Ongoing training is only one way to keep your employees ready for what’s coming next

Employee commitment, productivity, and retention are emerging as the most critical workplace challenges of the immediate future. For many organizations, “surprise” employee departures can significantly affect the execution of business plans and may eventually cause an unexpected decline in productivity. This is especially true during a time of economic uncertainty and related organizational downsizings when the impact of losing key talent increases exponentially.

Consider that:

•    The most difficult time to retain and motivate employees is during organizational change.  

•    Highly engaged and motivated employees can increase the performance and productivity of an organization by as much as 400 percent.

•    Losing and replacing an employee may cost up to 2.4 times an annual salary.

•    The largest factor in retaining and motivating employees is not money, but the relationship with their immediate supervisors.

So, what can you do today to overcome or avoid these critical challenges and be the “employer of choice” for tomorrow? Wherever your organization is now, you can take steps to attract, inspire, and retain top talent. The organization must address five key performance elements: change, listening, traction, investing, and communicating.


To paraphrase Franklin Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear of change.” Change is constant; embrace it. Fear of change is no longer an excuse to avoid exercising strong leadership, making tough decisions, or implementing ideas. The members of your organization are counting on you to lead, direct, and manage effective change. Change today usually means transitioning to a new role, taking on greater responsibility, or leaving the organization. Support change with encouragement and reassurance. It is an opportunity to embrace individual growth and development while strengthening the team and the organization.


Listen to what you are not hearing—those quiet voices of the introverts, of the newer generations, of your most seasoned, of your diverse employees, of your staff, and of your clients. Are you hearing their ideas, questions, concerns, and solutions? They will tell you exactly where you are doing things right, what’s not working well, and what you need to do to keep them. Listening also strengthens your internal relationships with colleagues and teams. Identify the strengths your organization has and leverage your talent for individual development and strengthening client service. Now is the time to set up lunch-and-learns, roundtables, and team-building exercises. Creating a community within your firm begins with listening.


The strength of an organization is based on sharing a vision. Has your leadership taken the time to establish the organization’s purpose, values, and goals, and make them known to everyone in the firm, and to your clients? Are key business decisions being driven by them? Are you hiring, promoting, transitioning, and business developing according to the organization’s values, goals, and purpose? Loyalty, commitment, and accountability start with the building blocks of the organization—who and what you are now and where you are going. It is only with this foundation in place that you will attract, retain, and maximize the performance of top talent that is right for your organization.  


Are you offering training and development to your leaders, management, and staff?  The firm next door is. Most C-level executives have worked with a professional coach. The days of “figure it out on your own, I did” are gone. Organizations today cannot afford to wait for employees to figure it out on their own, and the new generations will not support this old model. They expect training, mentoring, and guidance from their leaders and they will not hesitate to go where their friends are finding exactly that. It is important to provide quality training beginning early in the career to grow and develop your new leaders. New hires are trained on interpersonal skills such as professional dress, presence, a successful handshake, and client communications. Emerging leaders are coached on business development, presentations, effective delivery of tough messages, and expectation setting. Highly effective professionals need to know much more than simply the tasks associated with their positions. Don’t rely on skill development programs to be the extent of your professional and leadership training.


Is your communication system clear, simple, and consistent? Do people know what is expected of them? Current research indicates that the supervisor most influences a person to depart from an organization. Other reasons, in order of frequency, are inability to use core skills, not being able to affect an organization’s goals, and inability to grow and develop within the organization. An effective communication system can bridge the gap between supervisor and employee. Enhanced communication helps supervisors better understand the motivational drives and interests of each individual, provides feedback on performance and style, and highlights development opportunities. Managing and measuring the needs of employees or teams helps them build productive relationships with their co-workers, supervisors, and clients. People who feel engaged will put in the extra effort to get a job done and do it well. Instead of catching the 5:00 bus, they won’t mind catching the 6:00 bus to support the team and the client.

Successful organizations realize retention and talent management are integral to sustaining leadership and growth in today’s marketplace. In fact, a stable workforce becomes a significant competitive advantage. An organization with unstable conditions is forced to invest thousands of dollars in recruiting, orientation, training, overtime, and supervision. Organizations without continuity don’t have ongoing close relationships with customers. Loyalty is fragile, stress is high, conflict is more likely, and efficiency is hampered. These challenges make it difficult for an organization to compete.

Support change, listen to your talent, know and share your organization’s vision and core values, and provide development opportunities so people are engaged and know they make a difference. You will then be an “employer of choice.”

CAREER NAVIGATION: Effective Tips on Strategic Connecting at Events

Whether we seek out events to attend or try to avoid them, they are part of our lives in one way or another.  Events can be for business development, or they can be for social or professional reasons. Regardless of your position, you are taking your time to attend, so use the time wisely and enjoy yourself.  Here are some tips to help you build relationships and gain real results from your next event.


Are you known as a “connector”? When you attend events, who do you like to be around?  Is it the stick-in-the-mud who obviously does not want to be there? Chances are no, you enjoy being around someone who is interested.  No matter the event; whether you are trying to gain support with your board, your executive team, among your staff, persuade a prospect or customer to make a purchase, or deliver an A+ presentation, the starting point is always connecting with the individual.  

Here are five key ways to connect:  

1.  Project a positive presence.   

A smile and an upbeat comment can make all the difference in those first few seconds. When someone asks how you’re doing, do you simply say, “fine” or do you say, “Excellent!” Even a one word response sets a tone or makes the difference.  

2. Be the first to reach out.

Rather than waiting for others to take the initiative, YOU be the first to reach out. When you walk into a room of strangers, pretend you’re the host. Greet people, introduce yourself and introduce people to each other.

3. Communicate with care.

Keep other’s feelings in mind when you’re making a comment that they might take personally. 

4. Hear people out. 

Remember, the key conversational skill is not talking…but asking questions and listening to the answers.

5. Eliminate your need to be right. 

It’s not a contest. You don’t win points for always being right.


Once you have made an initial connection, the next step is to build a relationship.  Look for a couple of people who you want to get to know a bit more. Stay open and curious as to whom you may build that relationship with as you might be surprised to discover it is not with whom you first expect.  

Here are a few tips on how to find and build relationships at an event.

1. Set a goal.

Like every business effort, you should have a goal. For example: You’re going to meet five new people and invite them to coffee. Identify your goal before you arrive at your event.  You can do this for every event including friend and family events.

2. Arrive early and think of yourself as the host.

Greet people when they arrive. They will have more energy at this point and be more likely to remember you.  

3. Work the room.

Although it might be more fun and comfortable to hang out with those you already know, don’t spend all your time with friends or with any single individual. Move around and see who is in the room.

4. Ask questions of value.

 If you don’t know what to talk about or how to enter a conversation, you can ask: “What brings you to this event?” And “What is a good contact for you?” Questions such as this can help you figure out how you or if you can help them – even if it is by introducing them to someone else in the room.

5.  Bring your business cards.

Don’t ever be caught saying, “I’m out of cards.” You never know when you’ll meet the next breakthrough prospect for your business.  And, it goes to your demonstrating preparedness, interest and the expectation to engage. Make it easy for people to be in touch with you after the event.


Finally, there is no point in attending a social or networking event unless you’ve got a plan to follow up and implement that plan almost immediately after the event. It’s better to go to one event a month and really follow up on the new individuals you met, then to attend ten events without any follow up.  

Here are five ways to create great results by following up to events.

1. Follow up quickly.

Don’t bother going to an event if you’re not going to follow up quickly. A good rule of thumb is to enter their contact info into your system and send them a LinkedIn connection, an email, or a handwritten note, within 24 hours of the original event. 

2. Connect through social media.

Be sure to personalize the invitation reminding them that, “I enjoyed meeting you last night at the ABC event and sent you an email about the coffee we wanted to schedule.”

3. Follow up coffee or lunch.

Set it up vs. just talking about it.  And, remember, if you invite them to coffee or lunch, you should pick up the tab.

4. Schedule next actions before you leave the table.

Regardless of what the next action is, see if you can get your calendars out and schedule it before you conclude your coffee or lunch.

5. Create follow-up time on your weekly calendar.

Use your running list or calendaring plan of key individuals you’ve met and schedule them for follow up in the appropriate time frame.  Depending on the conversation, you may follow up weekly or annually. Scheduling it into your system immediately will help you stay on top of actions while freeing your head space for current activities.   

Talent Management

It is the Right Time to Focus on the Right Talent in the Right Seat

Ask a CEO, a General Counsel, a Managing Partner about the number one thing that keeps them up at night and you might be surprised by the answer.  For many executives, the biggest cause for concern is talent management. Executives polled in surveys overwhelmingly named talent management as a top priority for their organizations.

Upgrading Talent

There are always plenty of lawyers willing to consider new opportunities. However, decision makers must be disciplined in their hiring efforts.  They must not fall victim to the “shiny penny syndrome,” and should refrain from making hires based on what and how they have done it in the past and by impressive credentials alone.  

Needs Assessment

Many organizations react rather than making strategic hiring decisions.  Developing and implementing a strategic hiring plan is a key step. A company’s leadership team should conduct an honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the current management team and the organization or partnership as a whole.  During difficult financial times, many companies manage headcount to save expenses in the short term and do not make more strategic long term decisions. First and foremost, the executive leadership of a company must set goals and develop a clear vision of where the organization is headed.  Decision makers should understand the skills and attributes that each member of the team or firm must possess in order for the company to reach its goals and make the strategic vision a reality.  Then, the current management team should be evaluated using those criteria.  If there are gaps or weaknesses, the company should make strategic hires that will fill those gaps and strengthen the management team or partnership.  The leadership team should recognize that staff attorneys or project lawyers may be the strategic answer to filling those gaps. Or, in this assessment, the leadership team may recognize that a lawyer position should be replaced by a paralegal.  Whether it is a full time hire, a project hire or a staff hire, in evaluating a particular candidate, decision makers must keep the overall goals of the company in mind and determine whether that candidate has the right skills to ensure that the company meets or exceeds those goals.

Culture Fit

The importance of culture fit is often times ignored by companies when conducting a search.  It is a costly mistake that can be avoided. The decision makes involved in the hiring process should have a deep understanding of the real culture of their organization; they should understand the values that are actually lived by people in the organization day-to-day, the way decisions are made, the expectations around work styles, etc.  The more you know about the subtleties of your own organization, the more you can communicate its shortcomings, potential, differentiators to candidates in the interview process. And the more able you will be to identify the kind of people who are successful in your environment and they are you seeking.  

Decision makers must also try to learn as much as possible about each candidate’s work and management styles, personality, strengths and weaknesses.  Just because a candidate had success in a previous position does not mean that he will enjoy the same type of success in a different setting.  Interviewers involved in the process should be trained to ask follow up questions that will require a candidate to provide more details and insight about themselves.  Involving more of the management team in the hiring process will provide different perspectives and more valuable insight regarding the fit of prospective candidates. Many companies also use psychometric assessments and third party consultants to objectively learn more about a candidate’s personality and leadership traits.  Whatever methods are used, decision makers must ultimately try to evaluate the short and long term fit as well as anticipate whether a particular candidate will thrive or flounder in their company’s culture and environment.

Attracting Talent and Employer Brand

A company’s “employer brand” in the marketplace can dramatically affect the results of a search.  How will the organization be perceived by candidates? What will current employees say to potential candidates regarding the working environment?  Those involved in the hiring process must be prepared to address any issues with potential candidates and alleviate their concerns. First impressions are lasting impressions and perception is reality hold true in our world today.  With the proliferation of blogs, social networking and our 24/7 media coverage, a candidate has a lot of information to form an opinion before they begin the interview process. Leadership at companies who are not proactive in identifying potential issues will be left wondering why they are unable to attract top level talent.   

Retention Efforts

Identifying key members of the management team and hiring new talent are only part of the process.  A company must also retain its talent. Many organizations cut or eliminated professional development programs during the recent downturn.  This in combination with eliminated headcount has decreased employee satisfaction dramatically. Companies that do not address retention issues or develop long term strategies will find themselves in a precarious position as the baby-boomers begin to retire and top talent leaves to hang their own shingle with their friends.  Not only will these companies lose their existing talent, they will be unable to attract new talent.  The next crop of leaders are coming from Generation X and Generation Y whose members 1) have different motivators, 2) have members leaving the profession at record numbers, 3) have not had the leadership training to successfully transition and lead the organization.  The resulting shortage in leadership will make talent management and retention even more critical over the next five to ten years.

Implementing the Plan

Those companies that take a strategic, reasoned and long term approach to talent management will attract and retain the right people for the right positions at the right time.  Talon works closely with their clients in assessing, designing and implementing their talent plans. Our Talon Alignment Process aligns the leadership in the culture of the organization, matches the client expectations for the initiatives of a position with the right candidate, develops leadership skills in selected talent and assists with individual talent retention programs.

Attrition vs. Retention

6 Steps Law Firms Can Take to Secure Their People Assets

Historically, law firms have accepted attrition as a normal cost of doing business.  Organizations hired attorneys, paralegals and staff, expecting people to come and go and hoping those who stayed would add value to the firm.  Firms assumed attrition was somewhat costly, but generally placed no monetary value on the loss. However, attrition can actually cost up to 400 percent of a base salary for specialized hires.  This means for an attorney making a base salary of $120,000, the possible cost of losing that attorney is $480,000.

Although the actual dollars lost vary by firm, the costs of attrition are significant and often unnecessary.  For some perspective on costs associated to your organization, consider the following:

  • Time lost due to the interview process, training, and new-hire administrative details
  • Hiring costs of advertising, search fees, résumé review, interviewing, and reference checking
  • Base salary
  • Loss of productivity
  • The managing attorney’s time lost in adjusting workflow
  • Loss of the employee’s knowledge
  • Loss of client relationships
  • Added stress to team members due to increased workload or morale drop
  • Negative impact to the firm’s reputation
  • Reduced ability to attract top talent

Attrition costs in many instances can be avoided completely by smart hiring practices in the law firm at every level.  Firms often spend little time identifying long-term needs and goals when they are busy and in short-term need of help. Firms who think about retention at the beginning of the hiring process can focus on the revenue generated because of the hire, rather than on the cost of the hire.

Six Smart Hiring Strategies

Harvard University studies show that 80 percent of employee turnover is the result of missteps in the hiring process.  Even a small change in hiring practices can have a dramatic effect on employee retention. These six strategies can help firms stay competitive with clients, attract top talent to the organization and identify a “right fit” when making a hire.

1. Know Thyself.

It is critical to identify and evaluate through your leadership “who you are” as an organization or legal department.  What is the philosophy of your management team? What are your expectations regarding client service? How do your practice groups operate to support the firm vision?

Knowing who you are fundamentally as an organization provides needed insight in assessing who will be sincerely committed to your organization, motivated to join your team, and likely contribute the most.

2. Align on the Need.

The next step is to create a position profile, or ”job description.”  Important to the position profile is the identification of what work needs to be done in the short term and long term. Key stakeholders, those who have direct impact on and the most to gain or lose from the success of the new hire, should be involved in creating the position profile.

These stakeholders sometimes begin the hiring process without clear agreement on their expectations for the position.  Job analysis tools can help key stakeholders identify values and behaviors that are expected of the new hire and critical in the position, based on the current and desired make up of the firm and practice group.

3. Champion the Process.

Assigning a “champion” to the position — a person who has much to lose or gain with the success of the new hire — can help to strengthen and streamline the hiring process.  The champion shepherds the candidates through the interview process, and identifies concerns, questions, and irresolvable issues early on. The champion gathers interest, generates enthusiasm from leadership, and supports the strong candidates as they go through the interview process.

4. Maintain Momentum.

A strategic interview process can differentiate your organization and appeal to the top talent now in high demand throughout the industry.  The candidate’s first impression is of a well run organization with actively engaged leadership.

Begin by identifying who will be part of the interview team, with a reason and purpose for each interviewer.  Pulling in whoever is available at the time the candidate comes into the firm, for example, can waste the candidate’s time and does not create the impression of a well run organization.

Consider creating a criteria sheet for each interviewer to follow, including both a set of established questions that every interviewer asks, for comparison of answers, and a mix of skill- and trait-related questions that differ among interviewers and help the firm narrow the candidates to those who fit well in the organization.

5. Make a Decision.

Top talent will not wait long for an organization to make a decision.  When the economy and market is good, business thriving, and talent in abundance, firms could often get away with sloppy hiring practices.  They could be ill-prepared to adequately evaluate candidates, put the process on hold to identify and interview additional people, and take their time in replying to candidates.

But that isn’t always the case.  Top talent have many options in today’s market and will evaluate an organization on the interest being shown and the expediency of the process.

6. Integrate, Integrate and Integrate.

Effective integration programs can help decrease attrition, particularly in lateral associates and partners or experienced professionals.  NALP statistics show that lateral associates are seven times more likely than entry-level associates to depart a firm within the first year of hire, and twice as likely as entry-level associates to leave within the first two years.  In exit interviews, an often cited reason for leaving is lack of “culture fit.”

Law firms and law departments have strong, unique cultures.  Experienced professionals often are expected to figure out the new organization and its culture on their own.  Programs that help new hires assimilate can prevent such attrition. Integration can begin before the new hire’s first day, as you begin to build the relationship as you would with a client.  Integration evolves into professional development training, to continually engage and develop professionals and to affirm the commitment the firm has to its employees.

Retention Strengthens the Whole Team

The team as a whole does not perform at its best when a talented member of the group leaves.  The result is often a reputation hit in the legal market, or diminished clout within the company.  These less quantifiable costs, added to the very real monetary losses resulting from attrition, underscore the importance of smart hiring strategies.