5 Employee Retention Tips in Today’s Market

By Jamy J. Sullivan, JD

Most law firms and legal departments are looking forward to reopening their offices after more than a year of employees working remotely. 

Workers may have mixed feelings, though. Robert Half survey data shows that 34% of employees would rather quit than return to the office full-time. Meanwhile, the current job market has inspired as many as one in three professionals to consider seeking other opportunities. For hiring managers whose firms are transitioning to the new normal, these trends are cause for concern. 

But not for panic. If your star performers are considering their options, you just need to ensure them their choices include staying and thriving at your organization. Here are five strategies to help you keep your best legal professionals.

1. Embrace a flexible schedule 

We’ve all learned the pros and cons of remote working. Employees don't have to commute, and most find it easier to manage their work-life balance. On the other hand, remote workers miss out on a fully connected environment that includes in-the-same-room interactions. 

Half of workers in a Robert Half survey said they prefer a hybrid schedule, with a mix of in-office and at-home days. Managed correctly, this arrangement ensures that both clients and employees feel like their needs are being met. 

Talk to your team and explore their preferences. Talented performers will appreciate a flexible, supportive approach to scheduling. 

2. Kick-start your professional development programs 

Because of the pandemic, 38% of professionals said their career had experienced a setback. People new to the legal world, such as recent graduates, are the ones most likely to have suffered. 

Now is the time for employers to redouble their commitment to professional development. Talk with team members about their goals and aspirations, and then build a plan to help them succeed. 

3. Foster a positive culture 

Office culture is something that emerges organically from interactions and shared experiences in the workplace. The pandemic disrupted this process, and some of your employees may feel disconnected from the team and its guiding principles. 

Has your workplace culture suffered during the pandemic? Find out by approaching each of your team members, allowing them to talk freely about how they’re feeling with their work arrangements. Stress that there is no penalty for admitting feelings of isolation or uncertainty of purpose, which are natural under the circumstances. Arrange open agenda meetings and team-building exercises to help people form or renew positive connections with their colleagues. 

4. Reboot your recognition programs 

Recognition is a crucial tool for employee retention, especially during last year when many workers have made personal and professional sacrifices. 

Bonuses have held steady during the pandemic, with 46% of employers offering the same bonus as the previous year and 45% including an increase. The challenge now is to adapt your recognition program for a new kind of employee. Hybrid and remote workers tend to have lower profiles than their in-office colleagues, but their contributions are just as valuable. Take a look at how you measure success for individual roles on the team. Is everyone getting a chance to earn the maximum bonus? If not, then you may need to adapt your recognition scheme to fit the new circumstances. 

5. Communicate, communicate, communicate   

“I didn’t feel like I was listened to” is one of the most common complaints made by departing employees in their exit interviews. If you want to retain your top performers, you need to give them regular opportunities to air concerns about issues like salary, schedules and workloads. These conversations are for your benefit, too, offering the chance to gauge morale and suggest remedies when you hear about problems. 

At the team level, do your utmost to keep everyone in the loop. This can include positive news, such as new clients, big wins or plans for expansion. It also means getting out in front of less-welcome developments, such as economic pressures that might impact salaries and bonuses.  


Finally, when executing these strategies, don’t assume people have similar preferences. Some employees measure their value in terms of salaries and bonuses, while others are inspired by words of appreciation and vocal encouragement. Working out what keeps each of your top performers motivated, productive and happy is the key to retaining them.