Four generations co-exist in today’s workplace: Generation X, Generation Y, Baby Boomers and Traditionalists. These four generations view life and work in fundamentally different ways. Each generation’s views are shaped by life experiences and, in part, by the generation in which they were born.
Due to the divergent perspectives of these four generations, attorneys and legal professionals must learn how to engage and adapt to the preferences of age-diverse clients. Below are several ways to boost your generational savvy and interact effectively with clients from all generations.
Be Aware of Generational Differences
Be aware of the differences between the four generations and do not to judge a client based on his or her age. When interacting with age-diverse clients, you should tailor your approach to the client.
For example, Generation Y (also known as the Millenials) is individualistic, technologically adept and flexible. Known as the “me” generation, Gen Y loves to talk about themselves. When interacting with a Generation Y client, listen to what they have to say and focus on what you can do to help. Generation Y likes frequent feedback so communicating often during the course of the representation is crucial to earning their trust and respect. Involve them in the process and make it a fun and collaborative experience.
Baby Boomers and Traditionalists, on the other hand, are trained in linear thinking. They absorb copious amounts of data, process that data and take action. When interacting with a Boomer or Traditionalist client, give them the facts, research and data and work with them to develop the best solution.
Accommodate Your Client’s Work Style
When working with clients of multiple generations, you must adapt your work style to best meet their needs. For example, if you’re a Gen X attorney drafting a will for an 65-year old client who is not comfortable using e-mail, then mail him the document instead. Recognize that Traditionalists work at a slower pace and generally do not favor technology. Therefore, it is wise to slow things down and build in appropriate time frames. Moreover, Traditionalists are accustomed to working during traditional 9:00 to 5:00 work hours so contacting them after hours may be off limits.
If you are a Boomer or Traditionalist dealing with Gen Y client, recognize that Generation Y works at a faster pace and loves technology. Stay up to date on the latest legal technology tools and use them in your interactions with younger clients; since many members of Generation Y equate tech savvy with intelligence, it may harm your credibility with a Gen Y client if you are not technologically capable. In addition, Generation Y is used to a 24/7 work environment. You may be able to reach them by text or e-mail in the evening or on weekends.
Recognize Generational Communication Preferences
Generation Y, Generation X, Baby Boomers and Traditionalists also differ in the way they communicate. There is a real business imperative in understanding how each generation prefers to communicate from a client service perspective. Generation Y loves to multi-task and prefers the instant gratification of e-mail, texting, instant messaging and social media. Therefore, it is best to communicate with Generation Y clients through these channels.
Boomers and Traditionalists, on the other hand, prefer face-to-face communication. They place a high value on relationship-building and rapport. Therefore, you might accomplish more with the Boomer and Traditionalist client if you invite him to your office to discuss his case or transaction or, at the very least, engage him by telephone rather than e-mail. If you are giving a client presentation or CLE, keep these generational communication preferences in mind. Older clients – Boomers and Traditionalists – prefer traditional meetings and in-person seminars. This generation does not mind traditional lecture formats. Generations Y and, to some extent, Generation X, prefer webinars, podcasts and interactive learning tools. If you are giving an in-person presentation to a group of Generation Y clients, using PowerPoint or other presentation software to give your talk a visual component will help capture their attention.