YourABA April 2012 Masthead

Five reasons for employee turnover and strategies for overcoming them

A recent Manpower survey showed that 84 percent of employees want to change jobs, and only 5 percent want to stay with their current employer. Such statistics seem to indicate that when the economy improves, employers may be dealing with the challenges associated with losing employees—and their clients.

In his Law Practice Today article, “Prepare Now for the Oncoming Wave of Turnover,” author Chuck Roberts of Performance Management Group, Inc., a business development consultancy, writes that there are strategies that can stem good employees from leaving, and that the slow economic recovery gives firms the time to mitigate the reasons for employee dissatisfaction.

“The trend is unmistakable, as the data all suggest that turnover numbers are headed for new heights that could be devastating to your firm,” says Roberts.

Below are five primary reasons for employee resignation, along with advice for alleviating these situations:

Looking for new challenges: “Supervisors should consciously assign different types of matters to each employee,” advises Roberts, who says that firms often assign similar matters to the same employee over and again because of a demonstrated expertise. Repetitive tasks can make employees feel bored and pigeonholed. New assignments have the added benefits of cross-training employees and developing the firm’s flexibility to handle a range of different matters.

In addition to assigning a variety of projects, supervisors should also examine if the firm’s employee training is adequate. While Manpower found that 73 percent of employers report the adequacy of job-related training opportunities, only 56 percent of employees agreed. Be sure to get employees involved in defining their own training needs, says Roberts.

Ineffective leadership: Provide training and a good executive coach for existing and upcoming leaders, recommends Roberts, explaining that too many law firm leaders have risen to positions of power without the skill to create and communicate their vision—thus  derailing organizational alignment and employee motivation.

Also, if founding attorneys lack business management backgrounds, “segregate ownership and leadership by hiring a CEO or COO who may not be an attorney, but who has leadership and business skills,” advises Roberts. “Bringing in external help in this manner does not require relinquishing control, as this new C-level executive can report to a board of directors consisting of the owning partners.”  

Poor relationship with manager: Provide targeted training to managers who need improvement in communication and supervisory skills, says Roberts. This training can help managers foster better relations with their employees, while also providing the added benefit of lowering the firm’s risk exposure posed by human resources issues.

Seeking work/life balance: “Adopting a more flexible approach to work practices allows employees to experience a higher degree of freedom in accomplishing their assignments, allows them to work when they are more productive, and reduces their stress level,” says Roberts. Training employees in time management and delegation as well as mentoring can help ensure expected output levels.

Contributions to the firm not recognized: Employees need positive recognition, but few managers go beyond critical guidance and documenting poor performance, says Roberts, recommending organizationally driven, non-monetary recognition programs. These programs are easy to implement and inexpensive, and provide managers with regular opportunities to recognize good work. When developing such a program, start at the top with the chairman of the board—executive and middle managers who feel appreciated are more likely to pass that feeling on to their staffs.

Law Practice Today is an e-publication of the Law Practice Management Section.

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