How to keep millennials in internal audit.

You’ve read a zillion articles about millennials, so let’s get to it: audit employers are having a tough time incentivizing millennials to both work in internal audit and stay in internal audit. And the situation is more complex than we wish.

Even in the past year, almost a third of our audience reported that finding and keeping new talent is increasingly difficult.

“Attractive compensation helps, especially for candidates with a strong analytics background (“They can get more money elsewhere and they know it!” one CAE said), but foremost, audit chiefs need to provide challenging work to would-be junior auditors.”

Along with not providing stimulating work, internal audit employers fall short with millennials in other ways too. For example, audit is often unable to offer competitive salary for quality talent (e.g., data analysts). Also, millennials feel undervalued as they are asked to perform monotonous work that they perceive is below their skill level. Finally, millennials may get into audit and feel like they aren’t contributing to something important.

The above issues point to two main camps of millennials: those that want to feel important and those that want to do something important. Too often, audit managers see the problems listed above as a nuisance rather than as a catalyst to drive change in internal audit.

So, when salary is fixed and the perks are what a Gen Xer would like but maybe not a millennial (i.e., catered lunches, unlimited paid time off, yoga hour), how does an audit shop change their philosophy to cater to the younger crew? Below we explore different ways to motivate a millennial auditor.

Validate Millennials’ Work

Here’s a true story about a guy we’ll call Mark the Millennial. Mark is a middle-of-the-road guy – but he works a ton. And he’s talented – but not as talented as he thinks he is. Mark overcompensates by working on weekends. He is driven by respect and appreciation.

Mark was feeling frustrated because his name was always last (or left out altogether) on one of the congratulatory emails. He was looking to leave, but eventually stayed because the company gave him more money and a bigger title.

Mark was easy to entreat to stay, because Mark needed to feel important, and the company fulfilled that need.  

The story may be simple, but the truth behind it is that validation is important to millennials. Mark valued the new title. He valued the compensation. He valued being valued by others.

Auditor tip: Millennials want to feel important with recognition and compensation. If not, they’ll find another job. Keep in mind that millennials may expect results quicker than other generations, so consider how promotion practices could change to accommodate millennials in the workforce.

Give Purpose to the Project

Another guiding desire for millennials is to feel like they are doing something important. Good compensation is expected, but when salary is limited, provide purpose – either with off-time projects that give back, or with a large goal to help the company work toward.

On the same end of the spectrum as Mark the Millennial, is Trent the Millennial. Trent is brilliant. As added background, Trent is a vegan who meditates for 15 minutes before he eats each meal. Trent was designing artificial intelligence for a medical company.

Trent wanted to use his data analytics skills to make a difference in the world. It wasn’t enough to have a job with a paycheck. Trent had smarts and he wanted to use those smarts.

However, Trent left the company for a different company. He wasn’t necessarily making more at the new company, but he felt like he was contributing. 

Trent wanted to do something important.

When I asked why he left, Trent’s answer was simple. “They never asked me what I wanted. I was treated as if I were disposable, and so was everyone else. I wasn’t included in the overall plan for the company. I didn’t have opportunities to grow my skills.”

Auditor tip: Where previous generations preached quality of life, millennials live it. They want time for family and friends, volunteering, and personal hobbies. Sometimes you can integrate those concepts into the workplace. Find out what new auditors want and see if the company culture can change to accommodate it.

See how this company created a culture of inclusion.

Ask Millennials for Help

Millennials grew up with a life-changing leap in technology that their parents didn’t have: the Internet. By virtue of this advancement, all of a sudden young children were falsely placed on an equivalent status with adults. The stigma never left. Since then, parents have sought guidance from their children from the beginnings of “surfing the Web” and setting up “electronic mail,” to social media, cell phones, texting, apps, and the list continues.

At 10 years old, millennials were solving problems their adult parents couldn’t solve. At a young age, millennials have been used to being involved and included and equated to adults.

If you hire a millennial and give them monotonous work, they will often feel like the work is below them, or even patronizing. It’s frustrating to a Gen Xer who grew up accepting decisions from adults. It’s probably why we like the free catered lunches too (“Someone gave us a free lunch?? Cool!”) .

Auditor tip: Because millennials have been solving problems with adults since they were children, a millennial could make an excellent cohort in audit as a problem solver and a forward-thinker. Including millennials in larger projects will help them feel special and will be right up their skill alley.

Final thoughts

Millennial perks are different than previous generation’s perks. Providing catered lunches and allotting time for yoga are so Y2K perks. The new millennial perk is improving skills and pursuing interests. Although it might seem daunting at first, internal audit offers a city of avenues for millennials to discover (e.g., fraud analytics, cloud security, risk management, and multiple certifications).

As audit shops provide millennials these opportunities for personal and professional development (and validate them in their work), they might find that the right millennial is a tremendous asset to the team.