The Millennial generation is generally thought to consist of people born between 1985 and 2000. Now in their 20’s and 30’s, Millennials make up the fastest growing division of the workforce at a whopping 35%. In fact, it’s estimated that almost 50% of the labor pool will comprise of this age group by 2020. If you haven’t already, now’s the time to recognize what Millennials can do for your firm and focus your recruitment strategies on attracting them.

Generation X and Baby Boomers have labeled Millennials as narcissistic, lazy and entitled, but that’s not the case. Sure, Millennials grew up receiving participation trophies and had smartphones before they could vote, but their good qualities far outweigh any bad ones. For one, Millennials are the most tech-savvy generation to date. This group is already prepared to address your clients’ growing expectations for response times and data availability. Just as Generation X brought PC’s into the workforce, Millennials understand the latest technology and, more importantly, aren’t afraid of it. Moreover, Millennials value diversity and social responsibility. If your corporate values aren’t in alignment with these two areas, you’ll have a hard time convincing Millennials to come aboard. This point relates back to a bigger question: what’s this group looking for when joining a firm? Here, we’ll outline what Millennials want and how your firm can accommodate them:

1. Flexibility

According to the Journal of Accountancy, “Today's younger CPAs want to work at a firm that rejects rigid rules, and they desire to define their own workday, including how they dress, the number of hours they work, and where they work...” All this adds up to flexibility and trust. Millennials want their managers to believe they’ll deliver quality work regardless of how it gets done. Millennials have grown up with technology that helps them get work done faster (i.e. the Internet and Google) and embrace the idea of working smarter, not harder.

By allowing relaxed dress codes, letting employees work from home, and offering flexible schedules, firms stand out from their competition and appeal to Millennials. (If you’re concerned about dress code, apply a “dress for your day” policy, which ensures people meeting with clients still dress appropriately.) The Millennial generation has the work ethic to get things done right, they just don’t want to miss their soccer game because of work. If you enable them to work remotely (by using mobile applications like the cloud), you’ll increase their motivation and see increased productivity.

2. Work/life balance

You’ll be hard pressed to find Millennials who are willing to work 10-hour days in the office, but don’t be offended. Millennials believe time off is vital to their health and wellness. They also want to travel and see their families and friends. It’s safe to say Millennials are just as much about enjoying life as they are furthering their careers.

Instead of being irritated when your Millennial employees mention taking time off, be empathetic. If you offer generous vacation policies, you’ll see increased engagement and quality work product.

3. Engagement with peers and communication

The CPA Trendlines article notes that “Millennials are blurring the lines between life, work and play…”  more than preceding generations. They want to feel like they’re part of a community and, in turn, are passionate about spending time with their colleagues. To feel in touch, they crave transparency from all levels of the firm.

You can’t overcommunicate corporate initiatives to Millennials. Be honest about the reasons for changes and host social events so your employees can get to know each other. When they feel connected to those around them, they’ll feel connected to your firm.

4. Challenges that lead to growth

Millennials care about advancing within their respective firms. They’ll seek opportunity and expect clear career paths. They’ll put the time into learning new things and be receptive to coaching, but only if they’re confident it’ll lead to growth. More than that, Millennials want to know they’re making a difference. They find meaning in what they do and will tune out the second that meaning is lost.

There are many ways you can keep Millennials engaged. Establish the "higher calling" of their jobs from the outset and implement a quick onboarding process that emphasizes how the company gives back to the community. Touch base with them frequently so they know where they stand, and schedule regular performance reviews. Setting them up with mentors within the company is another way to help them orient and understand how their performance is measured.

More than attracting Millennials, accounting, finance, and tax firms have an incentive to retain them: accumulating tenure is an essential part of being successful in these industries. The question your firm will have to answer is how to retain Millennial talent given the fact around 65% of them start looking for a new job within two years of their first day. By offering flexibility, not asking employees to work unreasonable hours, giving them the chance to connect with their coworkers, and providing opportunities for growth, you’ll be doing more than other firms. Lauren Stiller, in an interview with the American Bar Association, said it best: “When employers and manager become invested in the success of this young generation, the entire workplace benefits.”