How to Find and Develop Top-Performing Millennial Employees

by Paul Peterson

At Wiss, we are consistently on the lookout for new hires, and many of the accounting professionals we interview tend to be in their 20s. Younger hires help keep our culture young and dynamic, and we often refer to the search of graduates as our “draft,” a reference to how professional sports teams recruit top young talent during their signing periods.

Through my interactions with millennial associates, I’ve identified several trends in their strengths, as well as keys to forming mutually beneficial relationships. These four tips can help you find and develop millennial hires in a way that maximizes their value to your organization.

Look for people who are comfortable in their skins.

Young applicants may not have much work experience, but you can find clues to their grit, resilience and resourcefulness in their other experiences. If they’ve traveled, played a sport in college, taken on challenging part-time work or conquered tough physical or mental challenges, that’s meaningful. Our work can be fast-paced and complex, so I look for signs that young employees will embrace new challenges.

Top applicants love to share their experiences and interests. Oftentimes, we find that individuals who lead interesting lives are curious, flexible and eager to meet challenges and change.

Update your mentoring style.

When you got your first professional job, you may have been told to listen more than you talk. The idea is that you should carefully watch how things are done, and perhaps find yourself a mentor — someone older and wiser who had been around long enough to know how things work in your industry and company.

That was great advice at the time, but mentoring today is no longer a one-way street. Granted, our more experienced and senior employees have a lot to contribute, but the younger hires may know a lot more about changing technologies and trends. Tap into that knowledge by bringing younger staff members into strategy sessions before upgrading your digital technology, encouraging their input. All parties can benefit from the experience.

Embrace change.

Of course younger people want to do things differently. So did you when you were their age. Stay open minded. Listen to what they have to say. Consider letting people decorate their workspace as they see fit. Weigh the benefits of a different dress code or office setup if your newer associates prefer a more informal environment.

Keep in mind, embracing change doesn’t mean giving younger employees free reign and letting them disrupt company values. If you feel strongly that values are being misinterpreted and applied, hold your ground. Just make sure you’re not fighting healthy change simply because “that’s how we’ve always done it.”

Monitor results, not work methods.

Younger workers may have a different work style than what your company has been used to. They might not be sitting at their desks the minute your workday starts. On the other hand, they are flexible, and they’re willing to do what’s needed to get the work done if it that means staying late or working off-hours while others aren’t.

You may have had 20-something employees tell you they can get more done without workplace distractions, by working remotely from their apartment or at the local Starbucks. They only need a smartphone and a laptop, after all. Is it smart to let them? Let their results guide your decision. Does the employee meet deadlines and turn in quality work — or is there always an excuse for late or shoddy output? Treat your people as the individuals they are. Give some more freedom and rein in others as performance dictates.

An influx of millennial employees will help you shape a more youthful, creative and energetic culture if you allow the culture and existing norms a chance to evolve. It all depends on your approach.

As Managing Partner at Wiss & Company LLP, Paul Peterson leads the firm’s long-term strategy, growth initiatives and overall management for the future. You can reach Paul at or (973) 994-9400. 

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