"How do you attract Millennials? And what makes them stay?"

A guide to directors and managers who want to attract and retain talented accountants, consultants and lawyers, including an increasing share of Millennials. Read about the 5 aspects they think are most important.

Millennials aantrekken en behouden

Shortage of good professionals

Special times have come within accountancy, law and consultancy. Where work declined years ago, and with it turnover and profit, this has completely changed since 2016-2017. There is enough work, perhaps too much, and the number of new requests for quotations continues to pour in.

However, there is a major challenge, comparable to before the crisis: attracting and retaining people, good people. Increasingly, an extra recruiter, a labor market campaign or the involvement of a search agency is no longer sufficient. The pond with talents is getting smaller.

However, there is now an aspect that makes it even more challenging: the Millennial, also known as generation Y. A generation that views work differently, not necessarily better or worse. And so the question is, how can you as an executive and organization attract and retain these Millennials?

Generation Y: the Millennials

Generation Y grew up in families where the child is central. No longer hierarchy, unconditional respect for the parents and hard work as central themes. No, the children are listened to, who are allowed to have a say and participate in the decision-making process. Our parents chose a friendly relationship with us in which equality and mutual respect are the most important values. And we grew up with the message: "You can become anything you want."

The result is a generation that is open, innovative and confident. Or are these people just spoiled and arrogant? You hear the latter mainly from managers. However, these same managers are often older than generation Yers themselves. For these managers, work and private life are still two separate worlds. In case of annoyance and frustration about the attitude and behavior of their young team members, I advise them to think about themselves and how they assess the same characteristics in their own child. Best chance that they come to the conclusion that they measure with two measures. That can be a helpful insight.

Partly because of this education, a generation has arisen that considers five aspects essential:

  1. Personal contact
  2. Meaning
  3. Appreciation
  4. Freedom
  5. Personal development

1 Personal contact

Everyone attaches importance to a good working atmosphere. Everyone wants nice colleagues and to be heard, including by the boss. But for the new generation of workers, generation Y, a pleasant working environment and atmosphere are anything but an extra, they are crucial. My generation, born between 1985 and 2000, is not without reason a symbol of the 'happyholics'. If we don't feel at home at work, we cannot function optimally.

That is not surprising when you consider that generation Y hardly distinguishes between work and private life. The concept of 'Living in your free time' is outdated for us. We often do work at home, even in the evenings or at the weekend; in the workplace we are ping-pong with colleagues who are also our friends and with whom we go to the cafe, beach or concert. Not only do we value personal contact with colleagues and our supervisor, we need it.

Millennials behouden

Close to your team members

The happyholic, generation Y in the lead, is stressed by a manager who keeps his distance and is hierarchical in his role. After all, we are used to expressing and moving freely from our upbringing, we are not trained to treat someone with extra respect purely on the basis of age or experience. We do not need to be pampered, we like honest, substantive feedback. And we want to be able to spar with our team leader. We need personal contact with our manager to get the best out of ourselves.

For the manager, this development means that the competence to manage people becomes more important than substantive knowledge.

To properly fulfill that role, you need to be close to your team members. This way you get to know their motives, you know what they need, how you can best support them. And, again, that requires personal contact. How do you do that? Coffee or lunch outside, get a sandwich and take a walk or a beer on a terrace. This creates the atmosphere in which you strengthen personal contact. And it also talks a lot easier than on either side of the boss's desk.

2 Meaning

Generation Y is a generation that derives much of its identity from the work they do. And so we want our work to be meaningful and fun. Well, work is not always fun, of course, but a stupid job can also be fun, if you understand why it needs to be done. When you understand the added value, no job feels stupid. Then you can give it meaning.

Why questions

If we have only started in our first real job, we are not yet concerned with whether we are doing meaningful work. We have work and earn more than double what we had to spend as a student. Nice is not it? But after a while we take a critical look - that's how we were brought up - and we might just discover that we are spinning on a treadmill that threatens to absorb our energy without replacing it with new energy.

We grew up with the idea that the whole world is open to us, that we should go for happiness, not for money. 

And there you are, carrying out assignments from the boss in the office without knowing exactly what the purpose of the job is and why it should be done exactly that way. If there is no culture in which you can ask why questions and if your input is not asked, it can be so frustrating that you lose your motivation and drive.

To be clear, the eternal why-questions and why-so-questions of generation Y should not be confused with the journey of the toddler who wants to understand the world. Our question arises from the genuine need to be meaningful, to provide added value and from involvement. We want to be part of a team, a community, of something bigger than ourselves, to make a difference together. That makes us happy and that benefits every organization.

Thinking along and having a say

Okay, so we want to be meaningful. And that means that we want to be involved in charting the course of the organization. Or at least be properly informed at an early stage. We actually want more than that: we want to think along about the future of the organization and give our opinion. And then we want people to really listen to us, to our often creative and innovative ideas.

If you honor the involvement and drive of these happyholics, you give them the feeling that they are jointly responsible, that the organization is also a bit of them.

And if you manage that well as a manager, the Millennials run very fast, they will go through the fire for you.

Millennials willen aandacht

A good employer accepts that challenge. He realizes that generation Y is the inspiration and innovation for the future of the organization. And a really good employer will even encourage happyholic to investigate how he can get the best out of himself and be optimally meaningful for himself and for the organization. Because that employer realizes that ultimately the organization will only benefit from this.

3 Valuation

Showing appreciation is so obvious that you may wonder why we dedicate a column to it. The answer is short: because the importance of appreciation for generation Y is underestimated. We must be valued to be happy, to perform. And I'm not talking about appreciation in the form of a larger lease car or a financial bonus. No, what we need is positive feedback, genuine compliments and appreciation in the form of trust and freedom.

Thinking along and having a say

We are a generation sensitive to the opinions of others. We love honesty - and we are - and we always seek confirmation, as we always got from our parents. As a manager you must realize this when expressing your appreciation and especially when giving feedback.

We want to be heard, seen and understood. We want to feel that our supervisor knows us and on that basis offers the appreciation, help and incentive we need.

That is difficult for many managers. They are used to attaching compliments to the achievement of targets or exceptional performance. Commitment and commitment in itself are not rewarded and that is something to think about. Because someone who has given everything and stranded shortly before the goal may deserve that pat on the back more than the one who effortlessly achieved his financial targets.

As a manager who is the father or mother of a generation Yer, consider how you assess and approach your own child. Then it will probably become a lot easier to give that happyholic a genuine compliment about commitment or involvement.

Ask "what would you do differently?"

Another tip to show that you as a manager want to hear, see and understand your generation of Y-ers: have a conversation with each new employee about his / her findings three months after entering.

Ask the following questions:

  • What do you notice?
  • What amazes you?
  • What would you do differently?

And do something with that!

Young MT

Or put together a Young MT as an organization, a group of young, talented generation of Y-ers with a vision of the future of the organization who dares to display it. And let this generation of Yers join a regular MT meeting a few times a year. This way you show the happyholics in your organization that you take them seriously, that they are of value to the organization, that they really matter. And that is the appreciation we need.

4 Freedom

“It's Wednesday morning, I'm having breakfast with the balcony door wide open. The sun is shining brightly. I decide to enjoy this beautiful summer day, because that is a gift in September. So off to the beach. What about the work? No worries. I take the laptop and see. I can also get to work tonight. It'll be fine."

Just someone from generation Y, the generation that symbolizes happyholic, is speaking. Someone with a manager who gives him the space to determine where, when and how he does his work. Generation Y needs that freedom. And the digital developments make it easy to work outside the office and outside the (often still) usual times.

Millennials willen zelf bepalen waar en wanneer ze werken

From 9 to 5 nonsensical 

Generation Y looks at work in a different way than previous generations. For us it is not a point to have to run a sprint or every now and then to pass a night for work. We always find it 'from 9 to 5' nonsensical. We in our late twenties and early thirties derive a great deal of our identity from the work we do, so we want to be meaningful. And we want to have fun at work. This requires a manager who grants us that.

Nobody constantly wants a boss in the neck who checks the work. Of course there is an explanation about what is expected of you, there are deadlines and there must be room for interim consultation and possible adjustments. And of course a starter needs guidance during the process, but ultimately it is all about the result. You don't have to chew how to get there. You can easily determine that yourself.

No 'command & control'

Command and control is outdated. And with generation Y it even backfires. We don't run for managers who command. We do want to run for executives who give space and freedom to get the best out of ourselves, to find out - through trial and error - how to achieve the best result. Generation Y demands leadership in a new style, that is to say: space, flexibility and trust.

If you put us on a leash, we will look out the door very quickly.

Especially now that the crisis is behind us, the job opportunities for Young Professionals are endless. But if instead as a manager you stimulate your young employee with constructive feedback to discover where his strength lies, how he can develop optimally and which way of working suits him best, then you keep the inspiring and innovative generation Y for your organization. And that makes everyone (work) happy.

5 Personal development

Personal development is one of the pillars of the existence of generation Y. These younger employees, who symbolize happyholic, are out for growth, preferably as quickly as possible and in a way that suits them perfectly. And self-aware if these are happyholics, they don't ask their employer to take care of their development, they demand it.

Not uniform sausage

The Millennial is eager and wants to perform, be meaningful and enjoy what he does. He expects his supervisor to enable him to continuously develop, in other words: the manager must facilitate the growth of the happyholic. And then not according to the fixed pattern that is still common in many organizations: three years in one position, which includes a few fixed courses, training and / or workshops and then three years in the next position on the ladder, with fixed positions again. training, courses and / or workshops that belong to that position.

No, the happyholic does not like uniformity and certainly not use in concrete. The Y-generation wants to be judged on the basis of its individual development and performance, on the basis of which it can indicate new growth needs and get growth opportunities. This can therefore mean that someone grows up much faster than usual, or that someone gets new challenging tasks within the same position.


Challenge. That is what happyholics need to keep feeling good. Personal development does not necessarily have to be vertical by official promotion to a higher position, you can also achieve personal growth horizontally. Just think of traineeships at other departments, in other teams or at other offices, if possible abroad. The Y-er wants to grow horizontally in every position, even if he has just been promoted. Because he wants to keep developing, so always.

Customization and feedback

And it is not only about professional development, but also about personal growth, about our development as a person. We also want to be facilitated in this by our employer. Coaching, training, intervision, the possibilities are endless. And the choice is determined based on the needs of the generation Y-er in question. Because the key word is: customization!

An advice to the employer of generation Y: give the happyholic a mentor. This younger employee is generally much more open to feedback than older colleagues; generation Y already learned as a child to receive and give feedback. And a lot of feedback not only encourages young employees to take many initiatives, but it also encourages them to develop further.

Belang van feedback

Are you not prepared for that as an organization? Then say goodbye to happyholic. Because bringing someone in is one thing, but keeping a creative, self-confident, eager to learn happyholic is really something else. That only works if you really want to invest in the personal development of generation Y.

Want to get started yourself?

Curious how your organization can better attract and retain Millennials? Then take it Contact on.