By Dennis Hung • April 26, 2018•Careers, Firms and the Private Sector, Other Career Issues, Issues, Other Issues
No matter how passionate you are about your business, there will always be days when your productivity levels just fall short. The same goes for your employees. While there are no immediate side effects to low productivity levels in the workplace, the long-term view paints a gloomy picture for the firm. It can lead to slower progress and growth, losing cases and clients, and a workplace riddled with inefficiencies and unproductive activities. Here are five ingredients that can increase productivity in your law firm.
Distinguish Important Versus Unimportant Tasks
At the essence of productivity is the decision matrix developed by former president and five-star US general, Dwight Eisenhower. The box is divided into four categories, namely Important and Urgent, Important and Not Urgent, Not Important and Urgent, and Not Important and Not Urgent. Obviously, you'll want to direct most of your time and effort into tasks that are both important and urgent. On the other hand, tasks that are unimportant and not urgent should only be pursued when you have free time. This consists of time-wasting activities and trivial assignments that could maybe be delegated.
Be Bold Enough to Delegate
Delegating tasks, especially high-priority ones, comes as a terrifying option for many partners. Pairing the wrong task with the wrong person could lead to more problems than results. Nevertheless, delegating is a good trust exercise between full partners and junior partners or paralegals, not to mention that it improves productivity by dividing monumental tasks into smaller, easy-to-digest chunks. And while you'd want to remain as hands-on as possible when managing your brainchild, success is reliant on fast and sustainable growth, which is where delegation can help. Remember, you hired your employees to fill in a specific set of responsibilities; give them the opportunity to prove their worth.
Match Delegated Tasks to Skills
While delegating is essential in any workplace, it is essential that these delegated tasks match the skills of the person the task is delegated to. If your junior partner actually cannot do the assigned task, the task will not be done efficiently and productivity will decrease significantly. People tend to shut down when they do not know how to do a particular assignment. Put this behavior in the workplace, and you have some very unproductive and inefficient employees. By giving assignments to those qualified to do them and not just freely delegating high-priority tasks to whoever is available, you will receive the best work of your employees. However, assigning some of these tasks to the unqualified can also be a great learning experience and growth opportunity for them. Make sure you find the balance between delegating for learning experience and delegating for efficiency.
Every successful lawyer can attest to the fact communication plays a pivotal role in workforce productivity. Clear lines of communication result in faster turnaround times, low stress levels within the workplace, and higher quality output. But traditional methods of relaying instructions and information around the office tend to be outdated and ineffective. For instance, a McKinsey report reveals that email messages take up more than 25 percent of employees' time. Furthermore, checking email messages were reported to be the second most productivity-zapping task in an employee's day-to-day agenda.
Harness the Power of Technology
Technology is the bedrock of most modern businesses today. When you sneak a peek under the hood, you'll see that most workforces have their own specific set of technologies that they heavily rely on on a daily basis, whether it's business process management software (BPMS) or customer relations management software. These may not seem the most relevant for a law firm, but they can still improve efficiency and productivity. Technology allows businesses to automate processes and menial, repetitive tasks, which free employees to focus their time and effort on more important assignments. This can greatly benefit lawyers as well. Technology also helps bridge partners with junior partners, paralegals, and clients, giving you the full 360 degree view of anything and everything at any given point in time.
Invest in Your Workforce's Well-Being
You and your employees need some time to de-stress and vent out frustrations. Giving each person in your firm a four-by-four cubicle in which they are cooped up eight hours a day with no natural sunlight and fresh air isn't really good stewardship. Companies, like Google and Amazon, are able to command legions of highly motivated and productive workers because they invest money and time into each employee's well-being. They've invested in amenities, such as indoor spas, gyms, nap capsules, daycare center for babies and pets, and multiple snack bars and cafeterias that serve free food round the clock. With so much to do inside the company, employees spend more time working happily. Maybe this isn’t the most practical for a law firm, but consider practical ways for your firm to allow fun breaks that can energize and motivate employees to work harder.
Productivity cannot be bought or forced. It is slowly built and ingrained into your workforce. Use the five ingredients above as a template for what to focus on first. As time goes on, explore some other ways of encouraging more output from your employees.