Craig Wilson
Craig Wilson
Director

Articles From the Team

Employee engagement and the legal sector

A recent article in The Telegraph made for interesting reading this week. Titled ‘Bad jobs harm growth and make people miserable’, the article features comment from employment tsar Matthew Taylor and Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane.

Matthew Taylor is on record as saying that too few jobs offer a feeling of “genuine flexibility, being valued and respected, learning and growing, having a voice and autonomy, feeling work has a meaning and purpose”.

Andy Haldane, on the other hand, cites that part of the UK’s productivity problem comes as a result of poor levels of training and employee engagement. “Levels of investment in employee training and learning is less than half of that of our European competitors” and “despite evidence that employee engagement contributes to higher productivity, overall levels of employee engagement are low in the UK by international standards”.

Whilst the premise of The Telegraph article focuses on low quality, low paid and unproductive jobs, and the impact of these jobs on the UK economy and politics (see Brexit), the comments are applicable to all individuals in work, including those in professional and well-paid roles - such as the legal sector.

Employees are more productive, happier and more successful when they have freedom, flexibility, authority, responsibility and the opportunity to set and shape their work and career path. Companies that allow their staff autonomy and responsibility empower their employees and trust them to do the right thing, recognise the benefits of a good work/life balance, invest in learning and development, and offer flexible working, tend to see higher levels of employee engagement, productivity and loyalty.

It is unfortunate that some elements of the legal sector are still behind the curve when it comes to employee engagement. Whilst some law firms are highly innovative and seek to engage and empower their employees to create a high-performance culture, it is yet to become the norm. Many firms still foster us and them – partners v employees – an approach which when combined with time recording, chargeable hour targets, a sat at your desk / long-hours office culture, and a wider lack of flexibility, undoubtedly leads to lower levels of engagement and a higher turnover of staff.

Whilst In-house is slightly different, as in-house departments often take their cultural cue from the wider company culture, it is fair to say that most law firms and in-house departments should be looking at employee engagement and empowerment to improve their productivity and staff retention.

An additional interesting piece of information is that “studies report that lawyers working in law firms have the lowest psychological and psychosomatic health and wellbeing than all other professionals” [www.changeboard.com]. The reasoning behind this is work capacity in relation to working hours, work/life integration, unrealistic client demands and expectations plus a lack of control over an increasing workload, the pressure associated with a constant expectation of excellence, and a lack of support and recognition/appreciation.

The CIPD sums the above up with the following “Employees who share a mutual-gains relationship with their employers tend to deliver improved business performance. Therefore, it's no surprise that employer’s value engaged employees; not only are they happier, healthier and more fulfilled than 'disengaged' employees, but they are more likely to increase customer satisfaction levels, productivity and innovation.”

The links below are worth a read should you be interested in reading around the subject:

https://www.employeebenefits.co.uk/issues/march-2010-online/staff-engagement-biggest-concern-for-hr-in-legal-sector/

https://www.legalsupportnetwork.co.uk/practice-management/knowledge-base/from-the-team/harvesting-employee-engagement-your-law-firm

http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/article-details/employee-engagement-closely-tied-to-health-and-wellbeing

https://www.slideshare.net/HRSuccessGuide/how-to-improve-staff-engagement-in-the-legal-industry

http://www.changeboard.com/content/5657/shifting-mindsets-wellness-in-the-legal-sector/

For more information contact Craig Wilson at BCL Legal.

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