Most law firms are seeing their recent associate classes composed mainly of Millennials, those individuals born in the 20 years after 1982, presenting the law firm with some unique challenges in dealing with its new workforce.
According to research, Millennials tend to change jobs much more frequently than previous generations, often departing before the employer can recoup the investment made in this employee. They also tend to be less committed while they’re there.
So, how can law firms get Millennials to stay longer and be more committed?
See this Thomson Reuters interactive graphic on harnessing the power of Millennials in the workforce.
A new white paper entitled, How to Engage Your Millennials by Dr. Larry Richard, says the answer is to boost the level of your Millennials’ psychological engagement.
How do you increase engagement in Millennials? Some firms have tried superficial fixes — e.g., on the assumption that Millennials like technology, firms increase their spend on whiz-bang devices, devote more resources to using social media, or, on the assumption that Millennials like work-life balance, introduce more flexible rules that allow more lifestyle choices. There’s nothing wrong with these interventions — they may actually be seen positively by Millennials — but it’s important to understand the psychological principles at work here. Once you do, you’ll see that there are some deeper and more durable steps that you can take.
Let me put these practices in context: Back in 1959, a psychologist named Frederick Herzberg developed the “Two-Factor Theory of Motivation”; it’s been validated in hundreds of studies over the years and is still considered good psychology today. Herzberg proposed that workplace motivation is a function of two things — the first he called “hygienes,” and the second he called “motivators.” Hygienes are things that employees want, and when they don’t have them, they become unhappy with their job. Hygienes typically include things like having a nice work environment, having the right tools to do your job, being paid fairly, receiving reasonable perks, etc. Notice that they’re all extrinsic, i.e., external to the psychology of the individual. The items that I referred to above as “superficial fixes” would all constitute “hygienes” under Herzberg’s theory.
His theory says that while a hygiene can cause dissatisfaction when it is missing, the opposite is not true — that is, when you give someone the basic hygienes, it doesn’t affirmatively motivate them. It merely prevents dissatisfaction.