If you have the talent you want, how do you keep it? by Jane Pritchard, TV Edwards

This blog post was also featured as a column in the July 2016 issue of Legal Practice Management magazine. To read the issue in full, download LPM magazine.

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It’s an important debate for SME firms – do homegrown staff reign supreme, or is the investment in training too great and buying in speciality the way to go? Either way, if you have the talent you want, how do you keep it?

I’ve been at the front line of recruitment recently, bringing on solicitors, paralegals, and central support staff. It’s not my favourite pastime, but the outcome can be incredibly rewarding and success does tend to be directly linked to investment in the recruitment process.

My view, without a doubt, is that homegrown talent wins. There are times when unavoidable gaps arise or expansion is needed and you have to go to the market, but a carefully considered pathway for career development and training should inform a plan on how staf will grow with the business. You might expect large firms to do better with more resources to spend on dedicated in-house HR teams, but once again SME firms ought to have the advantage. The person who opens the post is more likely to see the person who owns the business, therefore the ability to deliver a family-team ethos is enhanced.

If your business is too small to have an HR team in-house, HR consultancy is a wise investment – providing not only resource on the thorny side of HR, the disciplinaries and restructuring, but the positive stuff like flexible working initiatives, appraisals and staf development. It’s here that there’s so much to be gained. Staff really do want to feel that they can make a diference in their job. Some will obtain this drive through vocational aspiration. For others, it’s about being managed well, having a say in how the place is run, a visible structure to climb for career progression to prevent them jumping ship, and pay back for the investment they’ve made in developing the business.

When staff feel valued, appreciated and visible to their management team they’re prepared to invest in the business. Staff may move around for more money, but if it’s only about the money, they’re probably not the staf you want or need to keep in the first place. In 2016, where there is more transparency in salary structures, benchmarking and lateral competition, non- financial ways of rewarding staf are crucial. If you can’t aford pay rises, what loyalty schemes are feasible? Can you create training opportunities? Agencies have never been more active than in 2016, tempting your staf with a greener type of grass, but leaving a rewarding role in a successful team where career progression is visible is a less attractive prospect.

So, down to practicalities. If your ladder is currently not worth climbing, invest in a new one! What does partnership mean? Acknowledge who your talent is and start a conversation to consult on the work rewards that matter to them, and you should stand out from your competitors by having a workforce that money can’t buy. 

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