Finish this sentence: Millennials are tech______.

Savvy?.... wrong… that is a common myth.

Millennials are not tech savvy, they are tech dependent. They have no idea how a phone was made or how it works, they just know that they cannot live without it. As a matter of fact, who made most of these gadgets that they can’t live without? Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos.

When a millennial wakes up in the morning, they post on Snapchat. They spend all day communicating via different forms of electronic messaging applications. The millennial generation’s entire world is digital - 41% of Millennials said they would rather communicate electronically than face-to-face or over the telephone.

Tech savvy... not so much. Tech dependent? Yes.

That is just one of the myths surrounding the millennial generation (credit to Jason Dorsey on that observation).

What makes Millennials so important?

Millennials are the most important generation in the workforce. If you are a Boomer or a Gen X’er and you disagree, it is because you think this generation can’t get ahead without the training and expertise that you have. This is true. However, you’re a fool if you don’t see the value in sharing that information with them. It is the only way to bring your firm to the next level.

Millennials are your clients.

Surveys show that millennial taxpayers worry about preparing their taxes more than other groups. 80% of millennials report concerns such as making a mistake, not getting a full refund or paying too much. 81% of millennial taxpayers turn to outside resources for help with taxes, 27% of which use tax professionals and CPAs. So, even if you have no Millennials in your workforce, it is a good practice to understand your customer as they will continue to be a growing segment of your consumer base.

Millennials are smart.

They are the best-educated generation in history. 61% of Millennials have attended college, which is 15% more than Boomers. This is due to the fact that Boomers have done a great job of letting their children know the importance and value of a good education in the marketplace.

Millennials are your team.

Finally, Millennials make up half of the workforce, not only can you not ignore half of the workforce, you can’t ignore the challenges that come with it.

Who are the Millennials? What do they care about?

Millennials are behind. Today’s 28 year olds are 3-5 years behind prior generations. They graduated later, they are getting married later (if at all) and they are starting their careers and having kids later. They are experiencing delayed adulthood. Ironically, I often see the hypocrisy of parents who would tell their kids to take their time and travel overseas after graduation, only to have it negatively influence hiring decisions later on.

Characteristics of Millennials:

  • Socially Conscious- The average Millennial saw their parents sacrifice their lives for jobs with big companies that were scandal ridden, only to have their company turn around and lay them off when times got tough. Millennials want to be a part of an organization that is cause-driven.
  • Team players- Millennials have been playing sports since they were young. They are used to working in teams and performing as a unit.
  • Continuous learners/ highly educated- The best educated generation in history, Millennials are smart. Education is highly valued.
  • Digital Native- Gen Y has never had to adapt to technology, it has always been a part of their life. My mother in-law tells me a story all the time about how my little brother could not figure out how to open the car door when the battery went in the remote key. He just figured that there was no way in if that key fob didn’t unlock the car electronically.
  • Optimistic- It is strange how optimistic this generation is, considering the immense student loan debt they carry when leaving school, and the turmoil in the world. The average millennial has $27k in student loan debt when they graduate, but you always hear the same mantra “it will all work out.”

The Millennials create a unique breed of employee that the workforce has never before seen. Someone who cares about why they get up and go to work. Someone who wants to make a real impact. Someone who wants to know what their future holds with their firm. Don’t be scared. These are all good things.

Many CPA firms are choosing to resist the characteristics that make the Millennial generation so special, and simply try to make them adapt to the “old way” of doing things. While there is certainly merit in experience and proven processes, you have to be willing to adapt.

As leaders of your firms, you have to equip your existing team for situational leadership and an understanding of the other generation they are working with. The importance of harnessing the energy and talent of the largest percentage of our workforce cannot be overstated.

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Thanks for reading! I really appreciate it.


Matt Vaadi is a bona fide HR nerd. He has worked in HR since 2003, which is pretty much the stone ages. His HR experience has ranged from frontline management of 50 employees to consulting organizations in the Fortune 500, as well as speaking at various events. He has interviewed and hired thousands of people in his diverse career. He now serves as president at ERG Payroll & HR, an HR support firm in Columbia, SC.

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