As part of our Legal Ladder section, experts at Mint Central discuss the efforts of law firms to keep staff engaged.
According to a recent survey by human resource firm Investors in People, one in four employees feel unhappy at work. Paul Devoy, chief executive of Investors for People, sees it as vital that employers address these concerns if they wish to retain the skills and talents of their staff. He comments: “Research suggests that employee disengagement costs the UK economy £340bn annually, bad leadership is eroding UK productivity.”
Does your practice keep you engaged enough? The legal professional has a notorious ‘workaholic’ high pressure culture. Last year Legal Week surveyed over 2,000 fee earners and support staff, with respondents citing their top priorities were feeling valued, career development opportunities, quality of work and salary, with average satisfaction scores falling below expectations in all four categories.
Firms can take multiple steps to reduce this perception. Introducing flexible working options, taking steps to improve diversity and reviewing pay scales can all positively contribute to employee satisfaction. Firms should strive to offer flexible working options where possible, such as the ability to work on the go or to work from home. Consider offering working hours that are flexed to better suit the employee. With smartphones and WiFi, it’s possible and sometimes more practical to work remotely, for example whilst waiting in court. In return for this flexibility, a good team member will offer a similarly flexible approach to the business.
Firms can work towards creating and maintaining an ‘open door policy’ and actively pushing for constant feedback to improve all areas of the business by using internal surveys. This makes staff feel more engaged and confident that their views and concerns are being listened to and acted upon.
Investing in your employees by continually training and supporting staff is important in improving the happiness of employees. By taking the time to touch base with employees, from social committees to mentoring, co-workers and management can support each other both professionally and personally. Knowledge and insight into how people work best, for example which hours suit best, helps to create a better workforce. It can be used to improve workflows and better management. This can help achieve optimum levels of productivity.
Firms should look at all areas of how the firm/business recognises team achievements. It’s the little things that often have the biggest impact, ensuring staff are happy and well looked after at work. Financial rewards are great and therefore firms should look to explore, research and benchmark to ensure pay scales are competitive but beneficial to both parties. But, also, other more creative incentives are beneficial too, such as free fruit, perhaps an early finish on a Friday, quite probably not one for the conveyancers amongst you, or team days out.
A simple yet effective tactic to deploy is to use business communications tools, such as an employee engagement app, to keep all staff members up to speed with the latest goings on in the company. Encouraging and supporting employees to share, collaborate and distribute workloads more evenly helps decrease stress levels. By working together as a team, time-consuming tasks can be reassigned and implemented more efficiently and successfully.
There should be a real focus on keeping all team members in the loop, such as updates on when tracking matters, changing deadlines, or a staff member who may be running late, gives the whole organisation a ‘heads up’ which is especially needed in a high-pressure, diversified firm. Communicating in a clear and transparent way in real-time to your co-workers is one of many ways to improve staff retention and increase employee engagement.