Who are the Millennials and how can legal firms engage them?

Open the pages of pretty much any human resource or marketing publication and you will invariably find at least one article talking about ‘Millennial’ and ‘Gen Y’ workers. They are a tour de force yet may law firms are struggling to actively retain them. And we think we know why: too few people actually ‘get’ what they are all about.

Don’t worry, if you fall into this category, you are not alone.

The Baby Boomer generation was born between 1946 and 1964, Generation X’ers fall within 1965 and 1984, while ‘Millennials (sometimes referred to as ‘Generation Y’) are currently aged between 20-35, and born between 1982 and approximately 20 years thereafter (there remains a debate whether to affix the end point as 2002 or 2004).

Far from being a ‘whiny’, ‘selfish’ and ‘entitled’ generation or any of the myriad of negatives commonly used to describe them, the importance of Millennials cannot be underestimated.

There are around 13.8 million Millennials in the UK right now, and their number is continuing to rise at relentless pace. Indeed, the US Bureau of Labor estimates that this hyper-connected tech savvy generation will make up 75% of the workforce by 2030.

This means there is a very high likelihood that the next person you hire, promote and seek to retain will be a millennial. Yet despite their increasingly important role almost a third (30%) of organisations claim to have lost 15% or more of their ‘millennial’ employers over the last 12 months.

So how can you better engage with the best young talent? Here we a look at six of the most effective ways law firms can boost their Millennial retention rates:

  1. Encourage collaboration: This is a generation that doesn’t switch off. Millennials are problem solvers and great communicators and they like to talk with one another to share their ideas and knowledge. Be open to the technology they think would be beneficial to the business and look into them, whether that’s BYOD (smartphones, tablets), social media or simple cloud-sharing services.
  2. Flexible working: When Generation Y have been profiled, flexible working hours are often highly sought after. Their smartphones and tablets are never very far away, so they need to have the right technology in place to support them. And while they won’t expect you open for them at 4am they may wish for some manoeuvrability around the usual Dolly Parton routine.
  3. Give regular feedback: Forbes and PwC reported that Millennials like to receive feedback on their performance regularly, so rather than sticking to rigid quarterly or annual appraisals, get together more regularly in a less formal way to have a chat about their performance, what they’ve done well and where they can improve.
  4. Vary their role: Millennials are often accused of job-hopping from one employer to another – much of the reason for this is that they are searching for a greater variety of challenges and wish to progress quickly. If you value these employees make it clear to them how they can progress, and vary their roles and tasks so they avoid tedium and the dreaded “itchy feet”.
  5. Invest in them: If you have an employee who you see as having a bright future, develop them. In return they will feel more positively towards you and if they can see they are valued and may not feel the need to leave to progress their career.
  6. Encourage social activity: Social belonging is another important factor to Millennials. Make sure your workplace encourages socialising outside of work. You don’t have to become their best friend, but through weekly or even monthly events you can ensure their social life and work life are mutually exclusive, this can be invaluable in employee retention.