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Is Your Firm Fostering the Growth of Leaders of Tomorrow?

Our recent survey uncovered the current and ideal state of professional development opportunities according to legal business services professionals. Among the various data points collected, one common theme became starkly evident. There is a significant misalignment between the accessibility of desired professional development resources and opportunities and what is currently being offered by firms. This sentiment rings true for surveyed business professionals across the board, from entry-level employees to those holding key stakeholder positions. So where exactly does the issue stem from and, further, how can firm leaders take steps to solve for it?

Professional Development Opportunities

Unpacking the first driver of this gap involves reflecting on the types of training and development opportunities currently offered by your firm and determining whether or not they provide the value that your employees seek. Our research found that while the majority of respondents (79%) would like to have access to Mentorship and coaching, only a mere 21% of respondents currently have access to this opportunity. This highlights a common oversight in top-down planning and further demonstrates the need for firm leaders to seek feedback on professional development initiatives outside the boardroom to be inclusive of the voices the programs most directly impact. This not only helps to better align employee values to firm actions but also affords the firm opportunity to reallocate the budget for resources that do not inherently add value and therefore become a sunk cost. 

The desire for mentoring and coaching among survey respondents can be attributed directly to the profound impact this opportunity is proven to have on areas of individual development such as leadership and communication skills, sense of belonging, self-confidence, and mental well-being. These benefits apply not only to mentees, but mentors as well according to Accenture.

From a talent optimization standpoint, mentoring and coaching allows firms to improve employee engagement and productivity, identify high-potential employees, improve retention, and create targeted learning and development plans. Research from the Society for HR Management further suggests that formalized mentoring programs can assist in solving for human resources challenges such as recruitment, succession planning, and cultural change initiatives.

Career Development Conversations

Adding further to the importance of mentoring conversations, our research also highlighted the interest employees have in more frequent career development and goal-focused conversations with their direct managers. When asked about the frequency, the majority of respondents noted that they currently have career development and goal discussions with managers Rarely or Annually (51%), while in an ideal state, they would like to have those discussions Sometimes or Quarterly (74%).  The Harvard Business Review takes this point even further, noting that annual, or even quarterly, talks about development can feel unproductive and meaningless due to the lack of consistency. They assert that instead, career-development conversations with direct reports should be held once a month.

In addition to frequency, there are other factors to consider when mapping out these discussions such as timing and structure. Tacking the conversation onto the end of an existing meeting can give off the impression that the conversation is not important. Instead, consider giving the check-in a leading spot in a one-on-one conversation to affirm to employees that their development is a top priority.

Another way to make the most out of employee check-ins is to provide specific discussion questions ahead of your meeting. These questions should serve to gain a better understanding of your direct report and also inspire them to dig deeper into their own personal goals. This type of conversation helps steer the focus from that of performance evaluation to one of individualized, ongoing support.

Become a Champion of Change

Have ideas on how your firm could benefit from optimizing its professional development strategy but not sure where to start? We have outlined the four key steps to take your plan from ideation to implementation:


State the Business Case

Before you can submit your idea for consideration it is critical to do your research and create a business case in order to sell senior leadership on the various benefits to the firm. Take note of the current talent development strategy and identify opportunities for improvement that can directly tie to ROI, both in monetary and intrinsic value. Consider adding data points from recent studies and other resources, even in industries outside of legal.

Champion Your Idea Internally

Once you have formalized your proposal it is time to circulate the idea internally to gather additional perspective and feedback. Gaining additional viewpoints and applying their commentary, especially across departments and from direct management, can help bolster the strength of your case and deliver a proposal that is well-supported and encompasses a larger set of employee sentiments.

Involve Stakeholders

Now that you have optimized your plan through internal review and considerations it is ready to be presented to the key stakeholders of the firm. In preparing your presentation, make sure to give a succinct background and overview, present your initiative/action plan, and clearly tie back to ROI, both throughout the presentation and in summary. It can be easy to provide too much information in attempt to sell your case, so make sure to keep it simple and easy to follow. We suggest having an additional set of eyes to proofread and review for clarity before presenting.

Consider an Outside Agency

Your idea has finally made its way up the ladder and has been given the green light to get started - what's next? Making use of an outside agency for the strategy and implementation of larger, firmwide initiatives has numerous benefits, the first being that they serve as an unbiased, third-party perspective with clear insight into the firm's structure from the outside. Agencies also specialize in their services, allowing them to provide a well-researched and proven plan of action in a fraction of the time it would take an internal team to do the same, lowering the overall cost of implementation for the firm.
Get in Touch

Interested in learning how Calibrate can help deploy Talent Development initiatives in your law firm? Contact Haley Revel, Managing Director of HR & Talent Management at Calibrate.