We do this because most of the gripes tend to be small things that can be fixed quite quickly and cheaply and when staff see that “things are happening” they tend to come forward with other, bigger suggestions and before you know it, a lot of the problems are fixed.
But no matter the size of the Firm or where they are located, the things that staff like or dislike tend to be the same, or very similar things.
The list they create can be anonymous by handing in notes on a bit of paper or made in an open forum, such as a small group. But no matter which way we use, the outcomes are nearly always the same.
The results are that they nearly always like who they work with. They like the social events, such as last year’s Christmas party and they might also like being located in town.
However, when it comes to the “dislike” list they nearly always put down the first dislike as; “underappreciated”.
In a recent Gallup Poll 71% of workers are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” in their work, meaning that only a third contribute to their work in a positive manner. I would say that from our anecdotal surveys it’s probably higher than that.
But let’s take that one step further and see what it really means for the Firm or business these disgruntled people work in.
By asking the people who listed “underappreciated” exactly what they mean, we discovered that the knock-on effect of this was enormous and had a big impact on the whole business.
For example, when we hear comments such as “The partners don’t appreciate me and don’t really value the work I do” we ask how that makes them feel and how does it manifest itself on a daily basis.
It means they arrive as late as possible and leave exactly on time. They don’t go the extra mile on anything. They make no real effort to help others. They don’t provide the kind of service they would if they felt appreciated. This ripples through and affects overall productivity, leading to negativity and low morale which inevitably leads to increased staff turnover; all at a time when many firms are struggling to survive.
And yet, the remedy is easy to implement.
Why? Well, when we ask the partners if they appreciate their staff, guess what? They do.
They just don’t tell them.
So the simple solution is to tell them.
Telling them can be done in a variety of ways but often the simplest solution is the best one such as saying “Thank you. Your contribution makes a difference” or better still, writing to them, emailing them or by creating some service awards or as many of the staff say…by giving us a pay rise!
The partners do actually want to give a pay rise, but until some things change, that might not be possible. So what else can be done?
Well, the army is not the place you would ordinarily look to in matters of staff appreciation. They also have other names for it such as man-management and its counterparts, motivation and leadership.
You might think that an army has nothing much to do with a law firm, but let me give you some examples of their thinking and see if any of it could apply to a law firm.
Field Marshal The Viscount Montgomery of Alamein defined leadership as “The will to dominate together with the character which inspires confidence.” He went on to say that “…a leader has got to learn to dominate the events which surround him; he must never allow these events to get the better of him; he must always be on top of his job and be prepared to accept responsibility.”
Wouldn’t it be good if a few partners demonstrated these abilities?
General Sir John Hackett said “…when speaking of leadership I do so in the context of a leader in battle; in battle, pressures are high and the problems of leadership stand out. But while battle may be unique but the problems it exposes are not. Leadership is concerned with getting people to do things willingly when it is most keenly needed, when difficulties, doubts and dangers are at their greatest. Successful leadership is impossible without the leader’s commitment to the group in his care.”
There is no doubt that the Legal Services Act, ABS’s, the recession (it IS actually a depression but won’t be called that for at least 5 years) all combine to make it feel as if we are in a battle. Difficulties, doubts and dangers are at their greatest.
So are you as “leaders” committed to your group? You almost certainly appreciate them, but do you tell them?
If not, what’s stopping you?
(Oh, and the other two dislikes on the list? IT systems and pay…nearly always those two)