-time reporting
By 2020, nearly half of the U.S. workforce will be made up of millennials. And that’s good news for the accounting industry, which needs their energy to spark plateauing firm growth.
Richard Kopelman, CEO and managing partner at Aprio, believes that having a younger, tech-savvy workforce not only benefits clients, but also challenges firms to work smarter through the use of new real-time software and different methods of problem solving.
“We respect and are adapting to how millennials work and how they view things,” Kopelman said. “They have a different engagement level and bring different abilities that greatly contribute to our company.”
And that millennial focus is important, considering more than 90% of businesses now prefer a real-time accountant when dealing with their financial information.
Today’s more progressive firms are transitioning business clients from old-school desktop products like QuickBooks to online software like NetSuite and Xero where they can see their finances in real-time. And millennials are expediting this transition.
Just how beneficial is real-time software? It’s like going from a rotary phone to an iPhone X. No longer is a client stuck wondering about the status of their finances or forced to call their accountant to ask an important question during a sales meeting. (Also, it doesn’t take nearly as long to dial a 9.) Accountants and clients alike are always just a few clicks away from the most up-to-date information.
“It’s not about just doing compliance work anymore,” said Danielle Berg, Aprio chief marketing and communications officer. “Sometime soon, every employee will be able to come into work in the morning and know what’s going on real-time with clients. And that’s really exciting.”
2. They put their heads in the cloud
When Nintendo released its Power Glove roughly 30 years ago, the peripheral was supposed to revolutionize the gaming world. Instead, it bombed under the weight of its ill-conceived lagging hardware that had buyers desperately blowing air into their NES cartridges, hoping for a “fix” that would never come.
Accounting suffered a similar blow in the early 2000s. Firms were counting on emerging technology to help them deliver better service to clients, but the net effect of new tech was a negative one. Technology, along with a healthy dose of corporate consolidation, made it possible for many companies to perform more of their accounting work in-house. As a result, public accounting firms saw business growth begin to stagnate.
Then came millennials to the rescue—helping to revive the industry by moving mobile accounting software and advisory roles to the forefront and achieving the tech-driven higher levels of client service public accounting firms needed to spark new growth.
Much of this evolution is occurring in the cloud, with the average organization investing $1.62 million in cloud computing. While some industry staples continue to stay the course with yesterday’s economics, companies like Aprio understand the massive opportunity the cloud represents. These firms are implementing both public and private cloud technology, training and promoting millennials who know how to use it, and adapting their work styles to take advantage of everything the cloud offers.
With data-entry tasks pushed to automation, the cloud has allowed young accountants to provide clients with more detail-oriented work—at flexible hours—and enables them to easily collaborate with their teams on special projects.
Their heads always in the clouds, proverbially and literally, millennials can provide better client interactions and are setting up their firms for advancement in ways never thought possible 20 years ago.
“The pace of technology is going to make us run fast,” Berg said. “We as a company have to commit to being lifelong learners and understand all the new tech, from real-time to mobile to cloud to remote.”
3. They moved business away from the office
Thanks in large part to millennial interview inquiries, remote accounting jobs are growing faster than ever. That makes some managers nervous, but millennials are alleviating their stress by driving the use of Google Hangouts, Slack, and other mobile software that makes it easier for accountants to effectively work from anywhere.
With its millennial-majority workforce, Aprio has embraced the remote revolution—and that seems to be a good thing for employees and clients alike. Kopelman said the remote option fits hand-in-glove with what many clients are now demanding.
“We’re in a position to accelerate growth and serve that next generation of clients and meet them where they want to be met,” he said. “I think that means we will be more virtual in the future. Our people will be more effective when they work from anywhere rather than being tied down to an office all day.”
Aprio needs forward-thinking accountants like you
Is your employer behind the tech curve? Time and again, Aprio has separated itself from other global firms by committing more resources to cloud accounting, AI/ML, remote work, analytics, and forward-looking insights based on data.
If you want to work at a firm with a progressive approach to technology—where you can improve your skills, advance your career and compensation, enjoy more work/life flexibility, and connect with clients to feel the direct impact of your work—you should consider an accounting job at Aprio. Click one of the links below to apply now.
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