Does the legal sector have an issue with employee engagement

In 2018, professional services organisation Aon conducted a large-scale research project entitled ‘The State of Partner and Employee Engagement in the Legal Sector 2018’. This study was and is the largest of its kind to focus on the legal sector specifically, with over 10,000 professionals involved.

Here Weekly10’s Head of People Science, Chris, looks at some of the key findings and what it means for the industry.

First things first, what is employee engagement and why should legal sector leaders care? It’s a fair question, many of you reading will be asking. Some of you will have a decent idea already, and certainly some of you will be nailing your employee engagement strategy. But as we’ll see shortly, it seems many of your peers are not quite as aware or successful.

The Weekly10 definition of employee engagement is simple: employee engagement is the emotional, conscious, connection and commitment any employee has to your organisation and its goals. That connection, when strong, offers up a raft of benefits to your business including:

  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Increased discretionary effort
  • Greater levels of employee loyalty and brand advocacy
  • Higher employee satisfaction
  • Improved levels of productivity

All of which add up to two huge wins for any law firm:

  • Higher retention/lower turnover
  • Increased profitability

So, what does the report from Aon tell us about employee engagement in the legal sector?  Well…

The report doesn’t make for overly complimentary reading for the sector, with nearly half (48%) of all employees surveyed being classed as ‘disengaged’ in their current role. This means the legal industry falls considerably behind a number of comparable industries such as, Professional Services (59%) and IT (66%). Looking at broader industries, the legal sector falls 8% below the average engagement level.

Engagement variation across roles is a key indicator for understanding where issues arise. The study shone a light on a clear disparity between Partner-level employees and all other roles, most notably, Associate-level. For example, whilst Partner engagement was a healthy 66% (still a little lower than similar roles in other industries), Associate engagement was a paltry 43%.

One suggestion for this disparity the report puts forward is the differing work-life experiences of the two sub-sets. The ability to communicate openly, feelings of being valued and respected, pay and growth opportunities were also highlighted.

So, it seems there is work to be done within the sector to better engage employees and reap the many benefits (for example, business advisory company Gallup, believes there is upwards of $600 billion dollars of increased profitability to be unlocked globally through strong engagement strategies).

If you’d like to talk about how to measure and improve employee engagement at your law firm, please drop us a line via our website.

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