Tag Archives: human resources

Why Your Employees Plan To Quit in 2014 (& How To Stop Them!)

Roughly 21 percent of full-time employees plan to change jobs this year, reports Yahoo News about new research from CareerBuilder. Can your firm afford a one-quarter employee turnover?

Citing over dissatisfaction with their job, chances to be promoted, and work-life balance, this is the largest expected turnover since the recession, post 2008. Last year, just 17 percent of full-time employees planed to change jobs.

According to the CareerBuilder, among those who were unhappy with their job, 58 percent plan to leave in 2014, citing concerns over salary and feeling unvalued.

“Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, said offering frequent recognition, merit bonuses, training programs and clearly defined career paths are important ways to show workers what they mean to the company,” writes Chad Brooks, a BusinessNewsDaily contributor.

In fact, of the 79 percent of employees who do not plan to leave their jobs in 2014, many cite work-life balance satisfaction—also a contributor to job unhappiness—as the source.

So if positive work-life balance leads employees to stay with their firm, and negative work-life balance motivates employees to leave it, isn’t it time your law firm reevaluate its policies and perks?

Many companies, including law firms, have accepted the advantages (and disadvantages) of offering Flex scheduling.

This may mean working one day per week, or every two weeks, remotely.

“I work a four-day week which is incredibly valuable, and I’ve been really encouraged to see that some of my male colleagues have switched to working flexibly so that they can meet the demands of a young family,” says Lauma Skruzmane about her city law job to The Telegraph.

“For me, this also underlines the fact that balancing work and family is not to be branded a ‘women’s’ issue, but it is a challenge that all parents, or other careers, face.”

But parents aren’t the only demographic looking for flexible hours.

Working from home can be a relief for anyone. Perhaps your law office is experiencing temporary negativity in its corporate culture. Maybe the office has become of hub for gossip or distraction.

Whatever the reason, traditional workspaces may not be the most productive environment for all your associates. Allow them to take advantage of new media and technology, which often means anybody can be digitally anywhere at any time.

A healthy work-life balance also means adequate exercise.

Sign your firm up with a local gym. Give your employees incentive to work out at lunch or after dinner. Exercise will help improve efficiency and productivity among your staff by relaxing the brain and increase endorphins in the body.

Finally, lead by example. Take coffee breaks. Make time for face-to-face visits with your employees. And, don’t miss your child’s first student bake-sale because you felt obligated to stay an extra hour at the office.

Let you employees take five every once in awhile or risk taking their two-weeks notice.

While for many companies’ increases remain conservative for the coming year, employers still need to keep their organizations competitive. The strategy going forward is to wring every last drop of positivity out of the raises for their people, and turn to alternate methods, like enhanced reward programs, to increase engagement, boost productivity, and improve overall work-life balance.

If you’re an HR or compensation professional, the salary information in this comprehensive webinar will provide you with the tools you need to prepare your budgets for 2014 and keep pay competitive.

Our compensation experts will also provide you with an in-depth look at 2013 compensation spending and anticipated 2014 compensation trends, projections, challenges, and alternatives, including:

  • Trends and statistics: Base pay data for a variety of industries, regions and employee groups
  • Competitive intelligence: Insight into how other companies make pay decisions and best practices
  • Future state: Outline of what companies are planning for 2014 and beyond

Take the course here today!

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Are Machines Replacing Man? How To Put Law Firm Professionals & Technology In Sync

This is no longer a question limited to science fiction novels or Hollywood films. Instead, real-life economists and statisticians are debating a larger-than-life issue: are machines replacing man in the labor market?

Stenographers in court cases have already butted head-to-head, so to speak, with their digital technology counterparts. New Jersey recently transitioned to high-tech digital recordings to track legal proceedings, replacing salaried stenographers.

Man vs. machine, is one becoming obsolete in law?

Apparently, according to a Bloomberg BusinessWeek article (online, of course), robots are getting all the good jobs.

“’What’s different now is the speed and scale of what’s happening,’ says Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Center for Digital Business. Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, co-authors of the recently published book Race Against the Machine, argue that the economy is in the early stages of a ‘Great Restructuring’ that is hollowing out the labor market and exacerbating inequality,” reports David Lynch from his computer.

Instead of a human resources department, your law firm uses Google Analytics and LinkedIn.

Instead of a public relations department, you have first-year associate updating Twitter feeds and posting to the firm blog.

Instead of masses of associates filtering through discovery, you’ve outsourced doc review to India.

Instead of rooms full of documents and binders, lawyers talk about accessing servers and storing to the cloud.

Who or what really make up your law firm staff?

On the other hand, some aren’t buying into the debate.

James D. Hamilton of the University of California at San Diego reminds us that technology constantly ruffles—not replaces—the labor force.

For example, today, only 2 percent of Americans work on farms. However, in 1900, 41 percent of Americans toiled the Terre. This doesn’t mean 39 percent of ex-farms were forced into unemployment. Nope, they found new jobs.

“In 2005 the average U.S. worker could produce what would have required two people to do in 1970, what would have required four people in 1940, and would have required six people in 1910,” Hamilton writes in an e-mail correspondence with Lunch for BusinessWeek.

“The result of this technological progress was not higher unemployment but instead rising real wages. The evidence from the last two centuries is unambiguous—productivity gains lead to more wealth, not poverty.”

Nevertheless, this month’s issue of The Atlantic and Forbes magazine unearths this question once more. Should you use Big Data to hire, fire, or promote employees?

Grant Gordon for Forbes advises companies to take advantage of both works. Target undervalued or unemployed workers via technology, but the rely on human instinct and in-person interviews to finish the job.

Who or what most efficiently gets the job done? Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. Only your managers can evaluate that. So, get together with your IT department and weigh the pros and cons of man vs. machine.

Certainly there will be advantages to both. But, the real value add is when man understands machine, and in tandem, these productivity gins lead to more wealth for your firm.

In the end, don’t blame technology for the recession. Embrace digital systems within the walls of your office, and you may soon find the ensuing growth of your firm leads to a need for more professionals—the ebb and flow of an industry lies in our continuing to advance with it, not against it.

Take, for example, these C4CM analytics of alternative billing trends. According to the 2010 Alternative Billing Benchmarking Study, more than 87 percent of practitioners have some sort of alternative billing arrangement available to clients. Find out what billing arrangements you can offer clients in this training resource here.

-WB

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Do Workplace Dating Policies Reduce Risk? An Unorthodox Solution By Philosopher Blaise Pascal.

When Blaise Pascal was just a teenager in seventeenth century France, he invented the first mechanical calculator.

Son of a tax collector in Rouen, perhaps Pascal’s interest in numbers and organization is not that unusual.

But Pascal applied his talent in mathematics in a variety of surprising ways.

At age 16, Pascal had already written a treatise on projective geometry and worked with Pierre de Fermat to develop theories in probability theory. Pascal was also an accomplished physicist.

However, Pascal is most likely remembered for his thoughts (Pensées) as a philosopher and mystic.

This month, albeit roughly 360 years earlier, Pascal had a mystical experience. He wrote down the date and from that point forward, always kept it on his person. The date, November 23, 1654, was found sewn into the coat that he was wearing on his death, writes the Guttenberg Project.

This conversion profoundly influenced Pascal’s future research. And, still with logic and statistics in mind, Pascal started to argue the existence of God.

The argument, called Pascal’s Wager, posits that humans all bet with their lives either that God exists or does not exist—imagine a statistical theory and its counterfactual.

Whether God does or does not exist—and assuming the infinite gain (heaven and reward) associated with the belief in God or infinite loss (hell and damnation) with the disbelief—Pascal claims a rational person should always live as though God exists. In the end, if God does not exist, such a person will risk minimal finite losses (certain pleasures, luxuries, etc.) whereas in the counterfactual case, such a person risks infinite perdition.

So, why are we discussing Pascal’s Wager? Well, lawyers, the same logic can be applied to the question: Do workplace dating policies reduce risk?

Office romances are highly pervasive.

“According to CareerBuilder’s 2012 annual office romance survey, 38 percent of respondents have dated a co-worker at least once in their career, and one-third of them ended up married,” writes a Workforce article.

Unfortunately, these office romances can lead to sexual harassment suits, claims of nepotism, and other liabilities for your firm.

Take a lesson from Above The Law reader whose windshield was smashed in by a colleague he dated (and whose chances of employment after his legal internship are now dubious at best). Define your workplace dating expectations and follow them yourself.

Whether it’s a zero-tolerance fire-able offence policy; a “love contract” where employees sign statements admitting an office relationship is consensual; or confidential disclosure where employees alert firm HR representatives of potential complications, define a policy. Circulate it. Enforce it.

Law firm professionals know best that there are always ways to shirk contractual obligations, terms of agreement, or policy requirements. But, implementing such policies is better than nothing at all and often works as a deterrent to litigation.

Think about Pascal’s Wager. If workplace dating policies don’t reduce legal liability risk, you’ve spent a minimal amount of time and effort implementing one.

However, if the liability does exist and policies deter or reduce this risk, then hammering out dating policies can substantially lower the costs of litigation.

-WB

Gossip about office romances? Learn how to cub this toxic talk with C4CM’s guide Effective Management of Workplace Gossip.

Need help drafting workplace policies? Bonus material includs sample social media politic and case studies.

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Tips For Handling Difficult Conversations In The Workplace

There’s a reason this article is about “tips” and not “tricks” for handling difficult conversations in the workplace. It’s because there is no way to avoid important human resources conversations: poor hygiene, denial of a raise or promotion, firing…

Take, for example, the recent layoffs at law firm Arent Fox. The Above the Law Blog reports that the law firm, faced with financial difficulties, has recently fired members of their staff. The law firm issued a statement, saying:

“Effective this week, the firm reduced the number of support staff by approximately 20 people in various offices and departments. Like many firms across the country, we are making hard choices to ensure that our resources are aligned with demand. This was a difficult decision that was made even harder because we are losing good people who have helped make Arent Fox an excellent law firm. Those affected are being provided with severance pay and health benefits. We wish them the best.”

Certainly, firing employees is difficult. But, so is explaining these firing to your clients and other colleagues. Arent Fox did an excellent job discussing this sensitive issue.

Why? They kept it short, honest, timely, contextual, and classy.

In general, the rules—if there are any—for handling difficult conversations are simple.

Be honest.

Being honest involves leaving emotion at the door. Honesty doesn’t mean telling an employee how you really feel: they’re incompetent, lazy, and toxic team member! Honesty involves concrete examples of poor performance, for example, or poor hygiene, if that’s the case.

Don’t hide behind excuses. If you’re firing a person for poor performace, bring up documented instances where that was the case.

In the case of Arent Fox, they admitted that individuals who were laid off had contributed greatly to the firm. Like any company in financial straights, however, there are tough decisions to be made. The statement issued by the firm is thus honest and understandable, although unfortunate.

Be timely.

As a corollary, honesty requires documentation and timely reports.

If you plan on using a complaint by a coworker against one of your subordinates, you need to bring it to their attention immediately. Give the subordinate in question time to defend or correct their behavior.

If you come to them even a week or two later, it’s likely they will simply deny the claim. And, it’ll be too long for you (or them) to truly remember the offense.

If you suspect, as a partner or senior manager, that there will be arbitrary lay-offs in the future, issue a statement alluding to that fact. Nothing is worse than being caught off guard by the financial woes of your employer.

Allow your employees to arrange their affairs in enough time. That way, like at Arendt Fox, employees who were let-go know that they will have severance pay and health benefits, and have hopefully put a job lead or two in order.

Be consistent.

Finally, be consistent in your statements. When faced with difficult conversations, it’s easy to talk in a circle. The important thing is to keep focused on the topic at hand, and to not make contradictory statements.

For example, if you are denying a person’s request for a raise because you don’t have the budget, don’t then promote (with a raise) another colleague. And, if you do, address the situation. Perhaps there’s only room in the budget for one raise, and the other person is more senior or more skilled.

Inconsistency can be interpreted as dishonesty, which—as mentioned earlier—is the easiest way to lose the respect of a subordinate and lose you handle on this difficult conversation.

In the end, there are also emotional and legal ramifications to holding difficult conversations in the workplace.

Read C4CM’s Guide on Handling Difficult Conversations: Communication Strategies for the Workplace to learn more. The 108-page guide provides practical and realistic solutions for tackling the hardest elements of workplace interactions, including:

  • Job Performance
  • Disciplinary Action
  • Termination of Employment
  • Employee Complaints about the Workplace
  • Disabilities (Related to Job Accommodations)
  • Personal Presentation/Hygiene

-WB

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Independence Day Lessons: France vs. America vs. The Boardroom

After the French lost the Seven Years’ War against Great Britain in 1763, they didn’t consider the transcontinental battle to be over. When British colonies in North America gradually began to revolt, the French were quick to lend a helping hand to the opposition.

In fact, France continued to supply American revolutionaries with troops and materials in support of the war until Congress declared the colonies independent on July 4, 1776. Then, France and the newly founded United States formed an official alliance, vowing to fight side by side until the United States received its hard fought freedom.

Just six years after the Americans and British completed their peace negotiations in Paris, a French revolution broke out. In July 1789, the people of Paris stormed the Bastille, a fortress known to house political prisoners on royal indictments that could not be appealed.

Although it would still be a long and bloody road before France had complete independence, Bastille Day marks the French people’s strongest step in the fight against absolutism.

Today, the French celebrate their independence on July 14th in recognition of their evolution to a democratic nation. Although in time France and the United States have not always seen eye-to-eye, the two countries have, at least, a shared history of independence.

This July, it’s important to remember the importance we all place on freedom.

In fact, the appreciation for freedom and independence is not just at the macro economic level. Nations are not alone.

Individuals in their workplace also look for independence, which accounts for the many developments in FLEX scheduling and creative management techniques of law firms and businesses. A recent study by Catalyst confirms in a survey of 726 MBA graduates around the world that flexible working arrangements are no longer the exception, but they are the norm.

Of the 726 high-potential employees in full-time for-profit and non-profit firms, 81 percent reported that they had flexible work arrangement policies, whether that be flexible arrival or departure times, compressed work weeks, telecommuting, or job sharing schemes. And, surprisingly, women and men took part, equally, of these flexible options (although women prefer telecommuting, in particular, to men)

According to Catalyst (via Harvard Business Review Blog), “The Great Debate: Flexibility vs. Face Time-Busting the Myths Behind Flexible Work Arrangements,” the research results imply that eliminating flexible work arrangement benefits significantly affects the number of high potential women at your workplace aspiring to senior positions. However, in light of the fact that men and women participate in these programs equally, your firm may be missing out on high-potential employees of both genders.

Sure, studies are mixed about the impact of flexible scheduling on productivity. But, if your firm is able to attract the best talent by offering these benefits, surely high-value employees are consistently productive in the first place.

It’s time to make your employees happy or a revolution will be on your hands.

This July, red, white, and blue means freedom for both the French and Americans. Let the same colors remind your firm to continue this tradition everyday in its workplace.

To learn how, read C4CM’s 69-page guide Creating a Flexible Workplace,” a powerful how-to resource on developing a workforce flexibility initiative that not only helps your employees manage their work and personal responsibilities effectively, but also boosts productivity and your company’s performance.

Some of its guidance includes how to:

  • Lower costs associated with employee absenteeism
  • Improve staff retention and recruitment efforts
  • Maximize employee productivity and performance
  • Improve quality and effectiveness of employee work and personal lives
  • Decrease health care utilization costs
  • Reduce organizational facilities’ costs
  • Enhance reputation as an employer of choice

-WB

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Keeping Time (With The Times): Apple iWatch, Innovation & Time Management For Law Firms

Everybody’s talking about time management these days.

Well, in the case of Apple, media articles and tech-savvy blogs are just talking about time.

The iWatch is a much whispered about innovation by Apple, to be released as to be determined. But, it doesn’t keep the NY Times and Wired magazine from speculating that Apple will use curved glass as a key design feature.

Or, for the Harvard Business Review Blog to guess “A Timex is mainly chronological. What Apple could be doing is making a ‘kairologocial’ tool that tracks and monitors the data around the experiences you care about. How much you actually slept, when and how far you walked…”

Luckily, law firm managers can keep both their guesses and their watches at home. According to experts, the secret to project management isn’t time management at all. In fact, most managers speed past deadlines.

Forget the schedule. Key filing or court deadlines aside, it’s more impotant to be goal- and product-oriented than time-oriented.

“Why don’t more project managers sound an alarm when they’re going to blow past their deadlines?” ask Joe Knight, Roger Thomas, and Brad Angus for the Harvard Business Review Blog.

“Because most of them have no earthly idea when they’ll finish the job. They don’t even think it’s possible to know. Too many variables. Too much that’s out of their control.”

It’s true, law firm managers should focus more on what keeps the client informed and happy rather than exactly how long it took you to get there. Unfortunately, the billable hour and client satisfaction are inextricably linked in legal services industry.

For some companies, the Harvard Business Review advice may be sound. “If your customer doesn’t think you’re late, then you’re not late,” it states.

But, if the equity partner thinks you’re late, then you’re late. And, if the judge thinks you’re late, then you’re really, really late.

So, is time management a strategic variable that law firm managers can manipulate at all?

It turns out, a not-so-recent study from 1997 shows that innovative employment practices—incentive pay, flexible job assignments, and higher job security—increase employee productivity. Although employees may be in a time crunch to write that legal brief, those who work for firms providing non-traditional working hours or environments to do so are more efficient and effective at their job.

The study published in the American Economic Review by Ichniowski et al. investigated the productivity effects of innovative employment practices using data from a sample of 36 homogeneous steel production lines owned by 17 companies.

“The productivity regressions demonstrate that lines using a set of innovative work practices, which include incentive pay, teams, flexible job assignments, employment security, and training, achieve substantially higher levels of productivity than do lines with the more traditional approach, which includes narrow job definitions, strict work rules, and hourly pay with close supervision,” write the authors.

In addition, these innovative employment practices tend to be complements. Essentially, optimal incentive structures—like higher employment security but lower salaries, or higher training couple with incentive pay—come in pairs.

“That is, workers’ performance is substantially better under incentive pay plans that are coupled with supporting innovative work practices—such as flexible job design, employee participation in problem-solving, teams, training to provide workers with multiple skills, extensive screening and communication and employment security—than it is under more traditional work practices.”

So, if your law firm can’t pull back on its billable hours or push forward its many deadlines, at least it can manage the time of and human resource policy for its employees.

Consider implementing flexible scheduling, work-from-home policies, or other innovative management practices. Give your employees the opportunity to diversify their workload or work on a variety of departmental teams.

The more choices you offer your employees, the more hours they will bill—and happily—for your firm.

Not sure where to start? Check out ideas for innovative managment practices for law firms here.

-WB

 

Reference: Ichniowski, C., Shaw, K., & Prennushi, G. 1997. The effects of human resource management practices on productivity: A study of steel finishing lines. American Economic Review, 87: 291-313.

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U.S. Postal Service Halts Mail, But Why Letters Should Live On

For centuries, letters have delivered gratitude and good news. And, with the mere lick of a postage stamp, sincere, honest, and timely thanks can make anybody’s day.

Sadly, the U.S. Postal Service plans to stop delivering and collecting letters and other first-class mail on Saturdays starting August 5, 2013. This marks the end of an era, which started Saturday mail delivery in 1863, reports CNN.

The U.S. Postal Service reported a loss of $16 billion in 2012, but the new plan will save roughly $2 billion per year.   “It’s a responsible decision. It makes common sense,” said Patrick Donahoe, postmaster general and CEO of the postal service to CNN.

Sometimes it’s just about business.

But, just because mail delivery will suffer, doesn’t mean your expressions of gratitude to clients or employees have to. Once, the pony express wouldn’t give up, night or day, rain or shine. Now, it’s your law firm’s opportunity to ensure that posting letters doesn’t become an anachronism of the age.

Here are five letters your law firm should not forget to write:

1. Thank-you letters. Yes, the holiday party was de facto mandatory, but that doesn’t mean name partners shouldn’t write letters of thanks. Thank you notes should be specific to each person, hand-written and sincere.

2. Acceptance letters. Just because your assistant is in charge of drafting all associate offer letters, doesn’t mean your firm shouldn’t put in any effort in writing an acceptance letters for new hires. Don’t forget to focus on “you” as opposed to “we”. Instead of “we enjoyed meeting you,” or “we look forward to having you join our team,” try “you showed exceptional promise among an already impressive class of first-years,” or “you were poised and primed for work—characteristics to be admired.”

3. Rejection letters. Sometimes law firms must give bad news. Perhaps it’s human resources’ rejection of an employee application or maybe it’s the unfortunate lay-off of an esteemed attorney. Rejection letters are not fun to write, but they’re even worse to read. That’s why you should be as direct as possible. Don’t use flowery language. At the same time, don’t beat around the bush. Be courteous but honest in your reasons for rejection—your reader will be glad for it. Finally, as uncomfortable as it may be, it’s important to write rejection letters because worse than the words inside them is a lack of communication whatsoever.

4. Client engagement letters. It’s not corny to welcome a new client on board! In fact, personalized letters to clients—whether confirming their engagement with the firm or simply “checking in” on a monthly basis—are a way to maintain relationships with current clients. It may also help boost the positive word-of-mouth recommendations that are responsible for attracting new ones.

5. Letters of praise. Don’t write letters of complaint. Although it may be tempting when you feel cheated or insulted, for example, of all people, lawyers should know the consequences of putting things in writing. So, each time you’re inspired to write a letter of protest, write one of praise, instead. Choose an employee who has exhibited exceptional work product of late (or, if you must, just choose one at random!). Write him or her a brief note of appreciation for their positive attitude, attention to detail, or ability to work well in teams. Whatever the reason, writing a letter that will make a person’s day (and likely make them more productive) is far better than writing a letter that, well, won’t.

The U.S. Postal Service may be cutting back on mail, but your firm shouldn’t look to.

There’s a reason this government agency has accumulated so much debt. Despite the best efforts of Google, Yahoo, and AOL, there’s nothing like the postman saying, “you’ve got mail” in person.

Law firms manage a business, team of associates, and group of clients that can all benefit from a few key mailed letters. Personalization and postage lead to success.

-WB

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