Start Ups

Managing the newest generation in finance isn’t as hard as some make it out to be. But there are still hazards.

Commitment to the Cause

Take lack of loyalty, often the biggest complaint that older employees have about the young. There is a big difference between loyalty and commitment, says Farstad. “I am fully committed, but I cannot afford to depend on a company no matter what,” she declares.

Mesut Eken, a 29-year-old controller in a business unit of Continental, a German automotive supplier, says that the biggest misunderstanding between the generations is to “equate age with experience.” Job promotions based mainly on length of service are a big turn-off for Generation Y, he adds. Eken started work straight after school at Siemens, where he got a degree from its corporate university while he worked in finance. He rose to a senior finance role during a four-year stint in Brazil, including time at a mobile-phone unit that was later sold to another firm. Now he’s working in Dortmund after the automotive unit of Siemens he was working for was sold to Continental last year.

Michal Kujawiak, a 28-year-old management accountant at Jewson, a UK-based building-materials company owned by Saint-Gobain of France, stresses that loyalty is a two-way street. “If a company is selfish, then so are its people,” he says, expressing a low opinion of “doing time” in order to advance. “This is not prison,” he quips.

Not all, or even many, millennials are itching to move on. For Farstad, Eken and Kujawiak, changes in actual jobs and responsibilities have been as a result of formal development programmes or been forced by takeovers. A survey last year of 1,000 full-time employees in their twenties by Robert Half and Yahoo HotJobs found just as many expected to stay in their jobs for six years or more as wanted to leave in a matter of months. (See “Not So Fast” at the end of this article.)

Eken rebuts the common refrain that younger workers are easily distracted, and seduced by higher pay at other companies. “If I were just after money, I would have changed companies several times already,” he says. He has received, and rejected, CFO offers from smaller companies, in some cases offering a 30% pay rise. At large multinationals, he see opportunities to hone his finance skills, passing through “all of the various functions that you need to know to become a CFO.” He doesn’t take the move to finance chief lightly. “Once you take the top position at a company, you stay for three or four years and then what?” he asks. “As CFO, you can’t just switch from one post to another.”

Enrico Garino is similarly clear-eyed about what it takes to reach the top. “It would be great to be the CFO of a big company some day,” says the 26-year-old commercial controller working in the auto sector in Italy. “I would love to stay at this company for my whole career, but you never know where the winds will take you.” For him, “the next ten years are about gaining knowledge, with money of secondary importance.”

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