Fostering a culture of employee engagement is not just a trend. It’s a strategic imperative for organizations aspiring to evolve and thrive as modern workplaces. As we navigate the post-pandemic dynamics of work, it is increasingly evident that a motivated, engaged workforce is the cornerstone of productivity, innovation and overall success.
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Crafting an employee engagement plan tailored to the unique challenges and opportunities of your law firm in the coming year will help you engage the full potential of your legal team in the pursuit of a healthy workplace and excellent client service.
The Current Employment Market
Let’s take a look at where the employment market stands as we near the end of 2023.
Demand for workers has cooled. As of early November, the Indeed Job Postings Index, which tracks changes in jobs posted on the Indeed job search platform, shows a 22.5% decrease since its December 2021 peak.
Workers are quitting less frequently. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the U.S. quit rate for employees was 2.3% in September, equal to the average rate in 2019, prior to the pandemic, partly as demand for workers lessens.
What Are Some of the Challenges for 2024?
Battle between a growing labor force and the shrinking effects of an aging population. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the labor force participation rate of workers ages 25 to 54 increased to levels not seen since the early 2000s. However, as more workers join the labor force, baby boomers continue to retire at an accelerated pace.
Many small to midsize law firms have employees with longevity who are beginning to retire. These longtime employees make up the ranks of law firm administrators, trusted paralegals and support staff. With their retirement, law firms must plan for a huge transfer of institutional knowledge.
Pay equity considerations remain strong as pay transparency laws gain ground. Pay transparency is becoming more important as laws are enacted across the U.S. requiring businesses and organizations to disclose pay in job postings and to workers upon request.
In a recent post, “10 HR Trends to Follow in 2024,” payroll giant ADP suggests employers examine comprehensive pay data, create a compliance plan, and have a clear communications strategy around compensation, pay transparency and pay equity, in order to meet the needs of the employee marketplace.
Law firms are notorious for keeping compensation information in a black box and telling employees they cannot discuss compensation with their peers. Today’s workforce requires a new strategy.
The relationship of low employee engagement to continued recruiting and retention challenges. This is a big area to focus on in 2024. One approach to positively affect employee engagement is to leverage employee benefits as a strategic driver of recruiting, engagement and retention. Talk with your employees to see what benefits are most important to them.
Following the pandemic, we are seeing extreme pressure in the workplace and mental health outcomes are worsening. Investing in practices to rebuild employee trust and wellness is more important than ever. The pandemic and the resulting work-from-home, return-to-office and hybrid work solutions have sometimes resulted in a toxic work culture and low morale. Improved morale is rarely achieved by mandatory fun or team-building events. Rather, an investment in trust-building and collaboration will be much more meaningful.
Rethinking Your Law Firm Employee Engagement Plan
An effective employee engagement plan typically includes initiatives aimed at creating a positive and fulfilling work environment. Here are a few components to consider for your plan.
Allow opportunities for employees to be empowered through their involvement in the firm. Give employees opportunities to develop a sense of ownership such as developing a firm mission statement, strategic plan and goals. Or to create a client service plan. Have employees create their professional development and skill-building goals and provide quarterly check-ins to make sure they are on track and that the firm is recognizing their achievements.
2. Continuous Learning
Provide for continuous learning opportunities for increasing job skills. Regardless of firm size, all team members need to experience growth opportunities to stay fulfilled in their careers. The law is always changing, as is the technology we use. Growth opportunities don’t require a “break the bank” budget. There are many online options for skill building at no or low cost, such as LinkedIn Learning courses. Bar associations and paralegal associations often provide some amount of free continuing legal education as part of membership dues.
3. Skill Building
Focus on building the right skills rather than finding the right skills. “According to the ADP Research Institute, management skills and people skills are the most needed for the future of work. Deb Hughes, ADP’s senior vice president of HR and change and communications, believes soft skills will also be in demand. She says, soft skills are often undervalued in the workplace, despite their crucial role in building connections and fostering empathy. Companies that prioritize, amplify, and develop these skills in their workers will be the ones that thrive.”
4. Continuous Feedback
Provide regular feedback and performance reviews. In addition to annual reviews, provide specific learning feedback at the time an issue arises. Also, consider implementing quarterly check-ins to encourage discussion between managers and employees and for the opportunity to provide feedback on the employee’s experiences, concerns, and ideas for improvement.
5. An Evergreen Framework
A well-crafted engagement plan is not merely a box to be checked. It will be an evergreen and evolving framework that aligns strategic firm goals with the aspirations of the firm’s people. The importance of a robust employee engagement plan cannot be overstated. Your firm’s success is intricately tied to the commitment and enthusiasm of the legal team.
By investing in a thoughtful, adaptable strategy, firms will not only enhance employee satisfaction and retention, but also lay the groundwork for a culture of continuous improvement and innovation, allowing you to weather change effectively.
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Related Reading …
“Attorney Compensation Trends: A Midyear Evaluation and How Proactive Law Firms Can Respond” by Camille Stell and Brenda Barnes
“The Best Compensation Plans Use the Law of Thirds” by Brooke Lively
“Lawyer Compensation: Taking Your Firm From Good to Great” by Camille Stell
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