What Next for Generation Text?
By Kwan Cheung
Recently trending on Twitter and picked up by mainstream press, younger millennials share an irrational fear of answering the doorbell, either scared by the unknown or believing it to be a scam. Furthermore, instead of causing other millennials the same anxiety, the visiting millennial will text their friend ‘“here” to let them know they have arrived rather than ring the physical doorbell mere inches away.
This shared feeling of mild discomfort amongst millennials is even more apparent in the younger Generation Z, is part of a much wider and more serious social problem; anxiety and insecurity of our next generation. A recent study of UK young adults aged 13-23 by Kaspersky Labs found that 87% were worried about some aspect of their lives; making them the most anxious to date.
Mental health is becoming a growing concern of Generation Z. In fact some of the more traditional social problems associated with youth such as binge-drinking and teenage pregnancy have been superseded by mental health concerns including depression and anxiety. A recent study found that 70% of Gen Zedders thought anxiety and depression were a major issue among their peers.
Margaret Ann Roy, Graduate Recruitment Manager at Pinsent Masons recognises that mental health is now a vital part of employee welfare particularly young trainees at the firm, she notes; “We are looking at implementing a trainee specific mental health strategy which will provide the trainees with the personal ‘toolkit’ they need to meet the challenges of life whilst working in a professional services organisation. The first step of that is to run sessions on mental health and resilience at the trainee induction.”
The New World of Work
So with mental health becoming an increasingly common problem for the next generation of the workforce, how are large businesses and law firms adapting their working practices to help alleviate any potential problems or obstacles?
Younger workers value either more job security or mastering their own destiny by being their own boss. As a generation which has grown up through a global recession, they have seen first hand the effects of a downtrodden economy which may have seen their parents lose their jobs or the powerlessness of being an employed worker. Increasingly, Gen Zedders are choosing to work for themselves and create their own start-up rather than work in a traditional manner. Indeed, here at Vario, we are seeing more and more paralegals and junior lawyers choose to freelance with us rather than accepting the more traditional model of working within a traditional law practice. Freelancing allows for much improved work life balance which is a huge attraction for many but other Varios also choose to freelance for its freedom and flexibility; junior Lawyer Lola Dawson comments “You essentially have a lot of control over your life which is something most people don’t get until retirement.”
Businesses need to respond to such demands in order to attract the best and brightest young stars of the future.Recent business innovations such as remote working policies and flexi-time have been designed to appeal to Millennials. They must now change once again to appeal to this newer generation of the workforce who actually have different values.
As illustrated from our opening doorbell example, Gen Z are more comfortable with digital interactions than physical ones. They are the first generation to have truly grown up in a digital age. They are less likely to pick up the phone or write a letter than root out a company’s instagram account and dig up what they can online. If your company has any kind of online footprint (and it definitely will), it’s imperative that all content is accurate, relevant and appealing to this audience.
The legal industry which is one steeped in tradition and often resistant to change, but change is coming. The arrival and implementation of AI is actually already here and who better than Gen Z to help embrace this cultural shift than the generation born into the technological age? The proliferation of AI and gradual replacement of the current workforce with Gen Zedders will exponentially speed up the uptake of new technologies.
This new generation will be the most diverse generation ever; in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, culture, gender and sexuality. They, more than any previous generation do not conform to a ‘social norm’ and recognise that they and their peers though different, should all be treated fairly and equally. This is a universally important issue for them, more so than previous generations, and they will assess a company based on its values of diversity and culture. In fact, you may have noticed many businesses including the traditional law firms promoting their diversity and inclusion programmes. Pinsent Masons for example acquired Diversity & Inclusion consultancy, Brook Graham in 2017 in order to bolster its strategy in this key area and continues to build upon its D&I today.
Planning For Tomorrow
In addition to craving job security, job progression is also important to Gen Z, this recent study found 64% ranked it as their number one priority when finding a new job. The more transparent and concrete a company can be about a candidate’s career progression, the more likely they are to stay and thrive within the company. For law firms, where career progression all the way up to partnership is often dictated by set parameters and criteria, coupled with fairly high job security, the career as a lawyer should be an attractive one to Gen Z, particularly those which employ lockstep promotion as a standard.
As with all generalisations though, it shouldn’t be presumed that all members of Generation Z share exactly the same traits, views and values. For those interested in a safe, traditional career as a lawyer within a law firm, there will always be others who proritise other values such as work life balance, work variety and career control. For these individuals, alternative solutions such as Vario are a much better fit.
The business landscape of the near future then, may not mean the collapse of working structures as we know them today, but perhaps a wider choice of companies with differing, more prominent values with which Gen Z individuals can identify with.
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