For many law graduates, getting that first foot on the ladder in a reputable firm is a difficult task. It can be even more difficult to progress within the firm itself.
But times are changing, and the tables have turned.
When your people are your asset, the ability to attract and retain top talent is a significant advantage over your competitors. To complicate matters, these days you’re also competing with the likes of Google and Facebook, tech behemoths with a suite of benefits and increasingly attractive salaries as an in house counsel.
Top law firms are under pressure to attract and retain top talent.
In a recent Gallup survey, the top three priorities for millennial and GenZ workers were as follows:
- The organisation cares about employees’ wellbeing
- The organisation’s leadership is ethical
- The organisation is diverse and inclusive of all people
Notable in its omission is a top salary, although of course that’s not an excuse to pay people unfairly!
A further study in the UK and Ireland showed 38% of workers planned to quit over the next six months to a year, with the key reason being a lack of concern by employers during a time when they needed the most support.
“Foremost, workers are taking decisions to leave based on how their employers treated them – or didn’t treat them – during the pandemic. Ultimately, workers stayed at companies that offered support, and darted from those that didn’t.”
It’s all about Culture
Some of these issues can be solved by creating a culture you can be proud of, and many of UK’s top law firms are focussed on creating an open, honest and supportive culture. This can be a challenge, particularly in the fast paced and historically competitive legal profession.
One of the aspects of our culture that we are most proud of is our psychological safety, where every team member feels comfortable being vulnerable and asking for help. For most firms, “arriving” at psychological safety will require intentionality and role modelling from the firm’s leadership, with emphasis on specific actions or programmes.
While one way to demonstrate a positive culture might be in winning “great place to work” awards, embedding it in a way that ensures no team member is left behind can be more challenging. Done right, this will not be a tick box exercise, and no amount of free fruit will paper over poor culture. All people want is to be supported, connected and developed: running programmes that achieve these goals in an inclusive and equitable way is the solution, but it has to be authentic.
While quality Culture might be attractive, it’s Purpose that retains talent. And vice versa. Culture and Purpose are two sides of the same coin, and misalignment on either could make it more difficult to attract and retain the top talent in the legal industry.
It’s well documented that the younger generations (although it’s worth noting that some millennials are now in their forties) are looking to work for firms whose purpose aligns with their own. While for some this may be cause based, for most they’re simply for ethical leadership and a strong focus on ESG. They want to be proud to tell their friends and family about their employer, and are looking for demonstrable ethical leadership.
For many young lawyers, their own purpose may be to work in a firm that gives them the support and development they need to further their own career – although equally, not everyone will be aiming to be a partner. This could play out in structured development plans and training, but is more likely to play out everyday: do they get a seat at the table, and can they impact the strategic direction of the business? Are there fair and regular feedback loops? Do they learn something new everyday and make a meaningful contribution?
Be Intentional about Wellbeing
The key themes are intentionality and authenticity. You can’t attract the best talent if you’re not a great place to work, and you won’t be a great place to work if you don’t have authentic programmes in place to connect, support and develop your people.
Their wellbeing is key. Poor workplace mental health leads to burnout, which we know leads to drop-out, or at best (or is it worst?) leads to presenteeism. In 2020, nearly half of millennials and GenZ reported feeling anxious or stressed most of the time, a figure undoubtedly made worse by the pandemic. It gets worse for lawyers: 76% of lawyers felt that stress and their mental wellbeing was a major issue.
Providing holistic support for individual wellbeing is the foundation to building a top quality culture and purpose alignment across the firm. At BetterSpace, we’ve worked with countless organisations to build a new way of work, with wellbeing at its core. Let us show you how.
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