How Gen Ys will change the legal business

As law firms become increasingly intergenerational, firms need to ensure they are getting the most out of their employees of all ages.

Around 50 per cent of employees globally are now Gen Ys and the number is only increasing.

In the next decade, five generations will be working alongside each other.  

The generational diversity now facing law firms is a particular challenge for law firm leaders, who need to fully understand what the increasing number of Gen Ys can offer their law firm.

In her talk at the ALPMA conference, consultant Terri Mottershed explained the characteristics of the new workforce to delegates, citing Jacob Morgan’s The Future of Work, 2014.  Rather than working from 9-5 in a corporate office, future employees will work anytime, anywhere.  They will have the ability to become a leader, rather than having no voice and be focused on adaptive learning rather than focussed on knowledge.  

“Globally, about 50 per cent of global employees are millennials now and in 10 years’ time, 75 per cent of employees are going to be millennials,” said Mottershed.

“The sort of demands that we see coming from that group of people are increasingly going to be the demands of the entire workforce.”

According to business consultant Ricky Nowak, it’s now become imperative that law firm leaders do more to break down generational bias.

“Leaders and managers need to play and active part in changing the narrative around generational bias and convert the conversation to a generational neutral one,” she told delegates at the ALMPA conference on Friday.

“There will be as many as five generations working side by side in our workplaces in the coming decades.  That immediately creates a leadership challenge because each generation will have something to contribute, as well has having different needs in terms of management, leadership and learning.”

Nowak outlined five tools to help law firms prepare for a more collaborative multigenerational workplace.

1. Develop and integrate a diversity and inclusion strategy
A diversity strategy should be part of the broader business strategy.

“These policies must be aligned to other organisational initiatives such as building a stronger culture that is proud to be diverse,” she said.

“Ensure staff know that your policies are backed by the senior leaders of the organization and they have a visible presence in following through.”

2. It’s dangerous to make assumptions 
Leaders should be having conversations about the career intentions of staff.  

“Make this part of the regular narrative and go from a place of not knowing to helping people with a more flexible workplace which will provide greater productivity and results,” said Nowak.

3. Encourage employees to gain diverse views
Employees of all ages should be gaining views from outside their own demographic.  Nowak advised that these should be shared through multi channels in the workplace.

“To increase billable hours, increase people’s happiness at work.  The more acknowledged people are, the more productive they will be.”

4. Capture and document the intelligence and experience of staff at all levels
It’s important to gain feedback at all stages of employment from both employees and clients.

“Be prepared to put in place different work practices as a result of the feedback,” said Nowak.

5. Encourage male sponsorship for women to ensure the pipeline is strong
Ensuring strong policies for women returning to the workforce and fostering women in rising through the leadership ranks will allow you to hang on to good talent.

“Invest in your top female talent or risk losing future female leaders as well as current ones,” Nowak said.

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