Here’s the thing. Recruitment sucks. It’s time-consuming, energy-draining and expensive. There are better things you can be doing with your time. So, what can you do to avoid having to recruit again in 2023? Let’s start with what benefits and rewards you can offer your solicitors to make them inclined to stay.
Why do people leave?
The list of motivations that drive people to make career decisions is long. Any one person can have multiple reasons for deciding to make a change to where they work. Some you simply won’t be able to do anything about, but many common motivators can be nipped in the bud before they become reasons for your people to leave.
As of 2021, the majority of lawyers in the UK that moved firms did so primarily to progress their careers. Either they perceived there was no opportunity for advancement in their current firm, or there actually was none – though this is much less the case. Over half of all the lawyers in the UK have some kind of leadership aspirations. Only a third believe that it’s possible to achieve those goals in their current firm.
Others moved firms to find a better workplace culture, to take advantage of more robust flexible working policies, or to take advantage of a higher pay offer. For 5% of people polled in 2022, they left their firms to escape a workplace conflict. It’s clear that there’s a lot that can be done that’s within the power of practice managers and team leaders to prevent staff from feeling like they need to leave the firm to improve their working lives.
Offering Career Progression
As we know that career progression is a major cause of employees leaving their current firms, let’s address that first. Clear progression falls under the umbrella of benefits and rewards and it’s a motivating factor that often makes individuals more engaged and committed to their work.
If career movement is possible in your firm, make sure you advertise it to your staff. This can be done through an internal newsletter, use of an intranet or just putting up a sign in the breakroom. The more you can do to inform your team that they have options, the more likely it is that they will take advantage of those opportunities.
If you’re unsure if it’s even an option for your business, you’ll need an understanding of two things; first, the structure of your business (easily visualized with an organisation chart) and how progression currently works, and second, where your staff are in their personal development and careers. Once you know what materials you have to work with, defining titles and requirements for progress will be easier. Look at your current hierarchy, and positions within departments, and assess the workload. Could you create a new role to make things easier? If you’re planning for growth, where in your organisation hierarchy are you adding new recruits? Could those roles be filled from within?
Including your current team in any discussion on progression pathways has two immediate benefits. It will boost morale and ensure everyone knows what career possibilities are ahead of them, even if the way isn’t open to them yet. Hopefully, your firm already has staff reviews (or something similar) in place where these discussions can happen one-on-one, but you can always implement internal surveys and update the whole staff with a newsletter.
Getting the culture right
If the first you know of someone’s need for flexible working is when they quit, that’s a huge problem – but it’s preventable. Primarily people will leave your firm because their needs aren’t being met by their current benefits. You will be able to anticipate and meet those needs with your benefits and rewards options if you have a workplace culture that encourages open and honest communication between staff and leadership.
Like a lot in the workplace, a good culture starts at the top. The firm’s leadership team should aim to have the whole firm pulling in the same direction. Staff shouldn’t be fighting each other for status or losing their temper over small mistakes. Leadership can’t be tolerant of disrespectful behaviour among staff. Competition between departments should be fun, not hostile.
All of this is predicated on communication. Both casual and formal conversations, in whatever shape they take, whether that be email, instant messengers, over the phone or face-to-face. It’s so important that it needs to be built into the structure of your business. Check-ins, quarterly reviews, an internal newsletter – it all encourages your staff to feel like part of the whole and gives you opportunities to discuss their needs. Your team should feel able to bring their concerns to you. Whether that’s flexible working to fit around their new family, or concerns over conflict in the workplace. This also gives you the space to address your concerns with staff behaviour – you may find problems you can solve and opportunities for growth.
Pay isn’t everything
Despite what most believe, few people leave their jobs to better their pay. In 2022 under 15% of lawyers across all regions of the UK changed jobs for higher compensation. The rest were seeking better benefits and rewards. However, for that 15%, all they have to do is google their role to see vacancies in competing firms.
What you can do to stop staff from leaving for more money is limited by your resources. However, as with career progression, often it’s a perception that there’s no room for growth rather than the actual figure. The easiest way to fight this perception is to build pay discussions into annual reviews or any routine one-on-one conversation you think is most appropriate.
If you’re concerned about the cost of pay rises consider first if your business can afford to replace staff. Reduction in productivity, recruitment costs, training costs and the in-line-with-inflation, market-adjusted salary you will have to offer will often quickly cost you more than any pay rise.
Keep your team
Good communication is the key preventative measure in all these factors. However, it can be hard to know where and how to begin. We write internal newsletters for a broad range of professional service firms as well as organising morale-boosting team-building events. If you’d like to focus on making the decisions, let us communicate them for you – get in touch with Lara to see how we can help.