Young people in the workplace

Young people aren’t just taking over workplaces, they’re redefining the employment model!

By 2025, millennials will make up 75 percent of the global workforce.[1] Born from around 1980 to 1995, they are the most highly educated generation to date[2] but frequently regarded as lazy and entitled by elders.

After that comes Generation Z, who will not only be regarded as even more entitled, but will also be responsible for fixing many of the problems created by the generations before them (yay! /s).

What does this mean? It means companies will have to adopt a different approach to hiring and developing the new generation of workers.

What is different about them?

Young people have different needs from an employer, not because they expect the world to be at their feet and for everything to be handed to them, but because the traditional model of employment simply does not suit them.

Putting in the time now to accommodate them is important because if it’s perceived you’re not willing to, they will leave and the cycle will continue, leaving you with high turnover – and maybe no staff left!

What matters most?

Here are a few things that matter most to young workers:

Being valued

Young people (particularly millennials) are often seen as disloyal to their employers and frequently labelled “job-hoppers”, but this is far from the case.

It isn’t that they don’t care who they work for – they’d like to be loyal to one employer – it’s that they aren’t being offered those things they value, such as genuine work-life balance, fast progression, the flexibility to do other things alongside work, and most of all, job security!

At the moment, a lot of companies still have traditional structures and attitudes towards employment (which includes an emphasis on face time as a measure of commitment to the role) and don’t dedicate a lot of resources to change them (except for a few, the dynamic is changing very, very slowly).

More and more millennials are resorting to freelancing in an effort to gain control over their work hours.

Knowing this, it probably isn’t surprising to learn that millennials are more likely to report high levels of satisfaction where there is a creative, inclusive working culture as opposed to a more authoritarian, rules-based approach.[4]

Being given feedback, always

We all know the older generation likes to make this a running joke, but young people really do need feedback, both positive and negative. There is absolutely no going around it. A “good work” every six months just doesn’t cut it. That doesn’t mean young people are needy, it means they take their careers very seriously, and have recognised that in today’s topsy turvy economy, they must do a lot more to keep themselves employed than their parents and grandparents had to.

In law firms in particular, senior lawyers may not have had mentors when they started practising, and may have roughed it out, but that doesn’t mean that the current crop of new lawyers wouldn’t benefit immensely if this changed. It cannot be brushed off because “I never asked for so much feedback when I was in your position”. The new generation of lawyers need to know what they’re doing right and wrong. It takes two seconds to email us and say “great job on this” and make our day.

If you’re wondering how this can be achieved, instead of churning and burning through staff, you can schedule mandatory weekly catch-ups to nip anything in the bud early.

Being invested in

Yes, “back in your day” there may have been limited resources, and you may think it is a rite of passage to sit at a desk for a number of years doing heavy document review before you ever see a client or work on an advice. But young people like to be encouraged to go further and if they feel as if they won’t get that, they will move on.

It isn’t because they’re impatient, spoilt and overly self-confident, it’s because they’re so enthusiastic and ambitious it can blindside people. A rigid workplace structure can stifle this ambition, creating burnout and low morale, directly contributing to the high attrition rate at 3 – 5 years PQE.

What young people would like out of employers is opportunities to take on high level tasks sooner rather than later. This would be a drastic change from the distinct and rigid hierarchy of law firms, which often leaves writing a basic memo until a couple of years in, but over time it could lead to faster progression, making the senior’s workload lighter.

It doesn’t mean that they think they know as much as the Partners in charge, but there are many things that Partners do that could easily be offloaded to juniors to have a go at first.

Young people are different in their approach to their work and their careers, and that’s okay. They hold pride in their place of work just like their elders do, they just value different things. I encourage all employers to invest in the new generation of workers ensure they prosper and remain productive for the long-term.

If you’re an employer who is looking into hiring and retaining millennials, then please consider these factors before you do so. Let’s make a modern model of employment we can all benefit from.






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