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July 07, 2015 Blog 2 min read

Recently, we received two “best workplace” awards focused on specific generations of staff. Crain’s Chicago Business named us the number one place to work for the Gen X generation, whose birth dates span the 1960s through the early 1980s. Shortly thereafter, FORTUNE magazine named our firm one of the “100 Best Workplaces for Millennials (a.k.a. “Gen Y”),” a generation that encompasses staff born between the mid-1980s and the late 1990s. Both lists are the result of anonymous, confidential staff surveys—which makes these awards all the more meaningful. So what do we do to create a great place for these different generations?

While there are differences between Gen Xers and Millennials (Millennials tend to be more passionate about new technologies, for example), we’ve found that there are also striking similarities. For example:

1. Both require work-life balance.

This is the number one priority for both generations, so we do our best to make sure our staff have it. We even have a WorkFlex Committee dedicated to identifying challenges and proposing solutions. We have a generous paid-time-off (PTO) policy, and we encourage our leaders to set a good example. (If staff see their leaders working all the time, they may feel reluctant to take advantage of PTO.) We do our best to accommodate flexible schedules. And we make work-life balance a part of the annual review process. All staff are required to answer whether or not they feel like they’re achieving the right work-life balance and, if the answer is “no,” we address it.

2. Both appreciate social activities that promote relationships outside of the office.

One of the great things about being a “relatively jerk-free” firm is that we genuinely like spending time with each other, inside and outside of work. Structured team outings are common, whether an afternoon at a baseball game, a gathering at a team partner’s house, or bocce ball at a local Italian restaurant. Unstructured outings—birthday parties, weddings, or just evenings out—are even more common. One Millennial staff member said it best: “I don’t have ‘work friends’; I work with my friends.”

3. Both want to make a difference.

One recent study said that 85 percent of Millennials believe their work is part of who they are; they identify with where they work and what they do—it’s not just a means to an end. We’ve found that to be true for all of our staff. When you focus your time and effort for 40+ hours a week, you want it to mean something. We work hard to create an environment that’s challenging and meaningful and that affords staff a variety of experiences to hone their skills

Something else we believe is that accounting tends to attract people who value structured feedback, mentoring opportunities, and a relatively clear career path. Our staff—Millennials and Gen Xers alike—tell us they appreciate that they can see where they’ll be (if they put in the effort) 5, 10, or even 15 years from now. They know what’s expected, and they appreciate this lack of ambiguity about their futures.

What about you? Do you do anything special to create a great workplace for Gen X or Gen Y? And do you see a significant difference between the two?