What do millennial professionals really want?
I like to conduct an exercise with young solicitors and accountants when delivering productivity and efficiency training.
I begin by asking them how many hours they are contracted to work every week. The answer is usually in the region of thirty-seven, (but most tell me that they have opted out of the working time directive).
I then ask how many hours they actually work every week. Common answers range from 50 to 70 hours. Allowing for the worktime directive opt out, the conversation moves on:
‘So how would you describe your remuneration for those extra hours? ‘
‘There isn’t any’
‘Do you mean you are working all of those extra hours for free?’
A managing partner of major law firm recently gave this brutal assessment of the current business model approach of many legal services providers:
‘It is still (largely) a traditional model and indeed, if the profession is honest, is one that survives on people working harder/longer than we contract for’.
Whilst many are prepared to work extra hours for ‘free’ to advance their careers, in my experience there is a growing army of millennials who will simply not be prepared to do that. In short, having a better work life balance trumps being a slave to the time sheet.
Many senior professionals are now recognising that there needs to be wholesale cultural changes if the younger generation is not to be lured to other careers.
What do millennials really want and how can professional services organisations help them to be more productive and efficient? Here are some suggestions.
1. Vision. Often, I hear from younger professionals that they do not know the vision of their employers. In short, they don’t know why they are coming into the office every day. A clear vision statement for the business, communicated individually is essential.
2. A voice in decision making. Enlightened professional services organisations allow younger team members to participate in business decisions. Their opinions, for instance around marketing and business development initiatives, can be invaluable especially for newer forms of communication such as social media.
3. Trust. Millennials want to be trusted to work efficiently and productively when they are not in the office. Working from home at least part of the week shouldn’t be seen as having ‘time off’. Provided that the correct boundaries and expectations are set at the outset, home working can and should be as equally productive as office working - and even free up expensive office space.
4. Flexible working. Many millennials have working partners and may share child care provision. Forward thinking employers are already making allowances for this. Whilst the demands of clients are paramount, most professional services providers can incorporate flexible working patterns that matches those needs. This might indeed include more holiday or unpaid leave for this experience hungry generation.
5. Clarity around promotion. All too often, the path to partnership or ownership is cloudy. This process should be transparent from the outset and each stage clearly delineated.
6. Alternatives to Partnership. Not every young lawyer or accountant wants the burden that goes with partnership, despite the obvious financial benefits. The challenge is to make those alternative roles meaningful and not simply second-best makeweights.
7. The office environment. Who wouldn’t want to work in a ‘cool’ office environment? Why do professional services offices need to be stuffy and old school? Millennials want to be proud of their office spaces.
8. Investment in leadership and management training. Upon qualification, too few young professionals are equipped with requisite business skills to allow them to build their own network of contacts and win their own work. The sooner that this generation is armed with the skills that allow them to contribute to the success of their employer organisation, the more likely they are to invest in its future.
9. Investment in technology. Millennials are more likely to be engaged and interested in their work if the workplace is seen as an innovative environment and at the cutting edge of client communication. AI and similar advances in technology are on the horizon and millennials expect their employer organisations to be in a position to compete.
10. And most importantly: Barista made organic coffee, a juice bar and world class hand crafted doughnuts.