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Recruiting and Retention

Retaining Your Firm’s Greatest Assets

By Marcia Pennington Shannon
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© 2003. Published in Law Practice Today, May/June 2003, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.

Why is retention so important? For one thing, studies show that the cost of replacing a professional-level employee is between 110 to 200 percent of the individual’s annual salary. This can be very expensive to an employer, especially if there is repeat turnover in a particular group or the firm as a whole.
But it’s more than just the money. Turnover leads to reduced morale and productivity in the remaining staff, and it makes it difficult to attract the kind of new people you want to employ. Creating an environment in which retaining valued employees is the rule, and not the exception, is just plain good business.
Why Do Employees Want to Stay?
What factors influence individuals to stick with their current positions? Most managers think that the top answer is money—a belief that has led to the loss of many a talented employee. Actually, money is pretty far down the list for most individuals, including lawyers. Here are the most frequent reasons that people stay in their jobs, as reported by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans in Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay:
  • Career growth and professional development
  • Exciting and challenging work
  • Meaningful work, making a difference and a contribution
  • Great people
  • Being part of a team
  • Good boss
  • Recognition for work well-done
  • Fun on the job
  • Autonomy, sense of control over work
  • Flexibility, in, for example, work hours and dress code
  • Fair pay and benefits
  • Inspiring leadership
  • Pride in the organization, its mission and quality of product
  • Great work environment
  • Location
  • Job security
  • Family-friendliness
Notice how far down the list “pay and benefits” appear. Then notice how far up the list “good boss” appears!
Managers frequently underestimate their value in retaining employees. But you do have tremendous impact in that regard. Gone are the days when an employee stays with an organization because of loyalty to the organization itself. The loyalty is now given to the employee’s boss—but only when it is earned.
When a supervisor takes the time to consider the needs and desires of his or her staff, the supervisor is often rewarded with motivated and productive workers who don’t need to look for satisfaction outside of their current workplace. That reward, in turn, is invaluable to the entire firm. A law firm’s “human resources” are what make the firm competitive and strong, particularly in a difficult marketplace.

Continue reading the full article here for concrete steps to improve retention, encourage ingenuity, and an action plan to do so.