Frequent feedback: Improving productivity, absence and long-term commitment at your firm

Law firms can be hectic places, and anyone looking to make a career in one certainly needs to be well prepared.

Feedback matters in any job, but frequent feedback is increasingly more vital in busy, fast-paced workplaces such as firms. Employees of all stripes are craving more regular feedback, and conveyance firms are no exception to this trend.

Engagement in the legal sector

Along with productivity, high employee engagement is what we strive for with feedback.

In our previous article, we discussed how research by Aon has shown that law firms can often struggle to engage their employees, with associates being particularly impacted by disengagement at work.

Despite being the most engaged demographic, one-third of partners still reported being disengaged in their role. This can be a real obstacle to the implementation of regular two-way feedback, because it needs to flow from the top down with engaged and enthused partners taking the initiative.

A lack of feedback can cause serious issues

A lack of frequent feedback in the office is essentially a breakdown in communication.

The knock-on effects this has on a firm can be pretty damaging.

While it’s often suggested as a means of specifically engaging and retaining young legal talent, a good cycle of continuous feedback can be universally beneficial.

Not only has regular feedback been shown to be important for keeping turnover low, but its absence can severely damage productivity. According to research by Hubspot, 69% of employees reported that they would work harder if they felt their efforts were being better recognized through improved cycles of feedback.

Productivity-wise, it’s been a turbulent time for conveyancing firms as of late. In 2016, the sector was doing incredibly well, with productivity soaring by 55% compared to results from previous years. But this year, like many areas of the legal sector and other businesses in general, conveyancers have experienced difficulties as a result of COVID-19. Despite achieving a four-year high in January, by March, many firms were, unsurprisingly, experiencing their lowest level of transactions in seven years.

This is, to some extent, unavoidable because there’s simply been less business being conducted during lockdown. But the other side of it is that, like many of us, conveyancing lawyers have had to adapt to their new remote working lives.

While there are many rewards to be seized through remote work practices, remote workers are at even greater risk of being disengaged, due to the increased likelihood of them feeling isolated from their co-workers and the firm’s long-term objectives. Even senior partners with years of leadership experience may have to re-evaluate their management styles in order to get to grips with the “new normal”.

Consistent communication and regular feedback are the heart of engagement

One major reason why feedback and communication are so vital for engagement is that without them, employees can end up lacking clarity about their own workplace responsibilities. When giving feedback to a member of the firm, managing partners need to take that opportunity to ensure that both parties are on the same page with regard to the firm’s objectives and how they are impacted by an employee’s contributions.

While we’re all quite familiar with annual performance reviews, employees on all levels generally prefer consistent feedback. It allows managers to respond to the ever-changing demands of fast-paced work environments like law firms, and give employees feedback that’s timely and relevant.

More law firms have been replacing traditional performance review methods with different approaches to giving feedback in recent years. Take Hogan Lovells, who made the switch moving away from annual reviews to continuous feedback using their ‘Pathways’ system. In the words of CEO Steve Immelt:

“It’s time to break that outdated and irrelevant mold and move on to provide the information that people really need to hear throughout the year – what am I doing well, where can I grow, what is my career path. Pathways helps us fulfill our fundamental responsibility to be candid, supportive, and constructive with our people.”

But they’re far from the only firm experimenting with more frequent forms of workplace feedback.

In 2018, the global law firm DLA Piper implemented collaborative feedback in conjunction with a strengths-based approach, wherein employees work out their strongest areas and then get support in learning how to apply those strengths in new ways.

Interestingly, Gallup research has shown that employees who use their strengths at work on a daily basis are up to six times more likely to be engaged.

Modern engagement tools enable continuous feedback in conveyance firms

A commonly made argument against more frequent feedback in conveyance firms (or any business, for that matter) is how expensive traditional annual performance reviews and employee surveys can already be.

Research by Gallup has shown that annual performance reviews can cost large businesses up to $35 million per 10,000 employees. Deloitte estimated that the whole business was spending 1.8 million hours on reviews each year when they ditched them in 2016.

So it makes sense that managing partners in some firms would be skittish about committing to a higher frequency of feedback that logic would suggest means more time and money. But whether you’re trying to supplement performance reviews or replace them altogether, modern tools and services can enable regular feedback far more affordably both from a time and cash perspective.

A great example would be the lightweight weekly check-in platform we offer here at Weekly10.

The platform is affordably priced, and are even free to teams of five or less. More importantly, our service allows managing partners not only to gather and give feedback on a consistent basis but also to apply that information using our AI-powered engagement and performance analytics.

Whether you look to Weekly10, another specialist provider or simply implement something yourself using email and a free SurveyMonkey account, we’d urge firms to have a look at the benefits of moving to a performance culture built up around frequent employee feedback as we move forward in a post COVID world.

 

Image: https://unsplash.com/@charlesdeluvio

 

 

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