Let’s be totally honest: without millennials, who is going to take over the accounting profession? Much against popular belief, accounting isn’t going anywhere. Regardless of technology changes and machine learning, we will always rely on data to drive our decisions. Until someone decides there will not be financial statements for publicly shared companies, income taxes are fixed taxes and small businesses will continue to employ the majority of people across America, then we will need the next generation to fill the void. I am certain that in my lifetime, I will not see a computer replacing the human mind, so how do we help the millennials get the job done?
Our firm went out on a limb last spring and brought on a millennial intern, Kelsey. We knew there was a risk that the time committed to her internship may be a lower priority to her personal life. We also knew that with technology, she would expect tasks to be completed quicker than without it. Knowing that we would be bringing in someone who has the ability to fix the iPhone to move to landscape when you turn it sideways, we were prepared. Any firm that intends on being in business 10 years from now no longer can be choosey about technology. The generation that is coming in will run you over with two thumbs while texting … and take over.
How do we train and mentor this generation? We carefully bring them in and bring them back to the basics. For example, when mentoring millennials about tax return preparation, we teach them to look at the figures after they enter them and tell us a story about what those figures mean. I love to sit with Kelsey and talk about why there are changes to a client’s tax return, and what happened in 2016 that did or didn’t happen in 2017. Teaching her to think and not be a robot is awesome. What I have enjoyed is watching her put the phone down, take an adding machine and add up the W-2s to make sure what is reported in the wages line is correct. Yes, we have technology that handles all of that for us, but we need millennials to go back to our roots – not all the way back to paper and pencil on a return we got from the post office, but we need to teach them what to look for, how to analyze, and how to respond when a client asks a question about why their refund or taxes due changed from the previous year.
I cannot tell you how awesome it is to watch millennials pick up a red pencil and tick off each line on a return, but I will tell you that watching the light bulb go off when they figure out why there was a difference is really exciting. Teaching them to “write a story” from financial information is something they likely never imagined was possible. We know it is, and we embrace this learning and welcome this generation. We need them, and they need us.
So, choose to mentor millennials; they are fascinating people, and if you have not yet adopted the technology, let this generation drag you along. They will feel accomplished, and your firm will survive.
Editor’s note: Read the other articles in the Tax Pro Center’s mentorship series.