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The legal profession has been consistently in the limelight for all the wrong reasons over the last few years.  From the Bazely and NZ Law Society reports through to the recent release of research from the International Bar Association.  All the numbers tell us that sexual harassment and bullying has become more common place than anyone would like.

The reasons for these statistics are complex and varied.  However, when we look at the problem through an Employee Experience (EX) lens, we believe that some of the traditional power imbalances across gender, age and front vs back office, can be broken down by creating a transparent and authentic dialogue with your employees.

One of our clients, a well-established and reputable legal firm, has embraced an EX driven approach.  They use regular surveys to identify specific initiatives to enhance the experiences they provide their employees.  Interestingly, as a result of this approach, they’ve seen their engagement scores increase by 50% within 12 months.

So what is EX?

First, let’s define EX.  EX is listening and measuring your employee’s experiences across their employee journey so you can positively impact organisational performance.  That means all the touchpoints and ‘moments that matter’ to an employee.

By listening, we mean creating multiple communication channels where people can voice their concerns, thoughts and ideas consistently over time.

Look for the Detail

Often organisations will focus on the big ticket items and survey engagement, leadership, culture and values.  Focussing on these elements provides insights into the health of your organisation, but they are too generic.

One of our clients is taking a different approach, “these four elements are outcome measures.  When we get lower scores on these measures it tells me something is wrong, but it can be hard to understand where to focus just by looking at an engagement score.”

We agree with this view.  When looking through an EX lens, it is the experiences you provide your people every day that drive how they feel and think about your organisation.  This creates a reward framework (that is both implicit and explicit) that drives your culture, tells your leaders how to act and reflects the values of your organisation. 

Engagement then becomes a measure of whether there is alignment between these systems and your employees.  The more alignment, the higher the score.

EX Employee Journey

In order to get under the skin of these health indicators we suggest looking at the data you already have and start digging into distinct parts of your employee’s journey.  Exit surveys are a great place to start, but there will be countless other data points that will tell you if things aren’t working well.  If you’re struggling, just ask your people!

An area that is often overlooked, but is extremely critical, is onboarding.  Most organisations ask for feedback at the end of the first week and stop there, some don’t even incorporate this step.  But this causes issues as most people don’t know what they don’t know after only five days of working in a business.  There is also a strong halo effect with new hires that positively slants feedback.

To avoid this, our suggestion is that you survey new recruits three times:

  1. At the end of week one – This should be a quick pulse survey to check in to find out if their first week went smoothly.
  2. After six weeks – This should be a more detailed survey that asks questions that have a focus on the process itself e.g. how they rated the quality of their induction and training, whether they met the appropriate stakeholders during their onboarding and of course, what could be done differently to improve the experience.
  3. After three months – A final question that asks a simple, but powerful question, “what do you now know about working here, that you should have been told in your first week?”

Aside from allowing you to continuously improve your onboarding processes based on your employee’s experiences, this approach sends a strong message – that you are interested in what they have to say and that their voice matters i.e. you are listening.  Remember to play the results of your findings back to people to reinforce the authenticity of your conversations!

This sets the platform for further open and honest conversations about your people’s experiences as they move through the employee lifecycle with your firm.

Some further tips to consider:

Tip #1 – Increasing Buy-In

By adopting an EX mindset you are ultimately looking to create trust and a sense of ownership.  A simple step to achieve this is simply reporting your findings back to your people.  Even the most highly regarded companies sometimes forget to do this, but when it is done consistently, even if the news isn’t great, it pays huge dividends and fosters a climate of trust and authenticity.

Tip #2 – Data Analysis

Consider correlating your onboarding scores with first year attrition and performance using statistics and data analytics to get an even clearer sense of whether you are setting your people up for success.  If needed, this can provide data to build out a business case to prove beyond doubt the significant cost:benefit upside of investment in onboarding.

Tip #3 – Think about your entire Employee Lifecycle

You can apply an employee centric view to any stage of the employee life cycle whether it be performance management, training or recruitment by using an EX survey/platform to diagnose potential issues or simply asking your people what is working, what is not and what should be done.

In our experience, the organisations that regularly ask for feedback across the EX continuum have higher levels of trust, a sense of belonging and a continual improvement, all of which feeds their sense of ownership and ultimately builds a high performing culture.

Final Thoughts…

We all know that the impact of a toxic culture is debilitating to any business.  Understanding how you can improve the experiences you provide your people, in an authentic manner, is a great way to build trust and a sense of belonging.

This creates a world where you can amplify your employees voices, harness their capacity for innovation and ultimately help change the norms that lead to negative behaviour such as bullying and sexual harassment.