What young CPAs really think about loyalty 

A panel of young and aspiring CPAs recently explained why the profession may have to alter its opinion about loyalty instead of the other way around. 
by Chris Baysden 

Young CPA panel discussionGenerational issues are a hot topic of conversation at CPA firms these days. As members of the Baby Boomer generation increasingly retire, there aren’t enough Gen Xers to replace them. This means Millennials will have to step into leadership and ownership roles at a more accelerated pace than their accounting forebears.
 
As is often the case with members of different generations, Millennials don’t always see the world the same as their older colleagues do. One issue in particular that concerns more experienced CPAs is the perception that Millennials lack institutional loyalty. Maybe that’s not surprising: Workers everywhere are much more likely to job hop than they were a couple of generations ago.
 
So what does the profession need to do to create more institutional loyalty with young CPAs? That was one of the topics of conversation at a recent young CPA panel discussion at the spring meeting of the AICPA’s governing Council. Here’s how several young CPAs and aspiring CPAs responded. (Editor’s note: The responses have been edited for length and content.)

Gina Miani, AICPA student member: I think they do lack loyalty. Personally, I do want to go in different directions, because I take opportunities, and I want to go where I find it's best for me, best for my friends, family, whatever it is, community. So I don't have too much loyalty.
 
I think it's a mindset, and … I know it's not an answer to the question, but I don’t know if there is a solution. I think that might be an adjustment that the profession needs to make, because I know that’s pretty common in a lot of my peers, that they want to do the same thing.

Roberto Rosas, AICPA student member: It’s not that we don’t have loyalty, but we like to have options.

It's important to have career mobility, and you don’t want to be there at the firm so long that you’re a part of the furniture. I think it's really important to be engaged and challenged and to always appreciate the projects that you’re doing and really—you know, working with others, I think, is a key part.

For instance, one way that I've connected with some of the people at Ernst & Young in San Diego was through surfing. I have surfed with professionals many times. We go out at six in the morning, as much as that hurts. And we also play soccer. So they really have a nice community and a sense of unity that I really appreciate.

Miani: And also, we'll be loyal to the profession. So we’ll stay … in the profession. Personally, that’s what I think I'll do. I'm pretty sure I’ll stay in the profession, just maybe not one company.

Tanyeka Alexander, AICPA student member: I’d just say, you guys do know we’re high in demand, right? If you don’t have what we want, someone does.

Elizabeth Pittlekow, CPA/CITP, CGMA, AICPA young member: I think the key to loyalty in your firms is engaging your young professionals. If you give them a long-term path that they are excited about, that they can see where they’re going, you’re going to retain a lot more of us, if you give them that long-term plan.

Amy Cooper, CPA, AICPA young member: I worked at three different accounting firms, in Fairbanks, Anchorage, and Seattle. And for me and … my colleagues that left, I think we felt … If you want us to invest in you, we need to feel like you want to invest in us. I mean, I got that sense, but it wasn’t all-out. It was just like, “OK, we’re going to invest in you in a few years.” And there are options, and other options came along that were very appealing to me, and so I left.

Alexander: So it’s like that Janet Jackson song, “What Have You Done for Me Lately?”

To view the entire panel discussion, which touches on many issues related to young CPAs and the profession, click here.

Chris Baysden is the senior manager, newsletters, for the AICPA Magazines & Newsletters team.

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