Speaking at the Lawyers Weekly Future Forum, Fiona Crawford, general manager of human resources at InfoTrack, delivered several strategies that law firms can use to engage their employees and consequently retain staff.
“First of all, the key to engaging somebody intellectually is knowing your employees, so do your due diligence and flex your leadership style. Now things such as police checks sometimes frighten people, but I am the custodian of the culture at InfoTrack as are all of you in your businesses and acutely aware that my culture and my people are the most critical factors to my success or otherwise. So I need to know who I'm letting through the door,” Ms Crawford said.
“It's no longer enough to simply just check someone's resume against their LinkedIn profile and phone a couple reference checks. You absolutely need to know who you're letting through the door. Internal crime is real and the risks need to be mitigated.
“It also sends a really clear message to your internal staff that you take your culture seriously and what's interesting to note is when talking to Millennials and the younger generation, they don't see these sorts of things like police checks as an invasion of privacy. They really see it as you doing your due diligence.
“At InfoTrack we acknowledge that that's what we needed to do. We had a look at the current system of getting a police check and found that it was terribly cumbersome or clunky, so we built our own. We built our own police check system using internal capabilities mypolicecheck.com.au. So it's important to understand your employees.”
Providing accountability and transparency is equally as important, Ms Crawford said.
“Give your staff a roadmap of where you're going. Be transparent across all levels and make sure it's reviewed and progress is communicated regularly. Align individual KPI's to where the firms going and give people strategic items to work on for a set period of time. Now we have a culture of accountability at InfoTrack through transparency and expectations,” she said.
“We do things a little bit differently. We run in thirds. So each third, the senior executive team go away to determine the new strategy on a page. And it's just one page and that's strategic offsite. We come home with five items that the business is going to work on for that third. Not 25, not 100, just five key things that we're going to work on. Within 24 hours of us landing that strategy, our CEO communicates that to the business.
“What then cascades from that in the next 24 hours is each individual within the business gets their own top five. So the five strategic items that they're going to work on in that third in order for their manager to deliver on the company's top five and then also for the company to deliver on the top five. So it's this really neat transparency. People come into work and it's empowering. They know that it's not just business as usual, they have to answer the phone within three rings or I have to make x amount of sales. They're acutely aware of how they're impacting the strategy. And it's motivating. They understand that they're working towards common goals.”
Employers should also enhance opportunities for personal development, Ms Crawford said.
“They need to know that they'll learn from you … Similarly, give them exposure to your execs. Your staff don't want to see 25 lawyers between them and partner. They want access to your senior partners, so give it to them. Take them out for coffees,” she explained.
“Provide coaching and mentoring. The younger generation don't want to work for an organisation but be developed elsewhere. So make sure you use your internal resources. You would have so much intellect and experience within each of your organisations. Use it. Your staff want to learn from you and it's the most motivating tool for each of them.”
Ms Crawford noted that another strategy in retaining Millennial lawyers is “engaging their hearts”.
“A job isn't just a job for this generation,” she said.
“They're looking for meaning in what they do and a real emotional connection with you. Their moral compass has to align with what it is that you're doing.
“Interestingly, 75 per cent say that they would only look for other work if they're current job wasn't fulfilling. So they want to stay with you. They're not job hoppers. If you give them the opportunity to grow, they will stay loyal to you.”
Taking charge on corporate social responsibility is another key strategy law firms should be implementing, according to Ms Crawford.
“More and more I'm seeing young candidates interview me on our corporate social responsibility. They want to know that you've got a social conscience and they want to know that it's not tokenistic,” she said.
“Reward and recognise your staff. Take the time to really understand what it is that motivates them and what they need. What drives them? Why do they come into work every day? How do they want to be recognised?
“Some people just want a pat on the back. So make sure you take the time to understand what it is that they do and reward it quickly.”