Candidates are Looking for Flexibility and Technology

A few months ago, I had a conversation with my colleague Amy Levine about the things employers should be doing in order to compete for talent in a tight labor market.  She had some great recruiting tips are helpful to legal employers in any job market; but with unemployment at a 50 year low, they are particularly important now.   The Reader’s Digest version is simple. Treat people the way you would like to be treated and you’ll have a better shot of hiring the talent you want.

While Amy’s tips are important advice to any employer on how to manage the hiring process, she also has some great insights about what today’s workforce is looking for (i.e. beyond a good paycheck).Understanding the concerns of today’s professionals is critical for law firms. Here is a quick summary of our conversation:

Steve:  What are younger employees thinking about when they are entertaining a job offer?
Amy:  Compensation remains important, of course, but in the last few years, I’ve noticed that candidates are very concerned with flexibility.
Steve:  What kind of flexibility do you mean?
Amy:  More than ever, our candidates are looking for flexible hours. But they are also interested in having the option of working from home at least some of the time.  I’ve had candidates say to me they want to be able to leave early to attend their daughter’s dance recital.  They are happy to have family time and then log additional hours later in the evening.  They don’t want to sacrifice their personal relationships for their job.
Steve:   Are candidates looking to work fewer hours?
Amy:  Yes.  While flexibility is the most important variable for this generation, overall, work/life balance is really the issue.
Steve:  Have you found that some clients are still resistant?
Amy:  Most of our clients understand that flexibility is an easy accommodation to make because it doesn’t cost the employer anything. With email, voicemail, text messaging and private law firm computer networks, employees can remain connected to the office very easily.  Offering reduced hours is more challenging to some employers; but being open to this means access to a larger pool of qualified candidates. There is still a lingering belief, particularly among older employers, that face time is important.  There is also an attitude that “I had to work long hours, so I expect the same from my associate/paralegal/legal assistant”.  We have helped a number of employers be more flexible about both of these. Sometimes this means getting the firm or corporate law department to start the employment relationship with a lot of face time with the goal of allowing the employee to transition to a more flexible schedule after several months.  This gives the company the comfort of knowing that the new hire will learn the internal systems, get up to speed and get to know their co-workers. After the employee has proven him or herself, they can spend more time working flexible hours and working virtually.
Steve:   Beyond flexibility and work/life balance, what else are today’s employees looking for?
Amy:  Employees are very conscious of whether an employer has cutting edge technology.  This is a generation that has grown up with technology. They do not want slow computers. They know that the older technologies will make them less productive.  Having technology that enables employees to work outside of the office in a seamless way will make millennial candidates much happier.
Steve:   Are there other intangibles that stand out to you?
Amy:  People have always wanted to be treated with respect in the workplace, but the younger generation is particularly sensitive to this. They like to get feedback on their work and when appropriate, hear praise.  In addition, they want to know that their work is meaningful.  They want to understand the big picture and understand how the work they’re doing fits in.
Steve:  Is this more of a recruiting issue or a retention issue?
Amy:  It is really both. If associates, paralegals or administrators believe that a firm will provide them with all of these things (flexibility, work/life balance, opportunity to work from home, good technology, opportunity for feedback, etc.), they are more likely to accept an offer.  If these things are provided, the candidate is more likely to stay.