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How to Manage a Multigenerational Legal Workforce

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on January 03, 2017 10:56 AM

Whether you're a Boomer or a Gen Xer, a Millennial or a Korean War vet, if you're running a legal practice today, you're probably working with people from across three or four generations. That's because there are currently four distinct generations in the American workplace, with the youngest generation, Millennials born between the early 1980s and 2000s, now making up the largest chunk of the workforce.

Each generation brings with it unique characteristics and perspectives that can add value to your practice -- or catch you completely off guard. Thankfully, Sally Kane, an attorney and writer, recently surveyed how to manage, and hopefully to benefit from, these multigenerational differences in The Balance. Here's some of the best tips, broken down by generation.

The Silent Generation

To some legal professionals, Baby Boomers still seem like upstarts. Though most of the "Silent Generation" are retired by now, there are still plenty of legal professionals who were born between 1925 and the end of World War II and who are still working. As Kane notes, these legal professionals tend to be less tech-savvy, having spent much of their work life in the pre-internet age, and respond best to face-to-face interaction. Loyalty and a strong work ethic are important to these professionals.

Baby Boomers

Today's Boomers are often at the peak of their careers, working as established partners, firm leaders, senior paralegals, and more. Boomers are loyal and work-centric, but cynical, Kane says, and committed to long, in-office hours and cash rewards. According to Kane:

Baby Boomers often equate salaries, high billables and long hours with success and commitment to the workplace. They value face time in the office and may not welcome work flexibility or work/life balance trends. High levels of responsibility, perks, praise, and challenges will motivate this generation.

Generation X

As Baby Boomers retire, Generation X has become an increasingly greater proportion of the nation's workforce. Unlike Boomers, Kane says, Gen X prefers flexibility and work-life balance. They appreciate a variable schedule, control over their hours, and work-from-home arrangements. They benefit most from a "hands-off" management style and appreciate diverse, creative work environments.

Millennials

Millennials, otherwise known as "kids these days," now number around 70 million and make up over a third of the workforce. The youngest generation in the legal workplace, many Millennials are just starting their legal careers. This generation isn't just tech-savvy, they're tech immersed. Many would prefer a text message to a phone call or a quick video conference to a face-to-face meet up. Millennials are achievement-oriented, and want to advance quickly. They work best in team environments, according to Kane, and appreciate frequent communication and feedback. Just make sure you text them praise, instead of calling them to your office.

Need more insight into today's workplace? Download Indeed's free report, "Three Generations of Talent: Who's Searching for Jobs Today."

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