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Employee morale and your firm’s productivity: 6 easy ways to boost both

By Elizabeth M. Miller  bio

Employees’ attitudes have changed over the years. Good, loyal employees want more than a paycheck and health benefits. Studies have shown that compensation does not even rate in the top 5 of what makes an employee happy with their job.

I believe happy employees are productive employees and anyone who believes otherwise is overlooking the effects that office morale has on efficiency and productivity. I can just hear someone now mumbling, They get paid, don’t they? Isn’t that enough? The short answer—No. It isn’t.

With many law firms operating under the philosophy of “doing more with less,” it is more important than ever that there be a team spirit in the office that draws the staff together to work as a cohesive team.

Law firms are very busy and the goal is good service to the client and billable hours. HR “tricks” that work in other companies might not work in a law firm. The environment is different, time is scarce, and the firm concentrates on billable hours.

But there are things that law firms can do that will not break the budget or interfere with the productivity of the office that will go a long way to boosting morale and laying a foundation for a  cohesive legal team:

  1. Provide breakfast once a week or once a month on Fridays. It’s the end of the week; everyone has worked hard and, while there is still one more day of billable time ahead of them, a few minutes to grab a bagel and a cup of coffee will jump start everyone to bill a few more hours before leaving for the weekend.
  2. Have a staff lunch once a month. Order some pizzas or sandwiches or organize a potluck. Everyone has to eat lunch anyway. Sit down with everyone and socialize with your staff. It takes the edge off and humanizes everyone.
  3. In the kitchen getting a cup of coffee? Bring your legal assistant or paralegal one. Sound silly? Maybe to you. But you may be surprised how much it will be appreciated and noticed that the boss brought a staff member a cup of coffee. Don’t be surprised if employees start paying it forward.
  4. Employee did a really good job on a project? Leave a sticky note on their computer thanking them for their hard work.
  5. Celebrate an employee’s birthday. Fifteen minutes in the kitchen or conference room to sing happy birthday and have a piece of cake is not going to affect the billable hours that much.
  6. Send your staff a motivational email in the morning. It takes less than one minute to do this, but people do notice and appreciate it. For example, I had gotten in the habit of doing this, but one day I was busy and simply forgot. The senior partner sent me an email asking me where my inspirational email for the day was. (One of my favorites is, “We take care of our employees so they take care of our clients.”)

I believe that managing staff is all about relationship management and good people skills. I could make an endless list of the gestures that cost little or no money but go a very long way.

Every attorney or firm I work with I encourage a culture of team-building and good morale. I really believe that it is the backbone to a solid organization in which everyone works together for a common goal—to provide outstanding service to the client.

I am sure someone reading this is shaking their head and thinking I do not have to stroke my employees’ egos, encourage them, or do more for them than give them a paycheck and the benefits that I agreed to provide. Remember, you give what you get—and the reality is that employees want to do a good job and be appreciated and the return will trickle down to outstanding service to your clients.

Since the practice of law is all about good service to your clients (so they will be repeat clients or send you referrals), this is a win-win for your firm. What goes around really does come around.

Still not convinced? I will leave you with one final thought: How did you feel the last time a client went the extra mile with a heartfelt thank you for doing a good job—the job you got paid to do?

Law office administration expert Elizabeth M. Miller will present a webinar on the pros and cons of flat fee billing on Nov. 15. It’s free to members of Law Office Manager.









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