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Changing Workplace Culture: Moving the Needle in Legal

Aug 31, 2021

At our webinar, “Women in Legal Ops & Tech: Adjusting to a New Workplace Normal,” Nicole Guyer, Senior Consultant at CDS, led a discussion with Beth Clutterbuck, Chief Human Resources Officer at Relativity and Sasha Yablonovsky, President of CareerBuilder.

In Part II of a four-part blog series, they share their thoughts on whether the movement to remote work will have a lasting impact on the law firm workplace.

Read on for a lightly edited transcript of their conversation. To start with Part I, click here.

To watch the recorded webinar in its entirety, click here.

To design a new way of working, start with lessons learned

Nicole Guyer:
I spent the majority of my career working in law firms before coming over to CDS. And historically law firms want employees to work in the office, to be in the office. Have you seen a shift in that? And if not, what do you think law firms have to lose or gain by not having the flexibility?

Beth Clutterbuck:
I can’t comment on that shift. One thing that I can comment on is over the past 18 months, globally, we had this massive experiment. McKinsey published a study last year that said we advanced the future of work by 10 years and four months. Out of necessity, we removed bureaucracy, we moved fast, we made decisions, we didn’t necessarily rely on hierarchy. We got things done that people thought were absolutely never possible to do. And we did it. And we did it fairly gracefully. I think some days we’re like, “Well, that’s not graceful.” But I think for the most part it went well.

And so, when you look back, my plea to employers would be: It’s possible. What is the art of the possible? And if it makes your employees happier and allows them choice and flexibility, where they feel more in control of their life and their time and their wellbeing, they will be a better employee, they will be then a better advocate for your customers, your services, et cetera. And they will be just more all-around happier. That’s my plug: it’s possible, it’s worked, let’s continue to embrace that. I don’t know if it’s actually happening.

Sasha Yablonovsky:
I think as leaders of any organization, legal or otherwise, we don’t really have a choice anymore. I’ll tell you why. I brought some statistics here.

89% of hiring managers said that there needs to be more focus on flexibility. More than 70% of candidates and your own employees in our CareerBuilder surveys have said that they’re looking to leave and will not consider a job offer from a company that’s not being flexible in their work environment, 70%. And quite frankly, in the marketplace today, and all of you I think know what’s going on, it’s just there’s so many job openings and such a lack of applications. In the workplace today, we as leaders, as organizations, cannot afford to be that rigid.

So here’s what I’ll say: legal and healthcare notoriously are the later bloomers, later adopters of change. It’s always been that way. And just look how far electronic discovery has gone. I remember not so long ago, 15-20 years ago, when eDiscovery was on the horizon and law firms were in panic and shock how paper might go away and how reviews and productions will be conducted. So here’s what I’ll say. Yes, Beth is 100% right, we’ve accelerated this moment by a lot and we don’t really have a choice anymore. The key is to retain your key employees, because the cost of losing them and having to replace them is sky high. And it puts a lot of strain on your organization. So investing in this flexibility, investing in your employee base, creating the proper training and skills and up-scaling within your organization is the best investment you could make today.

Making the case for change

Nicole Guyer:
One more question on this very point. I’m sure a lot of people are wondering, “All these innovative things that your companies have implemented sound wonderful. How could I present this to my company, my organization?” Which companies did you look to mirror when you implemented these new policies? And are there any materials that people can read that they can show to their manager, their director, to the executive team that support what you’ve done?

Beth Clutterbuck:
We did loads and loads of research. Early on, everyone was figuring it out. Everyone was trying to understand what they were going to do. I think now when we get into truly what does hybrid mean, we’re still in that same position where we think we know, but we really don’t know. There is so much research out there, articles and publications around the great global attrition and how, to Sasha’s earlier point right out of the gate, so many individuals are realizing that they have a choice. Talent now has choice, because it’s an employee market right now and employees can state their case and be like, “My default position is this, this is where I work the best,” and come out of the gate with, “This is how it will set me up for success so I can be the best most well-rounded employee for you.”

And there’s loads of publications out there that will back you up, that will say, “Hey, listen, the big fear right now is if employees do not offer flexibility and choice, there are many others who will.” And you’re not bound by geography or location anymore. It’s really by your aspiration and what you want to do, which is such a fundamentally exciting thing that as an HR professional I get super excited about the possibilities, because it opens up this whole another realm of personal satisfaction of career development of being proactively intentional around what you want to do.

Sasha Yablonovsky:
100%. In my case, it’s a little different. CareerBuilder is a data company. We’ve amassed billions of data points over the last 25 years in business, just because we work with all the global hiring managers and all the global candidates. So we see the trends early on, on why people say yes to a job, why people resign from a job. And we saw that happening live just about when the pandemic hit. And also because we’re global, we were in the position where, as this was happening in Asia Pacific and in Europe, we were a bit more prepared for our North American team as well.

But you don’t have to be a data company. And yes, it helps to do some research out there, I completely agree with Beth. But at the core of it all – as a leader to present this to your executives, as an executive – you have to listen to your employee base. Surveying your employees is scary. It is. Most senior leaders will tell you that, which is why some organizations still avoid surveying and doing employment satisfaction surveys, because you have to take a hard look in the mirror as to what you might be doing that’s not so awesome. But that’s so necessary and part of strong leadership. Survey your teams and really understand what they need.

Now, here’s the thing. You might not be able to deliver on that right away, but I think having those transparent communications and conversations with your team and at least starting to put together a plan makes you a more desirable company and a better leadership team. But yes, if you don’t have data points, if research is overwhelming, your best research is at your fingertips, your employee base will tell you.

Click here to read Part III: How Employers Need to Recalibrate to Attract and Retain Talent.

About the Author

<a href="https://cdslegal.com/team/" target="_blank">CDS Staff</a>

CDS Staff

Our leadership team and advisory consultants, project managers, and technical experts assist clients through all phases of the eDiscovery process.