Approximately five years ago the law firm I co-founded and currently operate, LaVan and Neidenberg, P.A. experienced a growth spurt. Our disability caseload reached an all-time high, and so did our need for additional human resources. In just six short months, our staff increased by 50 percent, from 60 to 120 employees.
At that moment I realized that to continue generating profits, our firm would have to invest in our intellectual capital – our employees. We set out to create a work environment that would cultivate confident, self-motivated super stars and render measurable performance results.
I am often asked by other Social Security disability law firms to evaluate their businesses' processes and staffs' performance. When I examine a law firm's process, I look for ways to gain efficiency by maximizing its employees' potential. The goal is to ensure each team member is fully engaged in the firm's process and fully invested in its success.
The following are tips I give law firms and that I have used to strengthen and support our firm's employees. Through these methods, my staff members have embraced a collective goal of company success, driven by the individual opportunities for improvement and recognition that I have set in motion.
Tip #1: Set Your Employees Up For Success
Train and train, but don't over-train. Business owners should focus on hiring and molding teams that evolve and respect the value of the services being offered by their businesses. You’ll want to create an environment that promotes diligence and ownership. We take the time to set up programs and methods that allow individuals to stand out and be recognized for their hard work.
As an incentive to hard-working employees, we choose to promote from within. In fact, our management team consists of employees I have personally mentored and challenged to become the key staff members they are today. Mentor and take time with employees who show the most promise of becoming super stars.
Tip #2: Provide a Challenging Environment
Monotony is the killer of productivity. I am a huge believer in systems and consistency, and while a set routine is essential for productivity, it can also cause employees to become complacent. You’ll want to consider adding variety to your employees’ work-flows or tasks to keep them challenged and fresh.
Goal setting is one of the best ways to boost performance, but only when done properly. It is most effective to set realistic goals that range from simple tasks that can be completed in a few days to long-term goals that may take several months to meet.
Keep in mind that challenging should not equal the impossible. To create a good challenge, you need to know your employees’ strengths and weaknesses, which brings me to my next goal.
Tip #3: Nurture Strengths and Manage Weaknesses
From the first day on the job, start observing employees’ strengths and weaknesses. This will help you match their roles, responsibilities, and goals to their best and strongest traits making success a sure thing. Weaknesses should not be viewed as a negative trait in an employee, but rather an area to be improved upon with the right motivation and task delegation.
Tip #4: Reward Top Performers
Improving employee performance is hard work for both the employer and the employee. Therefore, it is important to have systems in place to track employee productivity. Tracking productivity encourages your employees to meet and surpass their goals.
Holding employee reviews and reward ceremonies where top performers are acknowledged and appreciated boosts morale. These events also demonstrate to the entire team that there are benefits to going above and beyond at their jobs. Give your employees the opportunity to nominate their peers for awards based upon exemplary performance. Sometimes the best acknowledgments don’t come from their boss, but rather their co-workers.
Tip #5: Discover What Motivates Each Staff Member
Schedule quarterly town hall meetings. This allows you to educate your staff on the global environment and company goals as well as opens you up to listen to employee feedback. Everyone has a motivator, whether it is public praise from his or her employer, gifts or an extra day off. Learn what things motivate your employees and use them in conjunction with your top performer recognitions. When you give incentives beyond continuing their employment, you’ll be amazed at what your employees will accomplish.
Tip #6: Remember: It’s Okay to Fire
It is important to keep in mind that not every employee will share your vision of success. For some individuals, your company is “just another job,” and no matter how convincing you are, they won’t be motivated to give that extra effort. So, when goal setting, performance awards, task empowerment, and motivational strategies don’t improve an employee's performance or demeanor, it’s perfectly acceptable to part ways.
Your Employees Are the Lifeblood of Your Law Firm
Since our focus on employee growth and empowerment, we've celebrated some major milestones; dozens of quarterly achievement awards, several employment anniversaries, a few bittersweet retirements, and our end of the year recap parties.
When you take care of your employees, your employees will take care of your business in return. Businesses with happy, motivated, and challenged staff members show higher productivity and create a more pleasant work environment.