When I meet with law firm managers in Canada one of their most pressing concerns is how to replace retiring baby boomer lawyers with millennial lawyers.
Almost a third of Canadians, 27.9% of 35.1 million, were between 22 and 37 during the 2016 Census. RBC Economics reported in October 2016 that millennials are better educated than almost any group of workers in history and more tech savvy.
The prognosis is similiar in the U.S., where millennials also represent the largest and most educated generation in the labor force, according to data released by Washington-based think tank the Pew Research Center (FactTank, How Millennials today compare with their grandparents 50 years ago, March 16, 2018).
CEOs Are Worried
Unlike their grandparents and parents, millennials change jobs regularly. It only makes sense that millennial lawyers raised in a gig economy are less likely to be loyal to a single employer. Most of my younger Canadian friends move around every three or so years. In the U.S., the average stay is 19 months. Small wonder North American CEOs are worried. My grandparents worked at the same jobs in England for 50 years.
But wait, millennial lawyers are also more inclined to start their own law firms than baby boomers. Nine per cent of Canadian start-ups were owned by someone under 30 in 2014. More than a few of these entrepreneurs came up through university or college business incubators, where they were encouraged to think big and act aggressively.
When these businesses fail, as many inevitably will, recruiters and CEOs must deal with independent-minded, once self-employed contractors fueled with diverse credentials that include Instagram travel diaries and Facebook revelations.
That leaves North American companies, already facing the exodus of baby boomers that started in 2011. juggling a surplus of young, ambitious workers used to being disrupters. These employees can expect to move into management around age 40. While we won’t see many millennial managers until at least 2021, the time to worry about retention is now.
What will the future of your workplace look like? Well, just imagine a group of managers accustomed to enjoying a fast-paced lifestyle, self-centered and impatient, straight out of a universe of instant gratification created by social media.
Real life doesn’t come with a multi-coloured filter that makes everything look just a little better than it really was. Social media does. When millennials go on vacation, they post photos of the most exciting parts of their trips. Through this artificial lens, young people pursue a fantasy existence that consists of constant happiness and fulfillment. This fiction can translate into the workplace.
Read more: The Broken Law Industry
Based on a 2016 survey of 2,072 Canadians born between 1980 and 1995, millennials want to make money, have a healthy work-life balance, for the most part make an impact and be important (Environics Research, New survey reveals the diversity of Canada’s Millennial generation through their social values, Feb. 15, 2017).
Does it feel like everyone wants to be a general and no one wants to be a foot soldier? That’s because the technology industry and business magazines have warped what millennials are looking for in a job.
Just consider that to attract talent, Silicon Valley companies are now offering free Lyft rides, hot stone massages, free meals and snacks, onsite doctors, no-cost dry cleaning, arcade games courtesy of Google and bean bags as office chairs.
Millennials Are Not Kids Anymore
The outcome is that millennials look like kids in an amusement park. The downside is that these freebies are not incentives. They are intended to persuade employees to work longer and longer hours, recreating the unhealthy lifestyles their parents and grandparents endured.
Let’s face it. Your employees should be joining your company because they want a rewarding career, a stable income, to start a family or improve their industry. Amusement park perks may help managers attract talent, but they won’t keep your employees around for the long term so you can mould them into the managers and professionals you need to sustain your company’s long-term success.
After all, how long will it be before your new millennial employee becomes bored of playing arcade games — and jumps ship for the next shiny new object?
How Old Are Millennial Lawyers?
Baby Boomers: 54-72
Gen X: 38-53
Author: Alistair Vigier
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