If you ask any managing partner to list the three biggest challenges their firm faces, I can almost guarantee that one of them would be employee attraction and retention. It has been a pertinent issue in recent years and I don’t see it going away in 2019; in fact, if anything, I think that this issue is going to become more and more acute.
During the recession and in the years that followed its worst phases, there was a shift in the legal landscape. Several practice areas were badly hit by the downturn, whilst others were impacted by government reforms. As a result, law firms stopped taking on as many trainees, newly qualified solicitors steered clear of practice areas that appeared short of work and/or lacking in longevity, and many lawyers left the profession altogether. As the economy started to improve, it became clear that there were skills gaps, gaps that the profession has been unable to plug at the same rate as demand in these areas has increased.
Not only are employees increasingly aware of this skills shortage but the proportion of millennials within the profession is growing all the time. What this means in practice is that employees will be factoring a lot more into their decisions around where to work than just the salary that is on offer. Employees now have demands around flexible working arrangements, structured and transparent progression prospects, the type of work available, the amount of client exposure, the proximity of the office to their home, the firm’s vision, direction, and speed of travel, its employer brand… I could go on.
In this age of information and social media, it is easy to understand why employees are growing ever more savvy and discerning, and therefore why employee attraction and retention is such a prevailing issue amongst firms.
Whilst many firms have cottoned on to this and have responded accordingly, there’re still an awful lot of firms that haven’t. In my view, this means that there is still a fantastic opportunity for ambitious firms to embrace change and position themselves as forward-thinking, employers of choice.
I’ve been talking about this for a while now and firmly believe that there’s plenty that law firms can easily do to help their cause. Steps that can be easily implemented include –
- Involving employees in shaping the direction of travel of the firm – indeed, even having a clear direction of travel is of immense value in the employment market. Give your people something they can be proud of.
- Introducing a transparent reward and career structure that dovetails with that direction of travel- show your people what they can do to contribute to your strategic success.
- Showcasing benefits, culture and progression prospects; employees like to see where they can go, what they have to do to get there, and what they get once they are there.
These things and more help enormously – and as you can see it’s about a lot more than money and “perks”.
I’m passionate about working with firms that want to take a more progressive approach to attraction and retention. I work with firms to help them strengthen their employer brand, and then I help them recruit and retain talented people that are a good fit for them.