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The Future of the Accounting Workforce

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The Future of the Accounting Workforce

Firms who are hiring new accountants or accounting majors have to understand where the newer generations are “coming from,” as a Boomer (born 1946-1964) might say, to target a style that will bring out the next generation’s (the Millennial Generation’s) strengths and maximize their effectiveness. This involves discarding biases and preconceived notions and enjoying our generational differences—and similarities! The future of the accounting workforce is dramatically shifting as we learn more about the different generational preferences and work ethics. The rapid spread of information, more technology, and a culture that is changing faster than ever before will continue to shape the future of the accounting workforce.

A Shift in the Accounting Workforce

There is a shift in the accounting workforce occurring as Baby Boomers continue to retire and Millennials take over management roles in companies. Millennial workers grew up in a technology-driven world. The way we do business has changed dramatically over the last 2-3 decades. As a result, they often operate under different perspectives than older workers do. Companies across North America that recognize that the differentiator is their people will emerge as winners in the battle for talent; therefore, they’ll design specific techniques for recruiting, managing, motivating, and retaining them.

Another thing we are seeing in this accounting workforce shift is outsourcing the bookkeeping of the accounting department.


Click here to download: The Guide to Outsourcing Your Bookkeeping & Accounting for SMBs


Retirement of Baby Boomers

A notable demographic shift began in 2011 when the oldest Baby Boomers (b. 1946) hit the United States’ legal retirement age of 65. As Boomers continue to retire members, Generation X will take roles in middle and upper management, and, Millennials will take management positions in the workforce. That process has already begun since some members of Millennials in their mid 30s (if we use 1982 as the beginning of the Millennial generation).

Convergence of 3 Generations in 1 Workplace

Other scenarios that will become commonplace will include experienced Boomers reporting to Millennials, members of all 3 generations working side-by-side on teams, and, Millennials calling on Gen X clients. And, all this is going to happen while 3 generations (the Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials) continue the process of finding a way to get along in an uncertain workplace.

This has made all the more interesting given the gap between these two generations. For example, Gen Xers complain that the Millennials are indulged, self-absorbed, and overly optimistic, while Millennials charge that Gen Xers are cynical, aloof and don’t appreciate fresh ideas and idealism.

The Generational Gaps

A survey of 2,546 HR professionals (mostly Gen Xers with all 3 generations represented) across all industries (“Millennials at Work”) was conducted between June 1 and June 13, 2007. The results indicated that there were pronounced generational gaps in communications styles and job expectations in the workplace:

  • 49% of employers surveyed said the biggest gap in communication styles between Millennials workers and other workers is that Millennials communicate more through technology than in person
  • 25% said they have a different frame of reference
  • 87% said that Millennials feel more entitled in terms of compensation, benefits and career advancement than past generations
  • 73% of hiring managers and HR professionals ages 25 to 29 (Millennials) share this sentiment

Some of the examples of this behavior provided by the employers taking the survey included the following:

  • 74% said Millennials expected to be paid more
  • 61% said Millennials expected to have flexible work schedules
  • 56% said Millennials expected to be promoted within a year
  • 50% said Millennials expected to have more vacation or personal time
  • 37% said Millennials expected to have access to state-of-the-art technology
  • 55% said that Millennials have a more difficult time taking direction or responding to authority than older generations of workers did/do

Generational Preferences: Generation X and the Millennials

So, what is the answer to this frustration? Simply that the 3 generations, especially the Gen Xers and the Millennials, begin to understand and respect each other….

Generation X

There are 51 million members of the Generation X (also known as the “latch-key kids”). These Gen Xers:

  • Were born between 1965 and 1976
  • Accept diversity
  • Are pragmatic/practical
  • Are self-reliant/individualistic
  • Reject rules
  • Mistrust institutions
  • Are politically correct
  • Use technology
  • Are able to multitask
  • Are friend-not family oriented

Gen Xers want a casual/fun/friendly work environment that allows them to be involved, offers flexibility and freedom. They also want an environment where they can continue to learn.

It is important to remember that Generation X grew up in a very different world than previous generations. Divorce and two income families created “latch-key” kids out of many in this generation – which led to traits of independence, resilience, and adaptability.

As a result, it is commonplace to meet Gen Xers who don’t want “someone looking over their shoulder” in a work (or social) environment. They want and are comfortable giving immediate and ongoing feedback, work well in multicultural settings, and take a pragmatic approach to getting things done.

Work Ethic of Gen X

Gen Xers have redefined loyalty after seeing their parents face layoffs and experiencing the recessionary period in the early 1980s when jobs were scarce and job security was poor. As a result, they are committed to their work, to the team they work with, and to their boss, but not necessarily the company they work for. Unlike the Baby Boomer generation which would complain about their job but accept it, Gen Xers send their resume out and accept the best offer they can find.

But that does not mean that Gen Xers do not take their employability seriously. Their career choices are flexible, and they are willing to move laterally, stop and/or start over in their careers. Instead of a career ladder, they have more of a career lattice.

Since Gen Xers dislike authority and rigid work requirements, a hands-off relationship is necessary, coupled with giving ongoing feedback on their performance (it is best to keep them informed of your expectations and the measures you will be using to evaluate their progress) and encouragement to be creative and show initiative in finding new ways to get the job done (in fact, Gen Xers work best when they’re told what the desired outcome is and then told to achieve it). They prefer to work “with” you, not “for” you, and are eager to learn new skills because they want to stay employable.

This is really different from the way to treat Millennials…

The Millennial Generation

Millennials (there are 75 million of them!) are also known as the “Internet Generation.” They:

  • Were born between 1977 and 1998
  • Celebrate diversity
  • Are optimistic/realistic
  • Are self-inventive/individualistic
  • Like to rewrite the rules
  • Want a killer lifestyle
  • Have an irreverence for institutions
  • Are able to multi-task at a rate faster than any prior generation
  • Are nurtured/nurturing
  • Treat friends as family/love family

Unlike Gen Xers, Millennials want a structured, supportive work environment, personalized work, and an interactive relationship with their bosses. This group is technically literate like no one else since technology has always been part of their lives. They are typically team-oriented, work well in groups, are accomplished multi-taskers, and are willing to work hard with structure in the workplace.

They acknowledge and respect positions and titles, and want a relationship with their boss. But this is something that many Gen Xers are not comfortable with, given their desire for independence and their preference for a hands-off style.

Millennials believe that their success will be linked to their ability to acquire as wide a variety of marketable skills as they can, and are looking for mentoring, structure and stability in the firm they work in. Thus, they like to be managed and coached in a very formal process. For example, they like set meetings and a boss who acts like their boss. They also like lots of challenges. Effective management of Millennials requires that you break down their goals into steps and give them the necessary resources and information they’ll need to meet the challenge. In fact, successful managers often mentor Millennials in groups since they work so well in team situations. They use the opportunity to act as each other’s resources or peer mentors.

Understand the Trends that Molded Millennials

To understand the Millennials, it is important to understand the trends of the 1990s and 2000s that molded their behavior:

  • Focus on children and family in the early 90s
  • Scheduled, structured lives as a result of parents and teachers micromanaging their schedules and planning things out for them
  • Multiculturalism – kids growing up in the 1990s and 2000s had more daily interaction with other ethnicities and cultures than ever before
  • Terrorism, Heroism and Patriotism – The bombing Federal Building in Oklahoma City the Columbine High School killings and, the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and the heroes who emerged from these dark days, all affected them and galvanized their sense of patriotism
  • Parent Advocacy – the Millennials were raised by involved parents who did, and often still do, intercede on their behalf

These trends coupled with the consistent messages their parents gave and the school system reinforced had a profound effect on the generation as a whole. Messages they received included:

  • Be smart—you are special
  • Be inclusive and tolerant of other races, religions, and sexual orientations
  • Connect 24/7
  • Be interdependent—on family, friends, and teachers
  • Achieve now
  • Serve your community

Work Ethic of Millennials

All of this has translated into a generation of employees with a different work ethic that is different from their Gen X colleagues/bosses.

From a work ethic standpoint, Millennials:

  • Are confident and have a “can-do” attitude
  • Are optimistic and hopeful, yet practical
  • Believe in the future and their role in it
  • Expect a workplace that is challenging, collaborative, creative, fun, and financially rewarding
  • Are goal and achievement oriented
  • Think in terms of the greater good and have a high rate of volunteerism
  • Are inclusive

Millennial Liabilities and Assets

Millennials’ liabilities include a distaste for menial work, poor people skills when dealing with difficult individuals, a tendency to be impatient, a lack of experience, and over-confidence.

Include in their assets the following facts:

  • Multi-task effectively
  • Goal orientated
  • A positive attitude
  • Work well with others

In fact, they work and learn best in teams. They also thrive in a structured environment that offers experiential learning.

What do Millennials Want from Employers?

So, what do Millennials want from their employers? Millennial want their bosses to:

  • Be the leader – specifically to behave with honesty and integrity and to be good role models
  • Challenge them and to offer them challenging, learning opportunities with growth opportunities
  • Let them work with friends and positive people in a friendly environment
  • Respect them
  • Be flexible
  • Pay them well

So, what do we do with all this information? Well, we have been giving lip service to the concept of internal customer service, specifically treating employees with the same respect and attitude we do customers. Thanks to the new generation, that is about to change – at least in successful firms.

This meansmeetings needs to learn to meet their high expectations, listen to their ideas despite their lack of experience, learn to respond in a positive/respectable manner than a negative one, and embrace their knowledge of technology (and not feel threatened by it). Learn from them.

Ideas for Managing Millennials

Companies such as Procter and Gamble, Siemens and General Electric have set up tutoring for middle-aged executives and or reverse mentoring programs so their executives can better understand new technologies.

Other changes companies are making include offering:

  • Flexible work schedules
  • More recognition programs
  • More access to state-of-the-art technology
  • Ongoing education programs

Guide to Outsourcing Your Business's Bookkeeping and Accounting


Sources
http://www.abanet.org/lpm/lpt/articles/mgt08044.html Generation X and The Millennials: What You Need to Know About Mentoring the New Generations by Diane Thielfoldt and Devon Scheef, August 2004
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_Y Generation Y
http://www.brandchannel.com/start1.asp?id=156 Who’s filling Gen Y’s shoe’s? by Dr. Pete Markiewicz, May 5, 2003 issue
http://www.usatoday.com/life/lifestyle/2006-06-28-generation-next_x.htm The ‘millennials’ come of age, 6/29/2006
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/08/60minutes/main3475200.shtmlThe “Millennials” Are Coming, Morley Safer On The New Generation Of American Workers, Nov. 11, 2007
http://humanresources.about.com/od/managementtips/a/millenials.htm Managing Millennials: Eleven Tips for Managing Millennials, by Susan M. Heathfield,
http://top7business.com/?id=3023 Top 7 Keys to Managing Millennials in the Workplace by Gretchen Neels.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/07/13/1978431.htm Generation Y disappoints employers by Liv Casben
Connecting Generations: The Sourcebook by Claire Raines, published 2003.
Managing Generation Y by Carolyn A. Martin, Ph.D. and Bruce Tulgan, published 2001.
Generation X by Charles Hamblett and Jane Deverson, published 1965

Originally posted by Jim Wilkinson on July 23, 2013. 


Be prepared for how the changes expected in the accounting workplace. But there are a few recruiting strategies that are tried and true – through all generations. Learn what they are in our 5 Guiding Principles For Recruiting a Star-Quality Team whitepaper.

future of the accounting workforce, Generational Preferences

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The Next Generation of Financial Leaders

Next Generation of Financial Leaders

As the baby boomers are retiring from the workforce and Generation X are becoming the most senior employees, it’s time to start looking at the next generation of financial leaders. Currently, the Millennial generation is the largest working generation in our economy. They have some quirky habits and behaviors – namely, their use of technology. That leaves some executive clueless on how they will eventually take over the leadership of their organization. With the average age of retirement being 61-65 in America, we are quickly approaching a workforce that is solely comprised of Generation X and Millennials. You may be asking questions… What is your part in raising the next generation? How will you pass on the figurative baton (if you are a Generation X or Baby Boomer)?

It’s important to not neglect the next generation, regardless of how their habits might annoy you. Let’s look at where previous generations have adopted their financial leaders.

The financial leader of the company is responsible for being the strategic partner to the CEO of the company. But there’s no guide. Until now… Access our How to be a Wingman Guide and learn how to be the trusted advisor your CEO needs.

Where the Next Generation of Financial Leaders Comes From

Just like when you acquire talent for other positions in your company (especially high-level positions), there are two options. Either you promote from within or you hire new talent outside your organization. There are benefits to both options. Regardless, as Millennials start to climb the proverbial ladder in your organization and baby boomers retire, it’s critical that you start mentoring and providing some structure for them to climb.

Similarly, last year we wrote a blog about one of our interns going to Japan because the workers were not concerned about who was to take over their positions. Japanese workers were so focused on their work that they weren’t having babies. As a result, the Japanese government was facing a pending economic crisis because there were not enough Millennials to take over. The time is now to start looking at potential financial leaders and how to further develop them.

Baby Boomers          1946-1964          Ages 54-72

Generation X          1964-1980          Ages 38-54

Millennials           1980-2000          Ages 18-38

(Keep in the mind that the above age ranges may be different from what you have read. This is because there are no standard start/finish dates for each generational cohort.)

Next Generation of Financial Leaders

Promoting From Within

The first option to replace high-level leadership is to promote from within. This is a great option because they will have seen multiple areas of the company from different positions. They also know the culture and experience how the organization reacts in good and bad times. Although promoting from within is the ideal option for continuing an organization’s mission, it comes with significant costs. Some of those include training, mentoring, and salary and benefits over the years. It takes time to prune talent to eventually promote them.

There is also time to tone parts of the Millennial down as well as enhance the current leadership’s weaknesses. This not only creates a stronger organization now, but it also prepares the organization for the future.

Hiring New Talent

Conversely, hiring new talent brings in some fresh perspective into the company. This would be ideal for a company who does not have the right talent to promote or needs a change in direction for the organization. Many companies use headhunters, retained search firms, staffing agencies, recruiters, etc. to find the talent take over after the current talent either leaves or retires.

The risk of hiring new talent is not knowing how they react to situations in real time. Unlike promoting from within, you are not able to predict the hire’s reaction (at first).


Click here to download: The Guide to Outsourcing Your Bookkeeping & Accounting for SMBs


The Difference Between the Next Generation and the Current Generation

The main difference between the current generation that holds those top roles (Baby Boomers and Generation X) and the next generation of financial leaders (Millennials) is the world they grew up in. For now, we’ll focus on the two largest generational cohorts in the workplace: Generation X and Millennials.

Millennials experienced two economic crises (2000 and 2008), a war on terror, social media, growth of student debt, advanced technology becoming more available, and information at a moment’s notice. They have a reputation for moving around jobs, focusing on technology, and being more risk tolerant. But one of the most important factors in a Millennial career path is that they are mentored, cared for, and valued in an organization. Furthermore, they want to feel a sense of purpose.

Although this description seems far from Generation X, we have found that more than half of Generation Xers want to mentor and give their mentees a sense of purpose. The Association for Talent Development says that, “Through mentoring, Gen X can help Millennials learn crucial people skills—such as empathy, adaptability, group dynamics, employee motivation, communication styles, and relationship building—as well as management and leadership styles. They can therefore increase the odds that younger Millennials will be successful in a future management or leadership role.”

In addition, the next generation of financial leaders are going to be more risk tolerant – knowing that success only comes from failure. They will test more ideas than the current generation. In fact, the current generation could capitalize off of the Millennials to take more risks.

Building the Next Generation of Financial Leaders

When building the next generation of financial leaders, start early and know how to optimize your relationships with the next generation. Deloitte reports that the 6 most important leadership qualities to develop as you are building the next generation of financial leaders include:

  1. Maintain Strong Executive Engagement
  2. Align Leadership Strategy with Business Strategy
  3. Define Tailored Leadership Competencies
  4. Target All Levels of Leadership
  5. Integrate with Talent Management Processes
  6. Apply Blended, Targeted Solutions

As the current financial leader of your company, guide your CEO on how to prune your employees to take over your role when you retire or move onto another position. Download our free How to be a Wingman guide and take your career to the next level and step up into the trusted advisor role.

Next Generation of Financial Leaders

Next Generation of Financial Leaders

 

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Millennials: The Hippies of the 21st Century

millennialsTwo weeks ago, I posed the question, “Are the millennials the hippies of the 21st century?” in front of 200 CFOs and Controllers. Almost immediately, dozens of hands were popping up in the air to tell about their worst millennial experience.

Learn how to recruit star-quality team members that will improve value in your company (even millennials…)! 

Last week, we discussed the value of a CFO/Controller and if you, as a CFO, are wearing too many hats. We also considered how the life cycle of a CFO in a company fits into this “wearing of too many hats“.  So you have too many hats.  How would you feel if millennials took over some of those hats? When I inquired about this at the conference, I only got one response.

Bad.

Why do so many business professionals see the millennial generation in such a harsh light? On the other hand, why do millennials see our generation as “too traditional“, and “stuck in our ways”? A more important question that you should be asking yourself is… why do we let this get in the way of the productivity within our businesses?

Baby Boomers and Generation X

For the purposes of this blog, we’re going to lump together the Baby Boomers and Generation X. Why? Even though these two generations are starkly different from one another, they have one thing in common. They single-handedly created the Millennial generation.

Consider this… The millennial generation is the only generation ever where technology was always prevalent.

Somewhere along the way, both Baby Boomers and Generation X have conformed to a similar lifestyle. This is partially due to their larger responsibilities such as children, finances, and demanding careers. Growing up without the prevalence of technology we see today, both Baby Boomers and Generation X had to learn to operate within the bounds of relationships and etiquette. These valuable assets are often lacking in a techno-obsessed millennial population, and it’s our responsibility to share our experience with the younger generation and demonstrate how valuable people skills can be.

Orwellian Logic

millennial generationOne of the things millennials must watch out for is to not prefer technology over relationships. I don’t think I’ve seen a single millennial without a phone on-hand. (This is actually true for most people nowadays, not only millennials.)

But there’s a catch. With the newest apps and information shared on the internet, it is difficult to go places without phones and tablets. It’s a fast-paced lifestyle; everyone thinks that if they leave their phones and tablets behind, they will miss something amazing and completely life-changing… And unfortunately people miss what happens right in front of them, because their eyes are glued to what’s happening on their screens!

At this rate, we’ll end up like a George Orwell novel: a dystopian society where humans are enslaved to technology and lose all free will.

Would you hire a millennial on your team? Download the free 5 Guiding Principles For Recruiting a Star-Quality Team to learn how to recruit star-quality candidates in any generation! A bad hire could be catastrophic to your company; who knows, maybe you’ll find a millennial that fits in your organization.

Millennial Generation

A “millennial” is technically anyone from the age of 8 to 27 years of age. As those in their 20s are emerging and eventually will dominate the working class, we’re coming into the millennial generation.

What does that mean exactly? Most assuredly, technology is going to be a vital part of the working class.

New Technology, New Generation

Like we mentioned earlier, the millennial generation is pretty much the only generation to use technology beginning in the cradle, literally.  (Ever see a harried mother give her baby her iPhone to play with?)  The majority of the new generation have no idea what it’s like to mail something, unless their jobs pertain to clerical work. Grandparents of millennials  (Traditionalists and/or Baby Boomers) mail letters to their grandchildren for their birthdays, but what about the grandparents? Texts, emails, Facebook messages are the new “letters.”

The same goes with millennials in business. Technology has opened up new ways of doing business, including telecommuting, work hours, when and how information is communicated. Traditionally, “work-life balance” meant that you had to mold your life around your work. With millennials, “work-life balance” means molding your work around your life. This is possible because of cloud computing, and telecommuting (aka, the ability to work in your bunny slippers at home).

Is it a cycle?

The title of this blog is “Millennials: the hippies of the 21st century” for a reason. In the 1960s, the “millennials” of that era were known as “hippies” because they believed in free love, non-materialism, being your own person. We (assuming you’re as old as I am) were the taboo generation because we broke with social norms.

But around their mid-30s, these “hippies” got married and became parents. They became doctors and attorneys. They no longer believe in what they used to believe (or they’ve tempered their beliefs to get along). Millennials want to give back to society, have quick results, and think everyone should win. Are we wrong to assume that they will wake up and realize what we did in 10-15 years from now?

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Now that we’ve been through the differences between the “old” generations and the “new” generation, I will reiterate my question… why do we let this get in the way of the productivity within our businesses?

The great part about working with the millennial generation in a business is mixing the “old” with the “new.” I’ve been working with students from the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Houston for over 5 years now, and we’ve learned a lot from each other.  Throughout these 5 years, my business has changed significantly. I completely dropped my office, because my “millennial” interns showed me more cost-efficient ways to work through the internet. Similarly, I teach them how to be flexible when working with non-millennials and how important business relationships are.

The key is… compromise. Sometimes I get emails at 2:00 in the morning because millennials tend to work outside of the 9am-5pm range (maybe they like to binge-watch the latest series on Netflix before settling down to work…). I was a little surprised the first time it happened. But now, I sit down with them and outline their projects in advance. This is because there is an expectation on both sides that it will be done in a window of time. They decide their hours… as long as the job gets done.

Millennials have drive and passion.

Baby boomers/Generation X have ambition and experience.

Experience of a baby boomer + Drive of a millennial = Success in your company.

Conclusion of Part II

In the end, we can’t be stuck in our ways (yes, millennials, I’m talking to you too). We should learn how to optimize our resources and learn from each other. As the millennials progress into the working class, they are going to be more and more involved in the business. Regardless of how you feel about millennials, you still need to recruit a star-quality team in order to succeed. In order to determine which candidates are the right fit for your company, download and access your free white paper, 5 Guiding Principles For Recruiting a Star-Quality Team.

millennial generation

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Results: Average Tenure of a CFO Survey

Over the past few months, we conducted a survey of hundreds of financial professionals in an effort to determine the average tenure of a CFO in today’s world. Participants were asked:

Length of time in current job – less than 3 years, 3-5 years, 6-9 years, 10+ years

Current titleCFO, Controller, Asst. Controller, Accountant, Other

GenerationMillennial or Generation Y (1980-2000), Generation X (1965-1979), Baby Boomer (1946-1964), Silent Generation (1925-1945)

Average Tenure of a CFO Survey Results

Notable results include:

  • Average tenure = 5.47 years
  • 78% of participants held the title of CFO
  • 93% of participants were from Generation X or Baby Boomers

We also summarized the average tenure by job title and by generation.  As shown in the charts below, CFOs and Assistant Controllers had the longest tenure by job title and length of tenure tended to increase with the age of the respondent.

average tenure of a cfoaverage tenure of a cfo

Thanks so much for all of you who participated!  Leave a comment below to let us know what other issues you’d like us to survey.average tenure of a cfo

 

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The Future of the Accounting Workforce

The Future of the Accounting Workforce

“Firms who are hiring new accountants or accounting majors have to understand where the newer generations are “coming from,” as a Boomer (born 1946-1964) might say, to target a style that will bring out the next generation’s (the Millennial Generation’s) strengths and maximize their effectiveness. This involves discarding biases and pre-conceived notions, and enjoying our generational differences—and similarities!

Millennial workers grew up in a technology-driven world. As a result, the way we do business has changed dramatically over the last 2-3 decades. As a result, they often operate under different perspectives than older workers do. Companies across North America that recognize that the differentiator is their people will emerge as winners in the battle for talent. They’ll design specific techniques for recruiting, managing, motivating, and retaining them.

A notable demographic shift will begin to occur in 2011 when the oldest Baby Boomers (b. 1946) hit the United States’ legal retirement age of 65. As Boomers begin retiring, members of Generation X will take roles in middle and upper management. Millennials will take positions in the workforce. This process has already begun since some members of Millennials in their late 20s.

Other scenarios that will become commonplace will include

  • Experienced Boomers reporting to Millennials
  • Members of all three generations working side-by-side on teams
  • Millennials calling on Gen X clients

And, all this is going to happen while three generations continue the process of finding a way to get along in an uncertain workplace.

This is made all the more interesting given the gap between these two generations: Gen Xers complain that the Millennials are indulged, self-absorbed and overly optimistic, while Millennials charge that Gen Xers are cynical, aloof and don’t appreciate fresh ideas and idealism….”

More at WikiCFO.com

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LEARN THE ART OF THE CFO