In the July/August 2016 issue of Law Practice magazine, an associate at The Wright Firm LLP in Dallas, Caroline LaPorte, and founding and managing partner, Patrick A. Wright, write from an inside perspective in the article “Managing Millennials in the Legal Workplace,” and strive to dispel stereotypes about those born between 1980 and 2001.
LaPorte and Wright say they initially set out to write this article as a “therapeutic exercise.” LaPorte has heard enough about the reputation millennials have acquired and says the term itself is a “scarlet letter, a branding.” She adds that the generation has been characterized as a “collective societal drain.”
Wright writes that he initially thought the generation was “a group of entitled, praise-seeking, flexibility-requiring, raise-demanding, technology-addicted young adults who would rather Instagram the cover of a book than actually read one.”
Hence, Wright was hesitant about providing opportunities to this generation because of the expense of legal training and the supposed inevitability that millennials will move on to other companies with better views and benefits.
LaPorte provides an insider’s view and offers suggestions for managers for understanding millennials. They are:
Core values. LaPorte writes that before anyone can manage millennials, they first need to understand them. She said social good and diversity tops their list of priorities. “Our generation is the most mixed-race, immigrant-heavy generation since the 1920s,” she writes. “We value culture and social good above procedure,” she adds. In fact, according to LaPorte, to millennials procedure is seen as a hindrance that does not foster progress.
Question process. Having graduated from college in 2008 when Lehman Brothers imploded, LaPorte says to expect millennials to question any office process. “You also cannot expect us to blindly follow the systems you have in place,” she writes. Saying that they “resent office procedure,” LaPorte says millennials prefer to pursue and use technology to strengthen workplace efficiency.
Here we go, again. “Millennials want frequent feedback,” LaPorte writes. Since they are used to receiving feedback on various platforms in real time, they desire to work for employers who value “honesty and transparency.”
LaPorte writes that the key barrier facing employers managing millennials is the ability to set aside bias. LaPorte recommends seeking to understand millennials individually instead of generalizing who they are as a generation. Here are her other tips for managing this group:
Don’t be afraid. If employees are not performing, LaPorte writes it is OK to “get rid of them.” She suggests, “Free yourself from the expectation that you have to develop millennials’ low expectations.”
Befriend transparency. If you want millennials to thrive in your office, make sure you and your work is transparent. “Millennials do not enjoy working in a place where they have to guess whether or not they are meeting expectations,” LaPorte writes.
Be clear about what’s expected. By developing policies on social media, interoffice communication and remote access, you provide a clear understanding of what is expected. LaPorte recommends employers use a Web-based management software system that has a chat feature and document-sharing features. She adds, “working from home cannot mean checking email while binge-watching Netflix.”
Technology is key. “Instant feedback is our religion,” LaPorte writes of millennials’ culture of technology and how they receive information. She says formal review processes are not an effective method to reach them. Instead, she suggests:
· Using web-based platforms to streamline reviews
· Using frequent data collection (billable hours)
· Overhauling existing incentives (money is a good option, but fulfilling passions is also important)
· Building relationships with staff so you know what their passions are and how you can invest in them
Finally, LaPorte urges employers to “invest in us to your advantage.” Don’t underestimate millennial talent, she urges, and advises taking steps to engage this generation of workers. “We use technology expertly, are natural social media marketers, bring energy, are creative, resourceful and care about honesty and social good.”