Putting people first

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For a long time it was thought that productivity was an individual employee’s responsibility – you come in, do your work and churn out as much as you can to make the business money. But we now know that the way employees are managed and treated in the workplace can play a huge part in the overall productivity of a business. That’s why it’s increasingly important to put your people first.

When you reflect on your own professional working life, you’ve probably had a job at some point where your employer failed to properly respect and invest in its people. When employees feel like they’re not being valued, disheartenment and frustration start to creep in – this is when they stop caring, become detached from their duties and productivity decreases. If changes aren’t made, staff walk out the door.

A big part of staff happiness and productivity is mental health and work-life balance. To add some context to this topic, in 2018 KPMG and Mental Health Australia estimated that productivity due to poor mental health cost Australian employers over $6bn annually. Knowing this makes it astonishing that the Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA) Summit Research Survey conducted by GlobalX and ALPMA revealed 69% of legal professionals do not believe that there is work-life balance in their industry – an 8% increase in negative sentiment on the prior year’s survey results. There have also been a number of recent high-profile stories of exhaustion, illness and mental health concerns within the industry.

Despite this, 85% of respondents to our survey said their firm had sought to implement some positive changes to the employee experience, suggesting that while change is occurring, it’s perhaps not occurring fast enough.

Work-life balance is such an important issue in today’s society. Equally it is important to carefully consider what employee experience initiatives are implemented. Variable working hours and the option to work from home when needed provide terrific flexibility for employees to achieve work-life balance. Conversely, some initiatives may have a perverse negative effect. Many employers now offer ‘free breakfast’ which results in employees working longer hours and reduced work-life balance.

Another great way to put people first is by investing in your employees’ professional development. The legal industry is constantly changing with regulations, technology and ways of working evolving all the time. It makes sense therefore for firms to provide professionals with opportunities and training to develop new skills which could also be of value to the firm. This could be anything from internal training on a new piece of productivity software or a management course for those looking to progress to a leadership role.

Finally, you can put people first by making sure employees are utilising their best skills. There’s such a wide range of automation and AI software available to legal firms now that most menial and time-sucking tasks can be done by machines. So instead of having your firm’s most valuable assets tied up in tedious administrative tasks, look to invest in technology that can free up the brainpower of your best and brightest. It’s their knowledge, experience and skills which landed them their jobs in the first place – so use them!

People are a firm’s best asset, and yet too many firms overlook the needs of their professionals, treating them like factory-line inputs. To grow your business, to take it to the next level and become an industry leader, you don’t have the luxury of simply plodding along as you have for years. By putting people first, firms can build a skilled and motivated team of professionals that care about the work they do and the clients they work with.

Simply put: when your employees thrive, you thrive.

 

By Peter Maloney, GlobalX CEO