Just to be clear, there were no fish harmed in this 90-minute session at the LMA conference last week but I found the concept and content really engaging.
The idea is that a host, in this instance Lisa Simon (CMBDO at Lewis Roca) introduces a topic (Staffing & Retention) to two panellists Bree Metherall (CMBDO at Stoel Rives) and Jasmine Trillos-Decarie (Chief Client Officer at Lathrop). The panellists are encouraged to discuss the topics from their own perspectives as well as from an overall state of the market whilst the audience listens on. The audience (the fish) are then encouraged to add their thoughts, questions and opinions by taking a microphone and seat at the table. It worked really well and the participation was constant throughout the 90-minute session. I have attempted to summarise some of the key takeaways and themes below.
Recruitment is tough-
Both Bree and Jasmine are at mid-sized firms and made the point that it is hard to recruit especially when competing against AM top 50 firms who can even recruit in cities where they don't have any offices! A solution is to bring younger marketing and BD folk in, train them and promote from within. It gives them a more rounded skillset and more autonomy.
Bree suggests that personal lives shouldn't be left at home and people need to be seen as people with care and wellbeing put first. This will lead to loyalty and trust.
Money & Compensation-
This has affected lawyers and attorneys but also marketing and BD teams. It is cheaper to invest than to replace and if there is already an offer on the table for a member of staff, then they have already broken up with you.
How do you add value that isn't monetary?-
Diversity within the team is really important and culture eats policy and strategy for breakfast- it was also mentioned that a crisis fund is sometimes necessary. Both Bree and Jasmine also stressed the importance of cross-department communication and lateral movement to keep talent.
How do you avoid promoting someone to incompetence?-
Experiencing the role can be a big part of this but also identification of the role and its fit for someone in the team is key. Not everyone is high performing and managing doesn't always mean managing a team, it might be tools, systems or operations.
Partner with HR-
Always ask for exit interviews and take your time to recruit. Influencing HR is key so get close to them. You know your team and the culture so a new hire has to be a good fit with a complementary skillset. Hire for personality and not only skill as this can be taught. Hire slowly and fire quickly!
Don't micromanage your team but give them projects, have their back and let them own what's theirs. Value your best performers and make sure they aren't killing themselves each day and adopt a ' if I need you, I will find you' approach.
Interestingly participants ranged from ex-employees in more junior roles through to senior peers and the 90 minutes raced by!