With four generations co-mingling in the workplace, and some law firms demanding a return to the office, more conflicts are arising in law firms.
In a Law360 article, Calibrate COO and Managing Director Haley Revel speaks to navigating the differences that exist between each cohort and the role firm leaders must play in order to retain multi-generational talent.
There are currently an unprecedented number of generations actively involved in today’s workforce: baby boomers, Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z. Though not comprising every individual, each generation possesses a predominant mindset of work values, heavily molded by their early careers and the work culture that preceded them.
The pandemic created an opportunity for a highly autonomous work environment, leading to the desire for increased flexibility among many professionals. This change has led to a greater divergence in mindsets between generations. Revel notes that while baby boomers had the expectation that workplaces would return to pre-pandemic dynamics, other generations are less inclined to accept that mentality.
“A boomer is going to say, ‘OK, I’ll come and do what you say because this is my career’. But a millennial, for example, might hear that same direction and head for the door.”
She said that the company loyalty and expectation that someone could work for a single company for their whole career is something that most in the post-boomer generations don’t really have available to them, nor do they want that path.
“Many millennials have a mindset where they are going to a job for a few years and then on to the next thing,” she said. “I’m gonna go develop my skills, but unless I work for an organization that has 60 locations and 60 countries around the world, I’m not going to be able to stay at one company to expand my brand. Company loyalty isn’t there and doesn’t benefit me. What benefits me is hopping around to develop and build my skills. Someday, maybe I’m gonna go out on my own.”
These instances of disparity in mindset could lead to a greater sense of dissonance in the office to the point that different generations may have difficulty “getting” one another.
Revel provides the example of a younger-generation worker having the ability in recent years to be able to walk her dog during the day, a dynamic that benefited both the worker and the dog.
“Someone in Gen X or Gen Z might really want to bring their dog to work, for example, after being able to spend time with it the last two years,” she said. “While a boomer coming back to the office would say, ‘What are you talking about? You want to bring your animal to the office?’”
While it is understood that firms need to have a sense of flexibility in order to retain their talent, many law firms are still run by baby boomers or Gen X leadership. This alongside the shift in workplace leverage from workers to firms in recent months could lead to potential resistance on what compromises a mutually acceptable work arrangement. Revel believes that in order to retain the various generations in one workplace, law firms must put forth flexibility.
“If the leadership and firms don’t have the right mindset to be the ones to start the discussion,” Revel said, “they’re going to lose people and they’re going to have challenges attracting people, unless they’re throwing things like ridiculous money at them. The problem with that, is that you can only retain them for so long.”