Here at the PILMMA offices we’re finishing up our annual review of our processes, systems and procedures for our operations manual. I’m a big fan of systems because they make it so much easier to run a business. You don’t have to be held hostage by any one employee because the operations manual means that they can be easily replaced if necessary.
I want to make sure my business can continue to function if we have a change of personnel, whether it’s PILMMA or my law firm. Don’t get the idea, though, that I chew up and spit out employees on a regular basis. One of my mottos is, “Hire slow, fire fast.” I want to make sure I hire superstars. Then I want to keep them.
People don’t quit their jobs because of money. They quit because they don’t like their boss or because they don’t feel valued. Even with the systems, procedures and processes in place for your staff, you still have to value, inspire and motivate them.
I say that if you’re good to your staff, they’ll be good to your clients. So it’s not just being a good person, it’s also good for business. Inspiring your team to achieve greatness gives you peace of mind, reduces your costs and gets you more referrals.
Below are 9 ways to inspire your staff. I have personally used these in my law firm.
1. Have a mission statement and core values and ensure that all your employees understand them.
Like myself, for many lawyers, running a personal injury practice is about more than money; it’s the opportunity to help people by providing them with the best representation to get them a just and fair result with exceptional client service. Our core values and mission statement encapsulate what we aim to provide and how we aim to provide it.
I can always hire someone with the necessary skills, but will they match my core values? I want my employees to understand and genuinely believe in my mission statement and core values, incorporating them into everything they do.
2. Give your employees good tools.
Picture the scene – you’ve hired a new lawyer and the only place in the office to put them is the storage room. Some paperback books prop up their desk where one of the legs has broken. The computer runs Windows XP – slowly – and sounds like a mission to Mars taking off. When they sit in the only spare chair, it slowly sinks lower and lower under their weight.
Do you think you’re going to get the best from that lawyer in those circumstances? Do they think you care about them?
I want to give my employees the best tools possible for them to get on and do their job as efficiently as possible. I give them modern, fast computers so that they’re not slowed down. I give them high quality desks and chairs that match their ergonomic needs. I ensure they have good lighting and good facilities.
3. Fix problems promptly.
When an employee brings a problem to your attention, if you don’t deal with it promptly then it looks like you don’t care. The problem may not appear to affect you personally although it could have a serious impact on the running of your firm. A small computer glitch that slows down one person could have a domino effect on others in your law practice.
Maintenance problems may seem inconsequential, however the door that sticks or the out-of-order toilet stall will get employees talking about that instead of their work and distract them from their priorities. The longer the problem is left to fester, the more likely the banter will begin to focus on how you, as their employer, don’t care about them. So show them you care by fixing problems quickly.
4. Give positive feedback in public and constructive criticism in private.
Almost everybody likes to be praised; no one wants to be embarrassed. Praise your staff in front of their colleagues, acknowledging their contribution in public, but avoid embarrassing them by providing constructive feedback behind closed doors.
5. Have monthly meetings to make your staff feel a part of the firm.
Get your team to buy into what your firm is doing by keeping them informed and giving them the opportunity to provide feedback and a sense of ownership. Your team may have a better understanding of the real impact of your strategies on the front line so their suggestions can help you improve what you’re doing. Bring in take-out such as pizza and soda to show appreciation for their time and input.
6. Have a suggestion box.
At my law firm, we have a suggestion box for employees and give points for each suggestion. At the end of the year, we give away a prize such as a week’s paid vacation, to the person who had the most suggestions, with smaller prizes for the 1st and 2nd runners up.
Employees are a great source of productivity improvement. They often know exactly what is needed to help them accomplish a task faster or to prevent a problem from occurring in the first place I want to encourage them to provide any suggestions they have. They won’t always be practical but I want to hear them all the same. The suggestion box makes it easy for employees to offer a suggestion whenever they have an idea. When I make a change because of a suggestion from a member of staff, I make a point of publicly acknowledging and thanking them.
7. Monthly occasions.
Last year I talked about using obscure and different holidays to shape your marketing calendar around. You could also use a different occasion each month to have some fun in your office.
For example, you could have a costume contest on Halloween or pot-luck lunch on Thanksgiving.
Whether it’s finding an opportunity to give away cookies (last Thursday was National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day) or fruit (National Apricot Day is Friday January 9th 2015), or just to have some fun, there’s something going on almost every day of the year to give you ideas.
8. Get-together breakfast.
At the beginning of each year, I close down the office for a day, divert the phone calls to an answering service, and take everyone from the firm to a local hotel for a get-together breakfast meeting.
We use this as an opportunity to bring everyone together to get their feedback, discuss our goals for the coming year and get everyone on board with the 12-month plan. We recognize our successes over the previous 12 months and publicly acknowledge and thank those who have contributed in specific ways. It’s a great way to energize the team and kick off the year.
9. Christmas Families.
Every year at Christmas I would ask my case managers to identify 3 or 4 clients with small children who are struggling financially. I would then pick up the bill for Marilyn, our office manager, to go and buy everything those families needed to make a happy Christmas for their kids, such as turkeys, hams and gifts. Everyone in the firm would get involved by wrapping up the gifts and some would make a contribution themselves. The best moment came when we delivered all these goodies to families who would otherwise have had no Christmas. It’s one of the highlights of the year for me (I enjoy wearing the red Santa suit and the kids get a kick out of it).
You don’t have to use all of the 9 ways to inspire your staff, although I use these and a lot more at my own law practice. Start with just one idea and see how your employees respond, before implementing another. You won’t regret it.