Who Are the Millennials? Understanding, Appreciating and Working Together.

March 4th was Employee Appreciation Day. But how do you show appreciation to millennials who work and think differently from the prior Generation X and baby boomers? It’s an important question that goes to the heart of how one can effectively communicate and meaningfully relate to millennials in the workplace.

Millennials Are Here to Stay in a Big Way.

In 2015, millennials became the largest age group in the workforce consisting of more than 33% of American workers. Millennials are not only taking over in mass, but now hold leadership and decision-making positions in companies. 21.5% of U.S. lawyers are also in this group and many more are becoming our clients and running legal departments.

Their Reputation.

Millennials, the young women and men who are 18 to 35 this year have been depicted by countless articles as an “everybody gets a trophy,” “special snowflakes” group reared in a “bubble of love” by overly involved “helicopter” parents.  Parents raised this group “laterally” where they discussed everything with the millennials rather than telling them what to do.

They are also the first generation of “digital natives” and the social media generation growing up with the internet, Facebook and smartphones.  While baby boomers generally accept their label, millennials generally resist theirs.  So all labels aside, let’s focus on how millennials generally think and work.

What Makes Them Tick?

Aside from being the largest group in the work environment, millennials are also the most racially and ethnically diverse group in the U.S. They are also the most educated generation.  It is no longer uncommon to see professionals with MBAs and JDs and even an additional medical degree.

There’s an acceptance of the idea of job-hopping after a couple of years, as millennials are mobile and entrepreneurial.  Many like to multitask.  Millennials are risk-takers where if things aren’t going their way in their job, they will pick-up and leave.  This causes high concerns for law firm management in retention and motivating millennial talent, who enter the doors planning to leave within the next two years to try something different.

Millennials are for gender equality. Surveys show that the majority of millennial women and men do not see gender lines as far as what they are seeking in the workplace.  Millennials work differently, as they are more collaborative and feel they can work just as efficiently elsewhere as in the office.  Companies, and even law firms, have been accommodating millennials with new open space office designs and permitting flexibility on working remotely.

They think globally, as many millennials have been fortunate to travel internationally. With a global outlook, millennials are attracted to working for an organization that has a global reach offering many international offices with a cross-border business.  Transparency in the work place is highly valued, especially on decision-making, while hierarchy is frowned upon by millennials. Millennials are open to and want constant, detailed feedback with clear guidelines for promotion.  Although millennials do not like hierarchy, they do expect more structured leadership where leaders clearly spell out expectations and limitations of their job and for the organization.

The Millennials’ Workplace

The accounting giant, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd, conducts the Millennial Survey that shows millennials displaying a “remarkable absence of allegiance” to their organizations.  The survey found that “millennials loyalty to their organizations is connected to leadership development opportunities, workplace flexibility and a sense of purpose beyond profit.”

Looks like the high tech companies have gotten it right with the millennials.
The millennials’ workplace has a fresh, startup-type atmosphere where the smart use of technology is paramount and they are continuously developing in variety of ways in an organization with clear corporate values and culture that focus on the needs of the individual.

Millennials no longer want the large corner office in Big Law.  Many are not aspiring to become partners either because of the 24/7 all work lifestyle or they don’t believe that they have good chances at the partner promotion anyway.  Instead, work-life balance is the priority as millennials strive for alternative work models, like FLEX, to have both the flexibility to pursue different things of interest while achieving the satisfaction of purpose and accomplishment.

So show your millennial colleagues appreciation by taking a genuine interest in their professional development by providing new learning opportunities with regular praise in a flexible and collaborative environment.

Share your success stories on working together among generations.  Tweet us @FLEXbyFenwick #RedefineSuccess.