The pandemic has changed both the way we work, and the way we view work in relation to other areas of our lives. Surges in the use of digital platforms for business and the expansion of globalised markets has created an environment where top talent have more options when it comes to where, and how, they would like to work. This is making sourcing, onboarding and retaining employees incredibly challenging for many legal businesses.
This change has made creating a desirable and inclusive workplace culture more important than ever. The consequences of getting this wrong could see your business lose clients, destabilise your team or damage your brand – all of which can amount to significant losses.
This is an interesting time; for the first time in history, we have five generations in the workforce:
• Traditionalists or the ‘Silent Generation’—born 1925 to 1945
• Baby Boomers—born 1946 to 1964
• Generation X—born 1965 to 1980
• Millennials—born 1981 to 2000
• Generation Z—born 2001 to 2020
It’s important to consider the traits, beliefs and life experiences that mark each generation and influence how they work, communicate and respond to change, in order to manage people effectively.
Importance of diversity and inclusion to candidates
Research shows that diversity and inclusion is an area of significant importance for today’s candidates, with the current focus on race equality, the gender pay gap and calls for disability inclusion falling under this umbrella. The Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) took a poll in 2020 of 186,000 people across 9,000 firms. In terms of representation, 49% identified as women, 21% were from minority ethnic backgrounds and 3% reported having a disability. To take steps to make your workplace more inclusive and representative, consider the following:
• What is your strategy to enable a truly inclusive environment?
• What metrics and indicators will you track to show progress and value?
• Challenge your bias and start an employee resource group.
It is believed that by 2025, Millennials and Generation Z will make up 75% of the workforce and, therefore, it is useful to listen to what they have to say. According to a survey published by Deloitte in 2020, Millennials and Generation Z say diversity is key to workplace loyalty and flexible working. Many firms consider hybrid working as the best way forward, post-coronavirus (COVID-19). However, there are many questions to consider; for instance, how will junior colleagues be supported? How can the workplace maintain cultural values of trust and fairness? What measures are in place for best practice compliance and client confidentiality? What is the best technology to enable the workforce to be engaged?
Fair pay for all
Fair pay and recognition are valued by all generations and has been ranked as the fourth most common reason why people leave jobs. It is standard practice for HR departments to gather data on salaries and benefits for benchmarking purposes. In my experience, however, HR departments tend to use the information to offer similar compensation packages and miss a great opportunity to stand out from the crowd by offering something different. Consider the following; what are your non-financial rewards? Are they aligned with what your employees want? Is your total reward driving motivation?
Culture is key
Developing a great culture is an area that causes leadership teams considerable concern because it includes unwritten rules and, often, challenging the way things have always been done. A poor workplace culture can manifest in a high turnover rate, having difficulty filling vacancies or poor reviews on social media, by both clients and/or employees.
To overcome issues resulting from a stagnant workplace culture, you need to have the following practices in place:
• Employees must have a voice.
• Employees must know why they are coming to work, other than their salary. In other words, what is their purpose? There is nothing worse than having great values on your website but employees experience something quite the opposite. Research suggests that younger generations will not tolerate this.
• Personal development for mental, social and emotional growth.
With top talent being scarce, firms need to differentiate themselves by developing talent internally and creating an environment that allows their staff to thrive. Millennials and Generation Z are not a homogenous group, so it is important to understand how all employees feel, and think, about their workplace and leaders. Firms that fail to develop their culture are likely to notice rising recruitment costs, which affects brand value and reputation. Conversely, in developing a culture for the post-COVID-19 era, embracing hybrid working is a great opportunity to gain a competitive advantage.