23 Sep Rest & Reflect
Slowly but surely there’s a sense that life is returning to a new kind of normal and the legal recruitment market continues to move along steadily. As we approach the other side of the crisis (we hope) it’s important firms take the time to share and recognise what they’ve learned from the pandemic and the way it’s changed us all. In the midst of the first wave there was talk of it being a time to assess and reprioritise what is important to individuals and businesses. Remembering what we said and acting upon it will ensure come out of 2020 stronger, more agile and ready for whatever we may encounter next.
Much of the research and polling indicates that people have spent at least some time reassessing their commitments and the way they live their lives in the last few months and its clear many will be focused on achieving a better balance in the future. Humans have short memories but it seems highly likely that the ability to work flexibly will be forever burned into our expectations of our employers going forwards. The technology was always there, at most organisations the willingness was there, so it seems the last piece of the puzzle was for employees to experience it. Enforced or not, those of us who’ve never worked from home will now find it impossible to go back to the way we were.
Speaking to legal support and shared services staff (in particular HR and Legal Secretaries) over the past month, it was evident some were impressed with how quickly their firms had adapted whilst others felt their employer failed to rise to the occasion. Gemma Berkhout, Senior PA and Paralegal at Lander and Rogers spoke of how quickly the firm supplied all staff with tablets, monitors and access to their systems remotely and that, while there was of course an adjustment period, the firm did well to keep them updated with developments. Her team remained connected through clear and concise communication from Partners and the leadership of the firm.
Business Development Manager, Isabella Patterson, started a new role with Hogan Lovells as the lockdown began. She has spoken about how she was impressed by, not only the technology and technical support she was provided to set up at home by the HR and Office Manager, but also how welcoming and thoughtful the Australian business was in reaching out and connecting with her in those pivotal first few months. The APAC Head of Marketing and Business Development in Hong Kong made sure Isabella felt comfortable and welcomed into the greater international BD team, and she was kept up to date about the measures implemented by the firm in response to Covid, which resulted in a happy and engaged new starter in the midst of a lockdown.
Not all firms were able to pivot as quickly but those who kept their whole business (not just their professional staff) updated, gained deeper trust and respect from their teams with the message being “we are all in this together”. This was particularly important at those firms forced to reduce hours or salaries to ensure the future of the business to assist in retaining all staff. Hopefully the firms that have seen this success recognise how powerful open and engaged communication can be in reassuring staff that the business is invested in and values them; that they are a firms greatest asset.
This building of trust will hopefully, in turn, allow staff to more openly communicate with management about their career aspirations, flexibility desires, training needs, business interests or work challenges. These open and productive conversations may well be the key to more positive employee engagement and retention, which is a win win for the employer and the employee(although, admittedly, not such a win for their favourite recruiters!)