In the modern workplace, fostering a culture of employee engagement is not just a trend; it’s a strategic imperative for organizations aspiring to evolve and thrive. As we navigate the post-pandemic dynamics of work, it becomes increasingly evident that a motivated and engaged workforce is the cornerstone of productivity, innovation, and overall success.
Crafting an effective employee engagement plan tailored to the unique challenges and opportunities of your law firm in 2024 will help you engage the full potential of your legal team in the pursuit of a healthy workplace and excellent client service.
Let’s take a look at where the employment market stands at the end of 2023.
Demand for workers has cooled. As of early November, the Indeed Job Postings Index, which tracks changes in jobs posted on the Indeed job search platform, shows a 22.5% decrease since its December 2021 peak.
Workers are quitting less frequently. The Bureau of Labor Statistics show the U.S. quit rate for employees was 2.3% in September, equal to the average rate in 2019, prior to the pandemic, partly as demand for workers lessens.
What are some of the challenges noted for 2024?
There is a battle between a growing labor force and the shrinking effects of an aging population. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the labor force participation rate of workers ages 25 to 54 increased to levels not seen since the early 2000s. As more workers join the labor force, Baby Boomers continue to retire at an accelerated pace.
Many small to mid-size law firms have employees with longevity who are beginning to retire. The longtime employees make up the ranks of law firm administrators, trusted paralegals, and support staff. With their retirement, law firms can expect to see a huge transfer of institutional knowledge.
Pay equity considerations remain strong as pay transparency laws gain ground. Pay transparency is becoming more important as laws are enacted across the U.S. requiring businesses and organizations to disclose pay in job postings and to workers upon request.
In a recent post, 10 HR Trends to Follow in 2024, ADP, one of the largest payroll companies in the U.S., suggests employers examine comprehensive pay data, create a compliance plan, as well as a clear communications strategy around compensation, pay transparency and pay equity, in order to meet the needs of the employee marketplace.
Law firms are notorious for keeping compensation information in a black box and telling employees they cannot discuss compensation among their peers. Today’s workforce requires a new strategy.
The relationship of low employee engagement to continued recruiting and retention challenges is an area to focus on in 2024. One effort to positively impact employee engagement is to leverage employee benefits as a strategic driver of recruiting, employee engagement, and retention. Talk with your employees to see what benefits are most important to them.
Following the pandemic, we are seeing extreme pressure in the workplace and mental health outcomes are worsening. Investing in practices to rebuild employee trust and wellness is more important than ever. The pandemic and the resulting work from home, return to office and hybrid work solutions have sometimes resulted in toxic work culture and low morale. Reducing the negative impacts of low office morale is rarely solved by mandatory fun or team building events. Rather, an investment in trust building and collaboration will be much more meaningful.
How to Build an Employee Engagement Plan
An effective employee engagement plan typically includes initiatives aimed at creating a positive and fulfilling work environment. Here are a few components you could consider for your employee engagement plan:
Allow opportunities for employees to be empowered through their involved in the firm. Provide opportunities for employees to develop a sense of ownership such as developing a firm mission statement, strategic plan, and goals. Or to create a client service plan. Have employees create their professional development and skill building goals and provide quarterly check-ins to make sure they are on track and that the firm is recognizing their achievements.
Providing continuous learning opportunities for increasing job skills can be key to recruiting, retaining and engaging employees. Regardless of firm size, all team members need to experience growth opportunities in order to stay fulfilled in their careers. The law is always changing, as is the technology we use. Supporting your employees in growth opportunities does not require a “break the bank” budget. There are many online opportunities for skill building at no cost or low cost such as LinkedIn Learning courses. Bar associations and paralegal associations often provide some amount of free continuing legal education as part of membership dues.
To combat difficulty in recruiting, payroll company ADP suggests a different approach for employers – focusing on building the right skills rather than finding the right skills.
“According to the ADP Research Institute, management skills and people skills are the most needed for the future of work. Deb Hughes, ADP’s senior vice president of HR and change and communications, believes soft skills will also be in demand. She says, soft skills are often undervalued in the workplace, despite their crucial role in building connections and fostering empathy. Companies that prioritize, amplify, and develop these skills in their workers will be the ones that thrive.”
The importance of a robust employee engagement plan cannot be overstated. The success of our firms is intricately tied to the commitment and enthusiasm of the legal team. By investing in a thoughtful and dynamic engagement strategy, companies not only enhance employee satisfaction and retention but also lay the groundwork for a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.
Provide regular feedback and performance reviews. Provide specific learning opportunities at the time an issue arises rather than generic feedback once a year. Allow employees the opportunity to provide feedback on their experiences, concerns, and ideas for improvement.
As we look ahead to 2024 challenges and opportunities consider a well-crafted engagement plan is not merely a box to be checked—it is an evergreen, evolving framework that aligns strategic firm goals with the aspirations of its people. Those who prioritize employee engagement will find themselves not only weathering change effectively but also thriving in the dynamic and competitive landscape of the evolving workplace.
Camille Stell is the President of Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services and the co-author of the newly published book, RESPECT – An Insight to Attorney Compensation Plans available from Amazon. Continue this conversation by contacting Camille at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800.662.8843.