With the pressures of the billable hour, a culture of perfectionism, law firm dynamics and political minefields, paying attention to the happiness of the individuals who make up a law firm can seem like a waste of precious resources. Years ago I spoke to one leader of a large company who candidly said he didn’t have time for “touchy-feeling” things or worry about someone’s tender feelings. While that perspective has changed in many industries, we might be close to a backlash. We hear about safe spaces and being triggered and micro-aggressions everywhere it seems. We feel burned out of the burnout. Why can’t we just do our jobs?
Leaders in any industry (law firms being no different) must recognize that employee experience and employee resilience has a direct vein to the heart of the organization. It impacts the mission and financial bottom line. Attrition and turnover costs $ 9.1 billion in the top 400 US law firms each year, alone. This does not include the cost of mental health and addiction challenges of the lawyers who are suffering but don’t leave. It also does not account for the cost of malpractice or the firm’s loss of reputation when those challenges impact the quality of a lawyer’s work.
The IBM Smarter Workforce Institute research have shown links between positive “employee experience and retention, discretionary effort, and work performance.” Organizations that scored in the top 25 percent on employee experience reported almost three times the return on assets and two times the return on sales compared to the organizations in the bottom quartile.
Positive employee experience has little (or nothing) to do with having ping-pong tables and gum ball machines in the break room (sorry, Silicon Valley). Employees who have a positive experience in the workplace report a sense of belonging, purpose, achievement, happiness, and vigor. These can be markedly improved by focusing on cultivating employee and team resilience.