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Designing Onboarding Plans to Build an Outstanding Legal Workforce

  • January 7, 2023

Designing the perfect legal workforce doesn’t start and end with choosing the right candidate for each role. Ensuring each employee can achieve their full potential means creating a long-term development plan which aligns your new staff with your company culture and goals and the results you want to achieve.

The correct development plan doesn’t just prepare your candidates for success when you first integrate them into your team. It also ensures they can continue to thrive for as long as they work at your firm. With the right plan of action, employers and managers can use the process of “onboarding” to enhance their company culture, inspire teams, and boost staff retention.

So, what exactly should your development strategy entail? Here’s what you need to know about building the perfect development plan.

Employee Orientation vs. Employee Onboarding

First, it’s worth defining what onboarding actually is. Many people still use the terms “onboarding” and “employee orientation” interchangeably. However, orientation and onboarding are two very separate concepts.

Employee orientation is a one-time event, focused on embedding new hires into your firm. During this process, human resources personnel and partners formerly introduce employees to the firm. They may take them on a tour of a physical office, or deliver information virtually through videos and presentations.

The idea behind employee orientation is to get your staff members prepared for their new roles. Employee onboarding is a more long-term concept. Onboarding encompasses the entire employee journey, starting from the moment they meet their colleagues, all the way up to the point where they are fully performing.

Used correctly, this process not only strengthens your employer brand and employee engagement, but it also paves the way for a more successful, productive, and efficient team. It helps to acclimatise staff to the company culture, set expectations, and keep team members aligned with the vision, mission, and goals of the firm.

How to Design an Onboarding Plan

Studies show an effective onboarding strategy and employee development plan have a significant impact on the success of any company’s team. Organisations with the right onboarding and induction programs achieve 50% higher new hire retention.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for onboarding, there are some steps you can use to improve your chances of the right results for your team.

1.    Choose a Strategy for Onboarding

First, it’s worth considering how you’re going to deliver your onboarding experience to candidates. Traditionally, onboarding took place within the office environment, consisting of regular face-to-face meetings, training opportunities, and induction processes. Since the shift to hybrid and remote work, around 1 in 7 working adults in the UK according to the ONS are currently working from home. In the US this figure is higher at 1 in 4 and in Australia, this figure hit 40% according to the ABS.Gov website.

As a result, more law firms are beginning to implement new virtual and hybrid onboarding efforts. While some meetings and interactions may continue to take place in-office, others may be delivered via video conferencing and online software. The key to success is figuring out which parts of your onboarding strategy require in-person interaction.

Consider asking your new hires which parts of the onboarding journey they may want to tackle in person, and which they’d prefer to do virtually, or in their own time.

2.    Assign Each Staff Member an Onboarding Buddy

Because onboarding is a long-term development strategy for each employee, it requires staff members to have someone they can turn to whenever they want to discuss their goals, explore training options, or ask questions.

An onboarding buddy is someone your employee can turn to whenever they need assistance getting the most out of their role. This could be a supervisor or manager. You could even consider using mentorship campaigns to connect new hires with senior staff across the firm.

Encourage regular communication between your new hire and their onboarding buddy, so they can develop a more transparent, authentic relationship. Some companies even use informal coffee chats and video calls between staff members and their “mentors” to help further integrate new hires into the company culture and track their progress.

3.    Prioritise Regular, Transparent Communication

For a legal development plan to be successful, every member of the team needs to feel as though they have a voice. Scheduling regular meetings between individual employees and managers where they can discuss progress, challenges, and opportunities is key.

Team members should be able to contribute to their own development, by suggesting areas where they feel like they need to improve, and requesting training opportunities where necessary. They should also feel comfortable reaching out to their line managers and/or other senior members of the team when they’re struggling with their workload, experiencing burnout, or feeling disconnected from the business vision.

Regular and transparent communication will also ensure  direct managers as well as senior leadership teams  can consistently set expectations for team members, based on the values and mission of the company. Make sure each employee knows how their performance will be evaluated, and what kind of qualities they need to demonstrate in their day-to-day work.

4.    Set and Regularly Update Goals

Up to 33% of employees quit within their first 6 months with a new company, and 86% of respondents in one survey said they would still switch jobs despite it damaging their CV/Resume and reputation. Following the effects of the Great Resignation, partners need to be extra sensitive to the engagement and satisfaction levels of their staff members.

This means providing every team member with a clear vision of the future they have in the firm and helping them to set and achieve their career goals. During regular meetings with each employee, line managers should encourage staff to discuss their strengths and weaknesses, and share insights on how they can grow moving forward.

As an employee’s position within the business continues to evolve, the individual or team responsible for their onboarding process should work with them to expand and update their goals. This will ensure staff feels as though they’re consistently moving in the right direction.

5.    Focus on Employee Development from the Get-Go

Creating a plan for employee development as part of your general onboarding strategy will ensure you can retain your top talent for longer, and achieve the best results from every member of your team.

Having clear communication and documentation around career paths, professional development, and objectives around progression will demonstrate to new legal professionals that there is investment in the long term.

The regular meetings with your new starters should also touch upon their professional development – where they are currently on that career path, as well as their future aspirations and goals.

In Conclusion

Hiring a new individual is a huge investment of time, money and internal resources so it’s imperative to ensure that once that individual joins your firm, their onboarding process is designed and focused on their long-term career (and not solely focused on the inevitable HR administration and initial IT setup!).

Of course, the success and retention of your new hire starts with ensuring that all important ‘fit’ from the outset. Using the services of a legal recruitment specialist can help here as they have the time and resources to ensure a deeper understanding of not only your challenges and objectives as a hirer, but the career aspirations and goals of the legal professionals they help as well. What’s more, many recruiters offer alternative services such as ‘retained search’ which may include elements such as psychometric testing, video profiling and virtual interviews which are all focused on that ‘fit’ giving you a head start on your onboarding process, and ensuring that individual is in it for the long run.

 

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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