Dorita Sheriff, head of learning and development, Eversheds
Attracting good people is, of course, a major priority for law firms, but the real challenge is keeping them. The first step is to understand what motivates people, and financial incentives seem to be moving down the pecking order and are being replaced with a very clear idea among employees about the types of environment and culture they wish to work in.
While individuals will have specific needs, generally people are looking for core ingredients: purpose and meaning of the values and strategies; a picture of the route to progression/enrichment within an organisation; two-way communication; interesting and high-quality work; and, most critical of all, an excellent line to management. Put simply, it is about engaging people.
To feel engaged employees must buy in to the values and strategies of an organisation. This cannot sit in isolation, and with the right approach to internal communication it is possible to ensure that all employees feel motivated about where the business is heading.
Employees want to know how their work fits into the bigger strategy. Eversheds has developed a competency framework that drives its career development programme. This means everyone is clear on what they need to do to progress and it provides a structure for formal personal development reviews, which take place twice a year.
Building on this, the firm is also designing more career and development workshops for employees at critical points in their careers, which will enable them to assess practically where they sit against the competencies required. These workshops have been in place for some time for individuals looking to join the partnership and have proved an effective way of identifying the steps they need to take to move up to this level. Following the workshop, a development programme can be tailored to the individual.
It is also important to remember that today's employees are not always looking for vertical progression, but are still valuable talent. For these individuals it is important that they still feel as though they are progressing within their roles, even if they are not moving in the traditional vertical sense.
Another piece in the jigsaw is an organisation's approach to communicating with employees and, in a 21st century workplace, it has to be dialogue rather than monologue. Engaging with employees and ensuring they have the opportunity to share their views will have a significant impact on the way they respond to the organisation.
Effective leadership and management are critical to the success of an organisation. Traditionally, businesses have been very good in training their managers on how to instruct and direct, but coaching is more about empowering people to achieve their full potential.
Put simply, it is more about 'ask' and less about 'tell' and is designed to develop healthier working relationships. A recent piece of Law Society research confirmed what we already knew: that a good line manager is key to keeping employees happy, and 80 per cent of respondents felt this to be the case.
Of course, all of these things are not complete unless the work employees are doing is interesting and of a high quality.
Retaining good people is a constant challenge that requires working on the drivers or ingredients that keep people engaged and happy in an organisation. Working these core ingredients into the culture so that it simply becomes 'how we do things around here' is key.