In the long term, the defining quality of a successful business is not its profit, revenue, or capacity for innovation: it’s how it adapts

The world of enterprise is constantly adjusting to the rapid pace of technological change and a key test of your business’ stability and viability is whether it can keep up.

But beyond sophisticated software and hardware, mentalities are changing – and it’s equally important to make sure that your business keeps up with this change, too. In particular, if you can’t appeal to the latest generation of graduate accountants, you won’t be able to attract the best available talent.

Discussion around millennials is often unduly negative, but they can add considerable value to your business if you allow them to do so. Of course, figuring out how to attract the best employees – and create a work environment that enables them to flourish – is more easily said than done.

Wheat and chaff

In a market where graduate jobs are sparse and applicants are plentiful, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be at a loss for CVs. This is a blessing and a curse: isolating the very best candidates from a group of people who attended similar universities and have similar CVs can be a herculean task.

A lot of this will come down to the interview process, but you can’t invite everybody in. Choosing who to invite is about looking for vital clues that highlight their commitment and capability. Being an accountant is about more than mere number-crunching: work ethic is particularly important and can be effectively demonstrated by an ability to hold down a long-term job outside full-time studies (voluntary or otherwise). Those who make a conscious effort to go beyond their studies and collaborate with others are valuable to any organisation. If an applicant’s extracurriculars indicate that they might be good cultural fits for your business, promote them to the top of the pile.

How to impress millennial hires

With the above said, don’t take their interest for granted. A company must be able to articulate its own worth – to effectively make the case for your business over any rival they may have also interviewed with. Studies have shown that millennials place a high value on company culture: bells and whistles like beanbag chairs, breakout spaces, and standing desks can actually make a significant difference.

Flexible working can also serve to impress them: if you use cloud technology and give them the opportunity to work from home, from distant locations, or at odd hours, they’ll likely appreciate it. Offer these perks if you can: it makes a difference, and as long as the work gets done, it ought not to matter how it’s done.

Hiring the next generation of millennial accountants requires diligence, discipline, and – above all – adaptability. Finding the brightest and most capable candidates and convincing them to work for you is a process that requires constant adjustment to consider requirements on both sides. The best accounting firms will understand this – building an expectation of change into their hiring models, tweaking their culture and benefits to suit the latest cohort of potential employees, and never for a moment sitting still.

Author: Colin Timmis is Xero’s Head of Accounting South Africa