We talk quite a bit about systems here at the Academy… systems that manage your workflow, your finances and your marketing campaigns, just to name a few.
And while those systems will certainly continue to be the key to your success, there is another piece to that puzzle that’s equally as important … a piece that can give you huge returns on your investment if managed properly.
I’m talking of course, about your staff.
Now, before you assume that your staff is “fine,” I want to urge you to take another look. And here’s why:
Although we’re exceptional at drafting documents and adapting to new legal trends, it’s not unusual to find attorneys who are “lacking” in the area of human resource management. In fact, many attorneys avoid that particular aspect of law firm management as much as possible, assuming that if their employees aren’t complaining, they must then be happy.
But the truth is, you set the tone for how your employees will experience your firm, so if you don’t put an emphasis on things like performance, teamwork and personal growth, your employees won’t either.
And an uninspired staff means an unproductive firm.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to not only keep your staff on track but also give them the feedback and support they need to excel:
First and foremost, you need to have an open door policy with your employees. Performance reviews should be a regular event to be sure, but your internal communication strategy needs to go much deeper than that.
In order for your employees to get behind your Big Picture, they have to know what it is. Just as the football team understands the play they’re being asked to run, your employees must understand the strategies and policies you’ve implemented in your firm.
That means regular staff meetings where you discuss current workflow as well as overall objectives. Brainstorming sessions that allow your employees to express their ideas and be a part of your creative vision. And last but not least, the ability to discuss issues with you on a regular schedule, instead of being left to just handle things on their own because you don’t have the time to deal with such matters.
A Place for Everyone and Everyone in Their Place
The idea that every employee should be appropriately “matched” to their job is a core strategy at the Academy and one you should implement in your firm as well.
What this means is that your employees have the position they have because it’s the best match to their skills and talents, not simply because it happened to be the job they applied for when they joined your firm.
After all, building a winning team isn’t just about selecting the right people – it’s about getting the most out of the people you select. Think of it as not only putting the right people on the right bus, but also getting them into the right seats.
Someone who is creatively inclined for example might do much better as your marketing assistant than as your drafting paralegal. Likewise, if you’ve got a filing clerk who’s known for being the perkiest person in the office, it might not be a bad idea to have that person greeting your clients when they come through the door.
This strategy accomplishes two things: first, you get the “best” that your employees have to offer, an obvious advantage to your firm. But your employees also get the chance to do a job they truly enjoy, a benefit that will increase loyalty and cut down on turnover.
Systems, Systems, Systems
One of the best ways to de-stress your staff is to give them clear instructions for what you want done. And this is where those systems we love so much come in handy.
Having comprehensive systems in place that not only describe their responsibilities but also detail how to accomplish their goals, makes doing their job that much easier.
It also greatly improves their chances of success.
To get the most from these systems, give your employees the opportunity to take part in their development… figure out the best way to do the things that need to be done and then document that process in your operations manual.
Show A Little Love
Showing your appreciation can range from a simple “nice job” to a bonus at the end of the year for exceeding expectations. But don’t forget all those little extras in between.
Create challenges and goals throughout the year that once achieved, can be formally acknowledged. A production goal for example or an educational milestone… these events are great fillers to add to your firm’s newsletter and should also be rewarded internally in some way. Present them with a certificate for example, or take them out to lunch. Or if you really want to earn some boss kudos, give them a free half-day off to use at their discretion.
Of course, these ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. You can provide employee discounts, offer extra days off around holidays or create an annual company picnic where your staff gets to kick back and enjoy themselves on the company dime.
The point is to create incentives that go beyond their paycheck. Don’t ask “why should they work for my firm”… Instead ask, “why should they love to work for my firm.”
The bottom line is that the more you encourage your employees to be a part of your vision, the more they’ll take that vision, and your success, to heart.
President & Co-Founder
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.