One phrase that is frequently overused and invariably underapplied is ‘staff are our greatest asset’. Easy to say – but how often are the words backed up by reality? How much time and energy do we really spend on ensuring we recruit the best staff to the best positions, and keep them there?In law, perhaps more than any other field, issues of recruitment and retention, productivity and customer satisfaction are of paramount importance and will determine whether a firm succeeds or fails. People are the raw materials of the legal profession – high-quality, motivated and happy staff are key to the success of any practice.
Yet so much recruitment is still done through the traditional route of advertising in professional and national media, consideration of CVs and formal interview. This is not only a lengthy and expensive process in terms of advertising costs, managerial time and lead-in times before a new recruit can join (let alone get up-to-speed), but it is also a complete lottery.
It is well known that applicants tend to exaggerate their qualifications and achievements in their CVs and at interview. There is little opportunity to test out these claims, even if references are taken up, before a person takes up their post. By the time it is discovered that they are not all they were cracked up to be, it can be a very costly, damaging and time-consuming exercise to remove them.
A much maligned and often underappreciated source of recruitment is through agencies. This is often thought of as a short-term, temporary fix rather than an established means of identifying quickly and cost-effectively high-calibre staff who are motivated, readily available and capable of hitting the ground running.
By building up good relationships with two or three agencies that have a clear mutual understanding of your firm’s requirements, expectations and standards when it comes to recruitment, you can be assured that the CVs you are sent are only going to be those that match the profile of suitable candidates for your firm.
Once interviewed and appointed (sometimes as early as the following day), you can assess that individual’s competence and cultural fit. If, for any reason, you don’t like them or they don’t like you, it is easy to sever the arrangement immediately with the minimum of delay or expense.
If, however, after a month or two in post the relationship is blossoming, then it is equally simple to make them a permanent employee. While there are agency fees to pay for doing so, they are often less than the costs of advertising and recruitment through the traditional route.
With regards to successful recruitment it is worth bearing in mind a number of points:
•good staff give you competitive advantage;
•customers can identify, with 92 per cent accuracy, which employees are poor performers and which are dissatisfied;
•dissatisfied employees are 20 per cent less productive than satisfied employees; and
•for every 1 per cent of employees who are dissatisfied, 5 per cent of customers are. andUsing agency staff gives you flexibility in hiring and firing and is an immediate and more reliable way of recruiting. A manager should be involved personally in all recruitment; it is not a task that they should delegate and select on the basis of emotional intelligence, cultural fit and attitude.
You can teach people law, but you can’t change their personalities.
Remember that a law firm can’t afford to carry passengers. Nurture and reward the good and don’t suffer the bad. If needs be, you must cut out the dead wood.
You must put the right people in place and make sure they can succeed. Make every person and every position count.