Monthly Archives: February 2010

Staff engagement moves up the agenda of top firms

What is engagement? The term can mean different things to different people. Some equate it to job satisfaction or commitment.  Although these are both important elements, they are not necessarily the ones that will have a direct impact on business performance. Your staff may be satisfied and may like working for you but the real test is do staff like it here, do they want to stay and will they go that extra mile. Being able to understand that and measure it is a real differentiator for companies.

Full engagement represents an alignment of maximum job satisfaction (“I like my work and do it well”) with maximum job contribution (“I help achieve the goals of my organisation”). This is a real win-win situation that meets the needs of the organization and staff. It’s the panacea that savvy organizations strive for in order to effect the bottom line. Employers want engaged staff because they deliver improved business performance; a fact demonstrated many times by research.  The independent research organization Gallup found that organizations with engaged staff have lower turnover, higher growth, better productivity and better customer loyalty.

Given the clear association between engagement, job satisfaction, and performance, there is every incentive for management to seek to drive up levels of engagement among their workforce. Employers should consider: allowing people the opportunity to feed their views and opinions upwards as this is seen as the single most important driver of engagement.  In addition keeping employees informed about what is going on in the organisation is also seen as crucial. Different groups of employees are influenced by different combinations of factors, and managers need to consider carefully what is most important to their own staff.

So how do you build an engaged workforce?

The first step is to measure the current level of employee engagement.  This includes staff’s perceptions on a range of dimensions including for example, reward & recognition, communications, personal development, leadership and work/life balance. Without this benchmark organisations will find it impossible to judge what areas they have right and where they need to improve.

Continue reading

Using Problem Solving Techniques to Bring About Change

We probably all recognise that lawyers in legal practices struggle to be “innovative” and often fail to take on board good ideas from others around them.  Here are some techniques that I use to help lawyers and support staff to apply their knowledge and experience; to help them find innovative solutions in day-to-day management of a legal practice, which can produce radical improvements in financial performance. 

To respond to changing demands and expectations from clients and introducers; and to capitalise on more user-friendly and more pervasive IT capabilities, there is a need now – more than ever before – to be proactive in generating more improvements in how legal services are delivered.  If you are unfamiliar in using them, we can introduce them and help your people learn to apply them as a matter of routine in the future.

Innovation is simply about doing things differently to achieve improved results.  Looked at another way, “innovation” is about seeking opportunities to improve and solving problems.  I define a “problem” as any event or circumstance that results in a reduced standard of service for the client, any event or circumstance that results in additional cost to the organisation, or missed opportunities.  This is a very wide definition and includes the obvious things such as client complaints, cases taking too long, lack of client communication, missed deadlines, etc, etc.  It also includes things like wasted time for whatever reason, conducting unnecessary non value-adding activities, fee earners not billing enough, and having too many or too few fee earners.

To address these sorts of issues, we need to go through a well defined and structured process in which we: define the opportunity we want to improve or the problem we want to solve; understand the problem or opportunity, understand the size of it and measure where we are now; establish the root causes for the problem; identify possible solutions; select one and do it; and finally measure the results. 

Measurement is key, since how else will we know that we have improved at all unless there is some form of measurement?  Just as there may be many different ways for improving a process, there are likely to be a number of different ways in which a particular problem can be improved or resolved.  However, there is seldom only one solution that will solve a problem completely.  It is a process of continuous improvement.  One thing, however, is clear, “nothing will change unless we change something”.

There are some very simple techniques that can be used to improve how we do things, solve problems, and innovate.  Four such techniques are: use of Pareto Analysis, Brainstorming, use of “Cause and Effect” diagrams, and Process Flow Charting.

Continue reading

Why use hosted IT services?

The key benefits are set out here, from research conducted  by IDC.  These ring very true from our real-life experience of working with law firms who have gone down this route.

Q: Rate the benefits commonly ascribed to the “Cloud” / on-demand / SaaS model

This chart show respondents ranking each benefit at 4 or 5 where 1=not important and 5=very important.

Source: IDC Enterprise Panel, August 2008 (242 respondents)

But one of the main benefits is not included here – it allows IT people to focus their time and effort on improving business processes to streamline the way people work and how the business is run; also on training to help lawyers make better use of what they’ve got. If you want to explore options to have your IT hosted or managed by a third party, call us on 0161 929 8355 or complete this form

07779 653105 or email me at acarton@inpractice.co.uk

5 Simple Questions: Listening to clients to understand their "Client Experience".

If Virgin Trains give you a bad experience (ticket office, late train, poor service, toilets broken and non-caring staff) from Liverpool or Manchester to London you feel pretty angry but are likely to use them again as they are the only train service and driving or plane are not for you. As a client or prospect of a law firm you have a choice; you can give the lawyers a bad reputation, which will get passed on – and you can go to another supplier.

It is a simple fact that law firms compete by delivering greater value to clients than their competitors. If you are not able to deliver value, or enable the client to recognise [measure] it, then there is little chance of winning, keeping or growing them for more business. The key therefore to securing the future success of your firm is to identify the sources of client value and understand how clients measure it?

My co-consultant Lee Williams lwilliams@inpractice.co.uk is increasingly bringing his extensive experience in the management of client expectations from a commercial and financial services environment into the legal sector dealing with culture and business processes (lean) to effect major improvements.

“Anytime a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business, however remote, it is an opportunity to form an impression.”  Jan Carlzon (Former CEO, Scandinavian Airlines)

Lee says “Essentially value is equated or measured by clients in terms of a set of positive or negative experiences? We often simplify this to being, a measure of value for money! But it can be much more than this. Value is measured by clients, through their analysis of what it is like doing business with us, the output from interaction or benefits when compared with the sacrifices they make in doing, and choosing to do, business with us.

Ahead of this article a quick straw poll of just a few of my friends about what it is like dealing with law firms brought about the following comments:

“Tell them to answer their phones!”

“I hope you’re not going to talk to them for too long, they charge by the minute”.

“They charge 21st century fees for a 19th century service”.

These ‘moments of truth’ possibly provide an invaluable insight into what it is like ‘doing business’ with your firm – enabling you and your colleagues to respond positively. 

Question 1What is it like doing business with us?

You need to start by capturing those moments of truth, both positive and negative, that describe what it is like doing business with you!

Second, you need to map out your clients experiences, their key touchpoints, who they talk to (or not in the case of my friend’s experience), how you compare to other businesses they deal with (including professional service businesses), what process you put them through, what communications you make or don’t, how many people they have to deal with.  This list can be extensive, however when complete you can really describe their experiences (remember all clients are different and so are their expectations and experiences).

Question 2 Which businesses that you deal with deliver a great customer experience and why?  How do you compare them?

Next you need to understand your sources of value.  These can be your people; “we just love working with John he’s an absolute star” or “the efficient way you handled my case was excellent”.  Interestingly, the core element of your service, i.e. law, won’t often be cited as a source of value.  Often your ability to perform law is simply expected, it’s what all law firms do; it’s not what differentiates you over competitors. 

Question 3 What is it that you actually value in doing business with us?  Why us, not them?

Continue reading