New Zealand Law Society - The Millennials are here. Now.

The Millennials are here. Now.

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“Millennials”, formerly known as “Gen Y”. Definitions vary, but most seem to settle on people born between 1982 and 2000. In the New Zealand legal profession, around 30% of lawyers can be called “Millennials”. If you’re in an organisation that employs lawyers and believe that generations share common characteristics, have you noticed any differences between the Millennials and others?

As could be expected, Millennials keep many researchers, social scientists and analysts employed. Research on New Zealand Millennials tends to be rolled up in global surveys and data gathering. In the last few months, organisations such as Deloitte New Zealand, Vodafone (paid content in New Zealand Herald) and Westpac have all released advice and information in New Zealand on Millennials which has been sourced from international surveys or research.

With a lack of explicitly New Zealand data it is important to add a note of caution to any attempt to translate foreign or global research to Aotearoa (as will be attempted here). A recent article in the Harvard Business Review (Henrik Bresman, What Millennials Want from Work, Charted Across the World, 23 February 2015) points to significant cultural variances between Millennials. In the largest global survey last year, an average of 40% of Millennials said becoming a manager/leader was “very important”. But this ranged from 8% in Japan to 63% in India, with an equally wide range in what Millennials found most attractive in becoming managers.

With that proviso, New Zealand lawyers may still find a lot of benefit in reading the Career Satisfaction Report released last month by the Law Society of England and Wales. It drew on an October 2014 survey of 344 members of the Society’s Insights Community which covers lawyers at all stages of their careers.

One of the key findings was that legal employers face a growing battle to retain their Millennials because they are more likely to switch jobs and organisations more frequently than other age groups or generations.

Based on the research, the report identifies the following key areas where Millennials have noticeably different expectations to the other generations. It seems quite likely that these are worth considering in New Zealand as well:

Organisational purpose

Just 67% of the Millennials were proud to work for their organisation, compared to 83% of the over-55 group. As well, a greater proportion of the Millennials do not think the outside world has a favourable view of their organisation.

The report says in response, employers may need to reconsider how they define and communicate organisational values to help secure loyalty from future generations.

Input on strategy

Just 48% of Millennials agreed with their organisation’s strategic direction, and only 56% were well informed about what was happening in the wider organisation. This compared to 67% and 77% respectively of over-55s.

The report says younger generations are pushing for a greater strategic voice and organisations may need to move to more collaborative decision-making structures to achieve this.

Flexible working

The survey found Millennials are demanding greater flexibility “and it is evident that employers are already accommodating this to some extent”. It found that 68% of under-35s were striking the right work/life balance and 79% were getting time off when they need it. “Employers must be aware that younger generations will expect this flexibility to remain throughout their careers.”

Access to resources

Only 55% of Millennials felt their organisation provides the resources they needed to work effectively, while 70% of the over-55s said the same.

The report says that as younger, more tech-savvy generations enter the workforce they will demand access to the latest digital technologies, which they view as natural tools of work. “Organisations that do not invest in this area risk losing talent to more digital-ready competitors”.

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