They’re accused of killing off the shopping mall, diamonds, golf, and even the concept of home-ownership.
But they just might breathe new life into your firm.
Here are 10 ways to attract millennials to your office and win their loyalty.
But first — why should you even try?
‘Millennials’ refers to the 75 million people who were born in the ’80s and ’90s (more or less — the exact years are under dispute). Obviously, each of these humans cannot be reduced to the stereotypes of their age group. But there are a number of statistics which firm managers should keep in mind as they plan for the future.
The first of these statistics is: within the next two years, millennials will make up 50% of the workforce. There are already more millennials in the workforce than any other generation. By 2030, they’ll make up 75% of all workers.
At the same time, we’re seeing a “greying of the bar.” Boomer-era leadership is reluctant to make space for these young upstarts. One law professor, looking at the biggest law firms, told the New York Times “I don’t know of a single firm that has made the millennial shift.” Many worry that once the owning generation retires, these firms could crumble.
It’s a sort of “Apres moi, le deluge” strategy by legal leadership. And those adhering to it aren’t only truncating their legacy. They’re missing out in other ways as well.
Millennials are the most highly educated generation yet. They are the most likely to constantly work to advance their skill set. They are better at understanding new technology than their elders, and they are more flexible with its implementation.
They are innovative, creative, and team-oriented. They are skilled at networking. They will connect with the growing segment of your potential clients who are themselves millennials, demonstrating that you are a savvy, forward-thinking firm. They will bring new solutions to entrenched problems and work to revitalize their workplace culture.
And if doors aren’t opened for them, they will create their own path. As legal business writer Lizzy McLellan put it:
“If you’re still clinging to traditional models for training associates and running the partnership, you’ve already fallen behind. The millennials are here, they’re climbing the ranks, and they’ve already begun to transform the industry.”
But firms seeking to harness this energy and build long-term strength are in a tricky position. Millennials have a notorious lack of loyalty. According to an extensive survey by Deloitte, 43% of them expect to leave their current job within two years, and only 28% think they’ll stay more than five.
Compared to their elders, Millenials have more confidence in their ability to find a better job elsewhere. They have less fear to try something new. And that can be expensive for the firms that recruit and train them. Firms will either hemorrhage time and money on constant training for short-term hires — or they’ll figure out how to make these flighty millennials stay.
Whether you’re looking to hire a new attorney, paralegal, or another staff member, here are 10 ways to appeal to millennials in the workplace:
1. Tell Them What You Think About Them
Millennials don’t need participation trophies and gold stars. But they do want your feedback.
The number one reason millennials say they leave their jobs is; their boss. This generation is looking for mentorship and coaching, not authoritarians. And if they can’t find it in your firm, they’ll go elsewhere.
69% of millennials think their company’s review process is flawed. They dislike the rote procedure that exists to tick off some boxes once a year. 75% are uncertain how their performance stacks up to expectations, and 90% say that ongoing feedback from their bosses would make them feel more confident.
To woo and retain millennials, reconsider your review process. Integrate feedback into the flow of your work. It can be hard to invest this time if you think your new hires are just going to leave you. But they’re far more likely to leave if you don’t.
2. Don’t Micromanage
They want frequent feedback, but Millennials don’t want you hovering over their shoulders. This isn’t new. Every generation hates to be micromanaged. But millennials are less likely to put up with it.
Instead of making sure they are doing each step exactly as you want it done, try to return to three key questions: Are they doing the work? Are they doing it well? Are they doing it on time?
If you can answer yes to these questions, give your millennial professionals their freedom.
3. Rethink the 9-5
One key freedom millennials crave is the ability to work when and where they want.
You come into the office early and you stay late. That’s what hard work means, right? The Bentley University Millennial Preparedness Study found that 77% of Millennials report greater productivity with flexible work hours. They believe they work harder when they occasionally work from home and shift some of their work to non-traditional times in evenings and weekends.
Wishful thinking? Well, some research is supporting them, finding that remote workers are just as or more productive than their office-bound colleagues.
Millennials are also more likely to embrace part-time or freelance work. Harnessing the energy of millennials might mean reconsidering your workplace expectations. Consider remote work, flex time, alternative fee structures instead of billable hours, and perks like paid parental leave.
4. Invest in Healthcare
Speaking of perks . . .
Millennials came of age amidst health care battles. They have witnessed an expansion of certain benefits (including those that allowed them to be on their parents’ plans to age 26). But they’ve felt precarity over these expanded benefits. Perhaps that’s why 96% of millennials say healthcare benefits are the most important factor in choosing between similar jobs.
A Gallup poll (analyzed here) found:
“Millennials want benefits and perks that directly impact their lives and the lives of their family members, and they show a greater willingness to switch jobs to secure these elements.”
5. Don’t Give Them Tasks a Robot Could Do
Don’t assign a millennial something an app could do better. They know they’re in the fourth industrial revolution, the age of robotics, internet of things, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence. They’re well aware that if they’re doing mindless labor, a robot will soon replace them.
To win millennial loyalty, give them a pathway to meaningful work. Invite them into strategy discussions. Allow them to interact with clients. Empower them to build their personal brand as a member of your firm.
And instead of asking them to do repetitive work, get their help in automating it.
6. Provide Training
The Deloitte survey found a strong connection between loyalty and training. Among those millennials who plan to stay with their employers for more than five years, 73% report high levels of education and training in their work.
This comes back to their experience of rapid technological change and fear of obsolescence. Millennials report that most employers are failing to prepare them for what’s ahead. And they don’t want to commit to a dead end.
This gives you a chance to stand out as an alternative to those dead ends. Provide thorough and ongoing training about the latest legal technologies, such as case management software. Encourage them to attend conferences and trade events, or participate in legal tech webinars. Find ways to train them on legal issues, as well as relevant medical, science, and tech topics.
The need for training isn’t just about law, science, and tech, though. Millennials also want to learn the ‘soft’ skills that will remain relevant in a robot-filled world. Only 26% are currently finding soft skills training at their work. To stand out, mentor them on ways to engage with clients, network, and work with a team, as well as areas like writing, rhetoric, and ethics.
7. Tamp Down Anxiety
Millennials may be the most stressed generation. Researchers estimate 30% of working millennials have general anxiety. Their anxiety rates double those of the baby boomer generation.
Law is often a high-stress profession. But there are many ways to eliminate unnecessary stressors in your firm.
Have clear expectations with millennial workers. Clarify their duties and deadlines. Have case management systems in place that keep them ahead of deadlines — instead of awake at night worrying over what they might have missed.
Another way to reduce anxiety: let millennials text. Millennials are in fact skilled at face-to-face interactions. But when it comes to making a call, they are notoriously phone-phobic. As more clients are millennials as well, texting will take an even more central place in law firm communication.
8. Ditch the Paper
Millennials feel at home in the cloud. They’re quick to be annoyed by paper-heavy practices. They’ll learn paperless methods much faster.
In addition to having more concern for the environment, they also want to see efficient and innovative workplace practices. 42% of millennials say they’ll leave a job with subpar technology. They may feel that a paper-heavy practice is one that will soon be obsolete.
Let millennials use the cloud to address their collaboration and communication needs. This is especially the case with older technologies like fax machines. Though faxing is still crucial in most law offices, the machine itself is difficult for young people to operate, and is likely to earn their disdain. Let millennials use online faxing solutions instead.
9. Increase Diversity
Millennials are the most racially diverse generation. While 44% of the generation is a racial minority, the legal industry is overwhelmingly white. Only 16% of lawyers are people of color.
This disparity carries over to other forms of diversity as well. While two-thirds of millennial women are in the workplace, only 19% of equity partners in law firms are female. 4.5% of millennials identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, but only 3.2% of attorneys are LGBT.
Law firms face an uphill battle when it comes to matching the diversity that millennials expect. But doing so brings its rewards. The Deloitte survey reports that 69% of millennials in diverse workforces say they’ll stay five years or more. That number for less diverse workforces is only 27%.
Millennials also believe diversity improves their organizations’ ethics, creativity, and ability to nurture talent and emotional intelligence. Deloitte reports:
“Millennials and Gen Z correlate diversity with a forward-thinking mindset rather than the mechanical filling of quotas—viewing diversity as a tool for boosting both business and professional performance, especially when diversity is embedded in the senior management teams.
Millennials view diversity as more than just social justice. They see it as a necessity for financial strength and future sustainability. 78% of millennials in companies with diverse leadership report strong profit generation. That’s 13 points higher than those with less diverse leadership teams.
Whether you’re appealing to millennial workers or millennial clients, the conclusion is clear: move away from white-male homogeneity. A real commitment to diversity will win millennial loyalty.
10. Think About Values, Not Just Value
Millennials aren’t saints. They still report that their number one goal at work is to make money. But they do tend to report more concern for social and political justice than their elders.
The Deloitte survey found that they want to see industry and business leaders be more proactive about making positive impacts on society. Though they want financial security, they are more likely to believe success should be measured in broader societal terms.
To attract millennials, demonstrate the deeper values of your firm. Commit to pro bono work that has larger societal impacts. Don’t shy away from public support for your values of compassion, equality, and justice.
To win millennial loyalty, give them a chance to support the values that are dear to them. This could include working on cases that align with their deeper values, redesigning office workflows for greater sustainability, or networking at events aiming to improve their own communities.
Millennials are making big waves in the fields of business and technology. But so far the upper echelons of the legal world have remained closed to them.
It can’t stay this way. A massive generational transfer of power is bound to happen. And those firms that have attracted and retained the best millennial talent will quickly rise to the top.