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How your firm can retain talent during a skills shortage

05/02/2018
Posted by: Lynn Sedgwick

After 2017’s climate of uncertainty, largely triggered by Brexit, UK law firms are understandably cautious going forward. However, on the whole, they are demonstrating their robustness by expressing a desire to continue with business as usual. In fact, our latest white paper, The Challenges and Opportunities Facing Legal firms in 2018, reveals that a significant majority (66%) of firms are looking to increase their headcount over the coming year. Of those businesses, 4% expect to increase staffing by 5% and 11% predict that it could be by as much as 30%. So, clearly there is considerable optimism about the opportunities for headcount growth in the coming year.

However, there appears to be challenges ahead surrounding the availability of labour. Around two-thirds (67%) of those surveyed say a skills shortage is their top concern for 2018 and 20% cited staff retention. And with business lobby group British Chambers of Commerce saying that skills shortages reached ‘critical levels’ in the last quarter of 2017, it is now vital for firms to retain the talent that they already have. So, which retention strategies can be used to incentivise existing staff to stay?

Flexible hours

The most important thing is to consider what your staff value the most. New research from HSBC reveals that 89% of employees view flexible working as a key motivator - more than the 77% who were influenced by financial incentives. Yet our survey found that only 33% of respondent firms offered flexible hours and fewer still provided part-time options. While it is encouraging to see that practices are increasingly aware of the demand for adaptable working patterns, those that don’t offer them to staff – and at all levels of seniority - risk losing them to businesses that do.

Remote working

Our survey revealed that 22% of firms offer staff the opportunity to work outside of the office. And, in a profession where long hours are the norm, there’s no doubt that many employees would welcome the opportunity to dispense with their commute on occasion. Does your firm make use of the technology available that facilitates this, such as cloud storage?

Training and development

In its recent Human Capital Trends report, Deloitte found 51% of companies rated ‘investing in talent’ as an urgent priority. Consequently, it is a surprise that none of our survey respondents cited training and development as a key retention offering at their firm. Millennials, in particular, will be hard to attract without excellent training and development programmes: a recent report by PwC found that 74% of the millennials it surveyed said that learning new skills to remain employable was something that they valued highly. And, over a quarter said this was the most important factor in making an organisation an attractive employer. Given that this generation will make up three-quarters of the UK workforce by 2025, firms cannot afford to overlook their needs: doing so will mean that they could fail to engage with a large share of skilled talent over the coming years.

Bonuses, sabbaticals and other offerings

Of course, while our research shows that flexible hours, remote working and training opportunities are important ways to invest in and retain staff, they aren’t an exhaustive list. Other benefits such as bonuses, sabbaticals, employee discounts, paid volunteering leave and a holiday allowance that increases over time, are just some of the other ways to incentivise staff. The best way to find out what your staff would value is to simply ask.

Not only are these methods excellent ways to keep staff engaged, they will also make your firm more attractive to potential recruits. At a time of significant skills shortages, are you doing all that you can, to attract and retain?

To request a full copy of the report, contact marketing@clayton-legal.co.uk. Furthermore, to speak to the team about your recruiting needs, call 01772 259 121

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