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Why Y Matters – How do Millennials learn and develop?

university of lawGeneration Y, or Millennials (born roughly 1980-2000), are the most studied generation to date.  This cohort are likely to be leading businesses and other crucial organisations over the next decade so now seems an appropriate time to start to understand and value generational differences and to appreciate their likely impact on the world of work.

The University of Law is progressive in student engagement and retained Dan Brieger, a Leadership Consultant at Wickland Westcott who holds a degree in Psychology and an MSc in Occupational Psychology to give a series of talks on Generation Y.  These events aimed to cover topics such as how they might act and think as students, what they might want from education and the workplace, and what else the University can do to help prepare students for rewarding and successful careers.

There is plenty of material available about Gen Y – some of it empirical and well-researched, some of it less so. In designing our thesis about Gen Y we have studied the best of the published material and rounded out our thinking by speaking to participants on high-potential and future leader programmes. There are a number of consistent themes emerging concerning Gen Y that formed the basis of our talks. 

  1. An introduction to Gen Y.  Who are they? Generally speaking they are connected, digital, collegiate and needy.  They crave attention, feedback and guidance but also have high expectations for success.  Understanding their generational characteristics helps to set the scene. Equally important is to appreciate the enormous diversity that exists within this (and every) cohort – there may be generational similarities but of course they will not all think or act the same.
  2. How they prefer to learn.  Their preferred learning styles often involve team problem solving, innovation, variety (especially in relation to multi-media), mentorship and excitement.  So for professionals involved in helping Millennials learn about the law, activities that focus on exploring differences, and identifying challenges and solutions are likely to be valuable, satisfying, and crucially, memorable
  3. What does this mean for education/learning and development? As digital natives, the way Gen Y’ers find and consume information is likely to shape learning institutions in years to come, particularly as many of these institutions themselves seek to become more student-centric. This evolution is likely to go beyond the simple exchange of information and ideas, to encompass broader design factors, such as ergonomics and even architecture. The learning habits and preferences of Gen Y will impact on the very fabric of colleges and universities, as well as influencing the methods of learning and development functions within businesses.
  4. What does this mean for the legal sector/the world of work?  The world of work will adapt in order to get the most from this generation.  Funky bean bags, chill-out rooms and Chief Happiness Officers are (understandably) not always taken seriously, but they presage significant changes to come in the very nature of work, and the relationship between employee and employer. This is not a one-way street - Gen Y’ers themselves will also need to adapt.  For the first time there are likely to be five generations in the workplace (Traditionalists, Boomers, X, Y, Z) so learning to communicate effectively with other generations is key, especially for aspiring leaders.  Within the legal services marketplace, changing ownership structures, new delivery models, artificial intelligence and, of course, the ever-changing law itself will place a real premium on both courage and flexibility. And the guidance and feedback that Gen Y’ers value may not always be readily available in such high-change environments.

Overall, the University of Law was delighted with the work from Wickland Westcott. Sandie Gaines, Centre Director for the University of Law, Manchester, commented:  “We understand that as a learning institution it is important for us to continue to take active steps to understand our students’ preferred communication methods.  We want to continue to strengthen our leadership in the legal education sector, which means we must fully appreciate how different generations operate, how they will shape education, the impact this will have on the workplace and how we can set them up for success in the legal world. The talks were insightful and challenging.” 

To find out more about our insights on Gen Y contact Dan Brieger on 0207 224071 or email dan.brieger@wickland-westcott.co.uk

Wickland Westcott has been providing a fully integrated leadership service for nearly 40 years. In-house occupational psychologists work alongside market-focused Search professionals to deliver exceptional client service and satisfaction. With extensive experience at ‘C Suite’ level, and half of our top 20 client list featuring in the FTSE 250/NYSE, Wickland Westcott has a clear picture of what makes for leadership success.