As baby boomers retire, an influx of millennial workers are entering the workplace. According to the 2016 Gallup report “How Millennials Want to Work and Live,” people born between 1980 and 1996 are most likely to look for and change jobs when they’re unhappy, which represents a threat to legal firms hoping to retain and attract employees. Now representing one in three American workers, evolving business practices to accommodate this generation is a must for the survival of legal firms.
At the core of this evolution is technology.
What Millennial Workers Want
The millennial generation is used to living in a digital world and being able to do everything on their mobile devices, so it comes as no surprise that they want more automated functionalities in the workplace as well. In fact, the global study “Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workplace” found that these workers have very specific expectations about the technology they use at work. Specifically, the PwC-commissioned study found that:
- 59% of respondents said an employer making state-of-the-art technology available was an important consideration for taking a job;
- 78% said access to the technology they like to use makes them more effective at work;
- 41% said they preferred to communicate electronically at work, rather than face-to-face or by phone.
Mobile devices are so ubiquitous that young attorneys, like other millennial workers, have become used to blurring the lines between work and personal time.
Keeping Pace with Technology
Deploying new technologies may not be easy for law firms, however, when you consider that historically, they are not known for being innovative or disruptive. A recent Thomson Reuters survey showed that, overwhelmingly, corporate counsel reported “coming to the millennial party late,” and taking no action to prepare for the generational shift.
This attitude needs to change when you consider that millennials will comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025. The study advises senior legal department leaders to focus on technological advancement as one area to help attract and retain millennials.
In order to keep pace with technology, legal firms should take into account their ever-growing millennial workforce and invest in a solid IT infrastructure to facilitate the group’s technological expectations. Technologies like workflow software to automate manual processes, collaboration tools and strong analytical software are table stakes.
Instant Collaboration Is Key
Collaboration is also becoming increasingly important to this generation. To reflect the desire of younger staff, some firms are being redesigned with large open spaces so that attorneys can have face-to-face interactions, reports Law360. Some law firms are giving staff mobile devices and technologies so they can conduct work and connect even when they are out of the office. In addition, businesses should consider the security and privacy implications and plan for workers using their own devices for work, as well as remote and mobile working.
Law firms should be mindful of the fact that because technology changes rapidly, not all millennials will know how to use every tool, nor when it is appropriate to use what and when. Since discretion and privacy are paramount, these companies should not only offer training but also provide guidance on when to send a text versus a phone call or arrange an in-person meeting, advises millennial workforce expert Lindsey Pollak.
Law firms that do not cater to the changing workforce will find that providing the latest and greatest technologies is not just a matter of retention, it’s a necessity for the business’ bottom line. After all, some clients are millennials themselves.