Today's working environment includes four generations of people and numerous combinations of race, gender and belief systems. CPA firms must understand these changes to prepare for the future.
April 21, 2011
The makeup of today's firms has changed and will continue to change into the next decade. Our environment includes four generations of workers and numerous combinations of race, gender and belief systems. CPA firms must understand all of these changes to prepare for the future. At aicpa.org/PCPS, you will find resources from the PCPS Human Capital Center, Next Generation Consulting, Inc. and the AICPA's Minority Initiatives Committee that will assist you in addressing the integration of various cultures among your team members.
Why Do Generational Issues Exist?
Let's start by introducing the four generations at work in the 21st century: the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials. Each has its own perspective, sometimes clashing with one another, about work and their roles at work, and can be understood through a simple comparison to psychologist Abraham Maslow's "hierarchy of needs" theory:
The Silent Generation was born and came of age during the Great Depression and WWII, when securing food, clothing and shelter satisfied basic safety needs.
Baby Boomers, the children of the Silent Generation, set their sights higher because their basic necessities and safety needs were consistently provided by their parents.
During the next decades, when emotionally charged politics was at its peak during the civil rights movement, baby boomers developed the needs for love, affection, belonging and a sense of community — the next level on Maslow's hierarchy. This group became the first of the generations whose members were sometimes known as workaholics. With two parents in the workforce, the baby boomers' children, known as Generation Xers, developed heightened esteem needs, such as confidence, competence, achievement, independence and freedom. In the workplace, this generation is likely to question their leaders and express their desire for independence and self-reliance.
Millennials are often touted as the "Me" generation. Self-actualization, as described by Maslow, is a need that people have to be authentic and aware of their inner selves, to transcend their cultural conditioning, to discover their callings or destinies and to appreciate beauty and other good things in nature and life. Millennials do all of these things, such as learning new languages, waiting longer to get married and taking time off now rather than waiting for retirement to travel, explore and experience life.
When you add all of these work ethics to the same work environment, generational friction is likely to occur, particularly in the following areas:
(Source: PCPS Human Capital Toolkit)
By now, you may be wondering how to address these intergenerational issues. Here are a few suggestions:
Becoming a Next Generation Firm Leader
Next Generation Firms are unique from other firms in two ways:
The PCPS Human Capital Center provides a self-assessment tool called Becoming a Next Generation Firm Leader that gives you the opportunity to assess yourself, reflect on your leadership strengths and opportunities and create a plan of action to transform your organization into a Next Generation Firm.This article has been excerpted from PCPS's Human Capital Series on Generational Issues. View the full article here (PDF).
For more information, visit PCPS