In A Multi-Generational Workforce, What Does Competence Mean?

As firm leaders and their employees reassess their priorities at work in a post-pandemic environment, the definition of competence is shifting as well.

So-called soft skills are more critical than ever now that the labor market is so tight and law and accounting firms are battling to recruit new employees and retain them, says Phyllis Weiss Haserot, a multigenerational workplace expert writing for Thomson Reuters.

“Organizations are demanding, recognizing and rewarding those managers who prioritize the concerns and challenges of their teams and approach team members with empathy and listening – and this is long overdue,” writes Haserot. “Thanks largely to the Millennials and Gen-Zers, these new skills for managers have become mainstream requirements.”

Different generations tend to define competence differently and must learn new ways to interact with each other. Historically, professionals believed they should know everything about the organization; now, it’s more important to collaborate with others who have different skills. Boomers and Gen-Xers must learn to adapt, ask for input and listen because they’ve been taught to figure things out on their own. Millennials are far more accustomed to finding quick solutions through the internet and “crowd-sourcing” solutions by working in teams.

“Boomers and Gen-Xers need to demonstrate emotional intelligence and humanity more often than they experienced earlier in their careers,” notes Haserot. “Likewise, Gen-Zers and Millennials need to step up to take initiative in owning their careers and professional development.”

Employers are stepping up with “leading with empathy” training, but law and accounting firms should improve the overall employee experience, so empathy is shown at both the individual and firmwide level ­– “a behavior modification needed especially for lawyers and accountants because of the logical, fact-based and left-brained orientations of those professions.”



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