Millennials have now surpassed baby boomers as our largest generation, making this group key to achieving business success and growth. What’s more, there’s a very competitive hiring market for top performers in this group.
“You start to look at your current employee population, both male and female, and it’s very easy to make the business case that we need to focus on two things: Millennials, and also on developing females,” explained the director of human resources, Jessica Utley. “It can’t solely be our current leadership group that helps us to meet all our goals, so it is imperative that we begin developing future leaders now. We need to identify the talent at an earlier stage in their career and develop and retain them. They’re going to be the key to us growing.”
Like many companies, we have grappled with the workplace issues raised by the growing presence of millennials, a group that some have labeled (we believe incorrectly) as impatient, lacking in loyalty and far too busy looking at their cellphones.
“It’s an extremely competitive market these days, and getting quality people to join our organization — a group of high performers that believes in our core purpose and our core values — that was honestly a bigger challenge for us than getting new clients,” said Jeff Drummonds. “We made a conscious decision that everything we do will tie back to ‘LBMC is the right place for high-performing CPAs and consultants.’”
Beginning in 2016, we took a fresh look at how we did things and saw what it would take to attract and retain millennials. While we don’t have all the answers, what we’ve been doing at LBMC has resulted in improved retention of millennials, a strong recruiting program, and, most importantly, great ideas and hard work from a group of young people who some employers are giving a bad rap.
Our success with this group of employees revealed valuable lessons. Like many large organizations, LBMC conducts employee surveys, but what happens after that is what matters most. Once we get feedback from staff, we figure out how to actually address their requests, complaints and suggestions. Here’s what we learned:
Millennials want to be heard
The biggest lesson we learned about millennials is that it’s critical to listen to them — and all our employees. Really listen. Ask questions and then act on the ideas that make sense for them and the firm.
“I equate that to when you walk down the hall and ask someone, ‘How’s your day?’ And if they say, ‘Well, it’s not going very well,’ you’d better stop and listen and find a way to help, versus just walking on past,” Drummonds explained. “If you just walk on past, asking ‘How was your day?’ didn’t accomplish what you wanted it to accomplish.”
This process of listening and acting communicates that the firm takes its employees seriously and respects them — which is a key need for millennials. LBMC has implemented at least three ideas brought to the fore through the listening process: standing desks for all employees, two weeks of paid paternity leave (in addition to paid maternity and adoption leave), and dress for your day which allows for jeans when not meeting with clients.
Millennials want to have influence
In addition to having a voice, millennials want to feel they are able to contribute — to have influence in the decisions made in the workplace.
“Millennials don’t expect to be the final decision-makers,” says Utley. “But by knowing and understanding that they are part of the process and have an influence on the decisions that are made — they are more likely to fully support any initiative or change that might be happening in the firm.”
Millennials want work/life balance
Millennials working at LBMC have expressed a desire for more workplace flexibility and more opportunities to take advantage of technology. In response to that, we’ve implemented technology solutions that allow our employees to work productively in remote locations as needed. This allows their work schedules to fit their lives, fundamentally important at LBMC where we value the commitment to a balanced quality of life.
Millennials want to feel empowered at work
At LBMC, managers are informed of what it takes to become a partner and the expectations that come with that role. To further empower young employees, LBMC started a Young Professionals Group (for those in the first seven years of their career) and a women’s initiative, called the WIN@LBMC.
In addition, every young employee is paired up with a mentor with whom they meet regularly to discuss what’s going on in their career, what they are doing well, what they can improve on and how to continue developing their career path with LBMC. We have also expanded our professional development program to ensure we meet the needs of our employees at all levels within the organization.
“Some organizations I worked in were very hierarchical and based on seniority, and that’s very frustrating for Millennials,” said Katie Tarr, a senior manager in the health care valuations department. “If I’m working smart and hard, why am I not at the same level as someone who’s less productive than me, just because they’ve been here longer? And the entrepreneurial mindset of Millennials is very different from prior generations, in that I have to care about what I’m doing and I have to feel like I’m on a mission and involved in something — as opposed to just doing a job for a paycheck. No Millennials I know will take a job just for a paycheck — they want something they can get behind and get excited about and feel a part of.”
Millennials can teach us
While we may not have figured out everything that makes millennials tick, we have learned valuable lessons that benefit employees of all ages within our firm. One of the key takeaways from our millennial initiative is that we all have more to learn. Just as our millennial employees feel they can grow through the mentorship provided by more experienced members of our team, our leadership team feels the firm can grow by allowing our young employees to mentor us on what it takes to provide a fulfilling, successful workplace. In other words, we’re learning from each other.
“I don’t want to give the appearance that we have everything figured out. We have to embrace many of the things that Millennials and others are asking for,” said Drummonds, but that doesn’t mean capitulation. As long as you’re willing to be open and honest with them, “I think that this generation is willing to meet you halfway.”
As a result of our efforts to attract and retain millennials, LBMC was named one of the 25 Best Places to Work for Recent Grads in 2016, based on work-life balance, culture, mentoring, benefits, training and employee rankings. As a company, we look forward to learning and growing together as we develop a multigenerational workforce.
Learn more about LBMC's career oppportunities.
Jeff Drummonds is CEO of LBMC, a premier Tennessee-based professional services firm. Contact Jeff at email@example.com or 615-309-2224.
Originally printed in The Tennessean.