Engaging Your Workforce in the New Year and Beyond

According to a 2020 Gallup survey, only 36% of U.S. employees are actively engaged at work, and 13% are actively disengaged, which means they’re essentially miserable. And since misery loves company, those actively disengaged employees are sharing their gripes and unhappiness with others in their organizations.

Law firm leaders have long struggled to engage and retain their best employees, but the COVID-19 pandemic brought the issue of employee engagement into sharp focus for many firms. With self-motivation and individual accountability becoming more important than ever before, firms found themselves scrambling to identify ways in which to replicate the in-office experience in a remote or hybrid environment. But engaging your employees isn’t about looking over their shoulders, it’s about creating a sense of genuine investment in the success of your firm.

The Engaged Employee

Often, leaders of small to mid-sized firms don’t have much training in people management or human resources. As such, employee engagement isn’t a concept that garners much discussion within most legal organizations. But whether or not your employees are actively engaged in their jobs matters, and here’s the proof:

According to Gallup, the engaged employee is one who is “involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace.” Your most engaged employees are those who move critical projects forward, who find innovative new ways to do their work, who are committed to creating an exceptional client experience, and who embrace their roles as contributors to the firm’s success.

Disengaged employees, on the other hand, are those who are simply putting in their time, who aren’t personally invested in the quality of their work or the success of the firm, and who may even be undermining the accomplishments of their more engaged colleagues.

Further, disengaged employees are constantly on the lookout for more attractive job opportunities and won’t hesitate to leave the firm for more money, a better work environment, or increased flexibility. Given that the cost of hiring and onboarding a new (replacement) employee can be up to two times the employee’s yearly salary, improving engagement within your team is not only critical to employee retention, it’s critical to your bottom line.

Tips for Employee Engagement

To engage your employees, it’s important to create conditions within your firm under which employees can and will work to their full potential. You need to find ways to connect your employees emotionally to the purpose and vision of your organization and to ensure that every member of your team feels both appreciated and inspired by your organization’s leadership.

Develop Your Top Performers

Providing a clear path for advancement and the training necessary to move up the organizational ladder is an essential part of engaging and retaining your top performers. When employees can envision their future within your firm, and they like what they see, they will willingly offer more of their talents and capabilities in service of your firm’s goals.

Prioritize Professional Development Across the Organization

Professional development shouldn’t be limited to your most promising employees. At every level of your organization, employees should be constantly learning new skills and honing the skills they already have. Continuous individual development encourages meaningful individual contributions to your firm’s success.

Optimize Communication

Communication breakdowns can quickly lead to disengagement. As a law firm leader, you must be willing first to listen to what your employees have to say, and then to engage in honest and constructive dialogue, even when that dialogue is difficult. A willingness to have hard conversations as well as express your appreciation for your employees creates lasting emotional bonds that strengthen employees’ commitment to your organization.

Connect Authentically with Your People

Creating a sense of ownership and investment among your team members starts with making authentic connections. Routinely asking employees about their families, checking in on their work/life balance, or inquiring about their long-term goals are great ways to demonstrate your firm’s commitment to their wellbeing and bolster retention.

By improving employee engagement, you’ll allow superstars to emerge from within your team, strengthen your employees’ loyalty and commitment to the firm, and begin seeing greater contributions to your firm’s success at every organizational level.

As part of proactively planning for success, and ensuring that your people, processes, and technology are ready for whatever the future brings, Affinity offers a practical, collaborative approach to identifying upcoming challenges and opportunities. Contact the experts at Affinity for help to get started by requesting a consultation or by calling 877-676-5492.

Debbie Foster

Written by Debbie Foster

As Managing Partner, Debbie spends her time running Affinity Consulting Group, management consultants to law firms. Debbie's role includes working with clients, helping to launch new law firms, and speaking to legal professionals at law firm retreats and events all over the place. Her talks focus on fun topics like Law Firm Leadership, Effective Communication, Why Process Matters, Time Management and lots more. Debbie is passionate about all things law firm and legal department-related and she prides herself in sharing what she knows as much as possible. Debbie’s ultimate goal is to help people run firms that intentionally become more and more successful.

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