Tax & AccountingFinanceComplianceMarch 01, 2016

The Millennial evolution

The Millennial generation is now firmly embedded in the workplace, including in internal audit and compliance departments. A recent Deloitte Millennial Survey1 predicts that “Millennials, who are already emerging as leaders in technology and other industries, will comprise 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025”. From a management perspective, we need to blend the realities of the work we do with the sociable, optimistic, collaborative, tech savvy, and achievement oriented Millennial staff. Audit and compliance departments are typically very conservative, slow to change, and risk averse. By contrast, Millennials are joining the team with “higher expectations than any generation before them—and they’re so well connected that, if an employer doesn’t match those expectations, they can tell thousands of their cohorts with one click of the mouse”.2

Obviously we are speaking in broad generalities about an entire generation, but typically Millennials have grown up with more technology introduced at an earlier age than anyone in history. Recent college graduates were introduced to video games by age 5, cell phones by age 12, social media by age 15, and mobile technology by age 19. In fact, the past 8 years, the time this group spent in high school and college, saw unprecedented technological growth. The chart below (see Figure 1) highlights just a few of the technology advancements available to this group over their most impressionable years.

Millennials in Internal Audit

Given their technology soaked history, Millennials want to work for organizations that support innovation. The Deloitte Millennial Survey also found that “78 percent of Millennials were strongly influenced by how innovative a company was when deciding if they wanted to work there, but most say their current employer does not encourage them to think creatively. They believe the biggest barriers of innovation were management attitude (63 percent), operational structures and procedures (61 percent), and employee skills, attitudes, and diversity (39 percent)”. We cannot expect this highly motivated, fast paced work group to slow down to match a lagging workplace environment.

Since we know audit and compliance departments often delay introducing technology and innovation, we need to be more diligent if we want to attract and keep the highest quality Millennial employees. After speaking informally with many, many audit departments, we have found several key technology innovations that need to be in place:

  • Data Analytics
  • Data visualization and dashboards
  • Mobile documentation tools
  • Continuous training

We also need to plan ahead so that we maintain the momentum we gain. A recent study3 by The Institute of Internal Auditors (The IIA) identified six steps to developing an effective, long-term technology strategy for audit:

  • Conduct a critical assessment of the current use of technology
  • Conduct an inventory of your technology tools and create a grid linking tools with audit efforts
  • Develop plans and strategies for internal auditors to leverage the potential of technology and keep pace with technological advancements
  • Establish close ties with the organization’s IT function to ensure you are pursuing complementary strategies and taking advantage of available technological resources and protocols
  • Develop a long-term technology strategy
  • Develop a comprehensive training program to support current and long-term technology use

If you feel that your department is behind the technology maturity curve, one of the easiest and most effective changes you can make is to introduce data analytics into your department. Most recent college grads were introduced to data analytics techniques and analytics software in their audit and accounting courses. They expect to use these to use these tools as professionals. We may even be able to take advantage of this newly acquired asset and have the Millennials lead the charge for adopting more advanced technology in our departments.

Challenges with the Facebook Generation

Interview skills

Audit managers often have trouble understanding the work habits of the Facebook generation. One of the common complaints among managers revolves around interview skills. Generally speaking, Millennials seem reluctant to engage in face to face meetings. Traditionally, we are taught that the most effective interview is conducted in person. We use technology as a tool for information gathering and setting up the face to face interview. Younger staff members often takes an opposite approach, attempting to complete all information gathering and interview through email. A recent article titled, “How to Help Millennials Shine in the Workplace,” points out that most Millennials value the “tools that enable the convenience” but they may require coaching to “be cognizant of when situations call for face time, and when IMing or emailing is ok.”4 They may default to the communication tools that they see as the most convenient, but that is not to say that they are avoid meetings in person. Seeing another person’s reactions during an interviewing in person has unique advantages over electronic communications. You may even meet them halfway and implement an interview program using WebEx, Skype, or other meeting technologies that are available.

Written communication

Educating all of your staff on interviewing skills and appropriate business communication techniques will probably improve both those you over rely on email and those who could use it more effectively. One training session on business communication may not be enough to correct years of habits developed by Millennials. Often the emails sent out by less experienced staff are very short and informal, much like a posting on social media. As with any other skill, written communication skills should be monitored and developed.

Receiving criticism

The ability to give constructive criticism in a manner that is easily accepted is an incredibly hard skill for managers to develop. When the manager has a Millennial sitting across the table, the situation can be even more difficult. Those just entering the workforce have been call “The Trophy Generation ”. They sometimes appear to need endless reassuring and only positive feedback. In reality, they are often seeking out any feedback, positive or negative, so they can make improvements, and they “work hard to sure it’s of a positive nature”5.


Senior management will need to set clear expectations for incoming staff. Millennials have been raised in a world where achieving a goal results in a reward. A common situation has been noted where managers present younger staff with a positive review of their work. In the manager’s mind, telling the person that they have met or exceeded expectations means that they are on their way to being a good auditor, probably over the next 3-5 years. In the Millennial’s mind, they have met the goal and can now move on to the next level, probably immediately. Establishing clear goals with progression paths that include an understanding of promotion opportunities and realistic timelines is critical. Without clear expectations, Millennials are more likely to switch companies for an upward title change than to wait for your department to have an opening for the next position.

Remote work

The article “How to Help Millennials Shine in the Workplace”4 explains that “Millennials want flexible work schedules to achieve a better work-life balance. According to the report6, 77 percent of respondents said flexible work hours would increase their productivity, while 39 percent said that working remotely would do the trick.”

The request to work remotely may not be part of your traditional process, but let’s not dismiss the idea out of hand. In most audit departments, you hand a new hire a laptop, email and instant message software, a VPN token, and a company issued cell phone on their first day. Then you tell them to carry this mobile command center into the office every day. The logic behind working from the office is very hard to support. A more progressive policy may be one that allows a flexible work location and flexible hours. If you set the expectation that many tasks do need to be performed in the office, like in person interviews, it can be acceptable to allow some documentation and testing to be done from home.

Worth the effort

With the cost, time commitment, and stress we go through to hire and train any new employee, it should go without saying that we want to retain every auditor we hire. Once hired, the Millennial generation is one that may upset a department’s conventional practices, but it is worth the effort. Millennials are bringing new skills into our teams, and they often come prepackaged with a higher level of technological expertise. The knowledge they bring, coupled with a desire to succeed, is a perfect opportunity for audit management to bring on board a new breed of highly successful, capable, and loyal team members.

1The Deloitte Millennial Survey
2Managing Millennials
3Imperatives for Change: The IIA’s Global Internal Audit Survey in Action
4How to Help Millennials Shine in the Workplace
5“Gen Y” interns: 7 Reasons Why They Are Good Hires
6The Millennial Mind Goes to Work

For auditors who are challenged to improve audit productivity while delivering strategic insights, TeamMate provides expert solutions, delivered with premium professional services, to auditors around the globe and in every industry.