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This week our blog content is provided by Kirsty Craig, Managing Director of Kirsty Craig Associates. Kirsty is all about working with clients to help them become employers of choice. She is passionate about creating an environment that encourages and empowers excellence at all levels by providing businesses with the ‘best practice’ HR systems and processes in place to recruit, manage and develop employees.
You’ve got a great product. Your customers love what you do. Your business is doing really well, and growth and expansion are on the cards.
Awesome. Well done!
What’s the main thing that makes your product great? The people who make it.
What’s the thing that delights and exceeds your (happy) customers’ expectations? The people that deliver the service.
So, having a great product and great service isn’t all that’s required to strengthen business growth and success. Nope, it’s about your people. The power is in, and with, the people.
We are passionate about people - and that includes you - so indulge us a little and think about this:
What would happen if Dave in Development heard on the grapevine that one of your competitors was hiring people at his level, were offering a bit more money and were also offering a great training and employee development scheme. Dave’s probably thinking of doing the offski is what’s happening.
And what impact would it have if Caroline in Customer Service, who heads up a team who all think she’s the bee's knees, heard through the grapevine… you get the message.
“We’re not saying that you need to be held to ransom by your staff; no-one is irreplaceable,” says Kirsty. “But some are invaluable.”
In Kirsty’s opinion, employers – particularly SMEs that have become a bit stuck in their ways – need to do far more when it comes to their employees. “Especially in terms of upskilling, training and ensuring that the company salary scales and benefits packages are realistic, robust and relevant.”
Focus on retention with the things you can control – like training, wages, benefits package – rather than having to deal with things you can’t control – like Dave doing the offski. Recruiting people costs money obviously, but the impact of losing a key member of staff on your remaining workforce can cost even more. “When good people leave, other good people follow,” says Kirsty.
Data, recently released from the Office of National Statistics, shows that wage growth in the UK job market in 2017 was a measly 2.5% over that of the previous year.
“Our candidates regularly tell us that the thing that puts their backs up the most is when they hand their notice in, are called in for ‘the chat’, and their boss offers them a matching pay rise. And better benefits. And agree – finally – to them working from home a couple of days a month.” It’s too little, too late.
Retention isn’t rocket science, but it is all too easy to get it wrong. It will also take time, and if you’re time poor, that’s where we can help. As well as an up-to-date and well-stocked toolkit of HR, recruitment and training solutions, we’ve had over 30 years of experience running our own SME, so our business acumen is pretty stellar, too.
We’d be happy to come and see you and help you make some changes before Dave does the offski and Caroline’s hot on his heels…
Linkedin: Kirsty Craig
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Have you recently started a new job?
The first 100 days can be vital to your success in the company. It is an opportunity to position yourself, offer a fresh perspective, make a positive impact to your employees and boss and build a platform for continuing success. To do this, it pays to have a clear strategy in mind.
We have put together a ‘First 100 Days Plan’ to help get you off to a flying start!
The first month
Learn about the company: You probably conducted some research about the company before your interview. However, now you need to take this opportunity to learn as much as possible about the company, understanding what their aims and objectives are and how your role fits into this. This way you will get a better understand of the culture and brand, to successfully do your work.
Read the website, staff bio’s, blogs, social media, reports, anything you can find.
Ask questions: Sometimes asking questions is the best way to learn and it is always good to portray that you are curious and interested in understanding your new role and responsibilities. But try not to ask the same question more than twice!
Take notes, a lot of notes: You will be bombarded with a load of new information making it almost impossible to remember everything! Colleagues names, job roles, important company information etc. The best way to remember, is to write it down.
Sit with your boss and learn what is expected: Set clear expectations so you know what your boss expects from you and what they want you to accomplish in a specific time scale.
Get to know your colleagues: Building strong relationships with your colleagues is a good way to feel comfortable in your new role and feel part of the team. Especially gaining valuable insight into the company culture. Maybe set up getting-to-know meetings, especially with those who know your work area well and can offer support and knowledge.
Now that you have learnt, asked questions, listened and written notes, you should understand the company and your role itself and be ready to show what you can do.
Professional development: It is important to know what value you can add to the company, so it is time to take responsibility for your own development and seek out new learning opportunities. Small steps you can take is by attending meetings, training courses, read industry news or familiarise yourself with their content management systems.
Your ideas: Try to avoid stepping on anyone’s toes but now is a good time to reveal your ideas in line with the company’s objectives. Portray those key skills you used in your interview to sell yourself, whether that was a problem solver, strategic thinker or creative mind. Take the opportunity to show what can you do, even if you think it’s only minor, as it still might make a positive difference.
Volunteer: Take this opportunity to volunteer for any extra work, for example charity work the company are involved in. It will show your eagerness to take on more responsibilities, along with giving you the chance to build on your network. However, don’t take on more responsibilities if you are unable to focus fully on the role you were originally employed to do.
Mentor: Seek out a mentor within the company that you respect professionally. Having a mentor can help grow your network, improve performance and help you up the career ladder more quickly.
Three-month review: Request a three-month review with your manager. This is your chance to gain feedback about how you are doing in your role, what you are doing right and what you could do differently. It gives you the opportunity to present your accomplishes to date and any new challenges you would like to implement. The three-month review is an ideal time to review objectives and development goals and put new ones in place.
At the end of your 100 days you should be confident in your role and be ready to start making decisions and taking action. Good luck!
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Since the recession, the legal industry has seen the creation of a skills gap which has resulted in, as the market picked up, a shortage of suitably experienced candidates for an increasing number of roles in areas such as residential property, real estate and corporate/commercial.
Firms have not been able to grow their own lawyers at a sufficiently quick rate to satisfy demand and the knock on effect has been a job market where good quality lawyers often find themselves with multiple opportunities with firms fighting for their talent and experience.
In circumstances like this a “counter offer” from their current firm is something that every candidate should be prepared for from the very beginning of their job search.
Thornton Legal find that on just about every occasion where a candidate hands their notice in, the disgruntled firm tries, sometimes successfully, to counter offer their employee and prevent them leaving.
Firms are aware that the cost of hiring a replacement person can be high, not to mention the costs associated with having a position empty for any period, resulting in a fall in revenue or an added burden on the remaining members of the team who are often reallocated work.
Some candidates enter the recruitment process hoping that their current employer makes such a counter offer, for others it can be the last thing they were expecting.
Either way, the decision whether to stay or go can be a daunting one but our experience at Thornton Legal is that the vast majority of accepted counter offers ultimately fail to satisfy the candidate and they find themselves re-entering the job market a little further down the line.
Why is this and why are counter offers a tricky thing to navigate?
There are a number of factors but the common themes are:
If you’re worth it now, why did it take you to hand your notice in to force their hand?
If a person is worth the increased salary or promotion that comes with the counter offer, the firm in question really should have rewarded their employee earlier. Candidates are often flattered to receive a counter offer, but they should really be asking the question why they were undervalued for such a long time in the first place and whether their current firm is the right place for them to satisfy their ambitions in the long run.
It’s often not just about the money
Other motivating factors often play a significant factor in why candidates look elsewhere in the first place: work life balance, commute, promotion prospects, firm culture and quality of work can be lacking. Accepting a counter offer just for the money can be a temporary sticking plaster that doesn’t solve any of the other underlying issues.
Staying can cause resentment/trust/loyalty issues
It’s an understated problem that once a lawyer looks elsewhere, in the minds of their firm, even if they stay, the bonds of trust and loyalty can be broken and never fully heal. This problem is circumstance specific and doesn’t occur every time but can be an issue that rears its head and is often difficult to resolve.
Does the salary increase price you out of a future move?
Staying at a firm for a big pay rise whilst useful in the short term can affect a lawyer’s position in the job market further down the line. Hefty hikes in salary can put candidates in an artificially high position that they find difficult to justify when they eventually look to move and can put some potential employers off.
Thornton Legal are at hand at every stage of the process when it comes to providing clear, pragmatic and focused advice to lawyers entering the job market. We are only too happy to speak out of hours to candidates on a confidential basis and give them sensible advice, tailored to their individual circumstances.
If you are a lawyer that would like to explore the job market in the North West, Yorkshire or Midlands, we would be only too happy to help.
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Speaking to candidates this year has been an interesting and informative task. Some of their tales of previous experiences with recruiters have demonstrated to Joe and I why we set up our own recruitment business in the first place. It has also served as a great reminder of the standards we aspire towards for our own business.
We wanted to see how we could keep on improving the services we offer at Thornton legal and recently decided to survey some of our existing candidates to try to identify what they liked and what they disliked about recruiters and the recruitment experience generally. The results were very interesting.
A great many candidates found their previous interaction with recruiters to be a positive experience but struggled to name them, even the ones who had placed them in their current jobs. This worried us.
Others had a less favourable perception that involved one or more of the following:
“Being kept in the dark as to applications”
“Not being contacted when they were told they would be provided with an update”
“Recruiters sending cv’s to firms without the candidate’s permission”
“Their consultant not knowing enough about the role or firm”
“The application for a particular job falling down over salary at the 11th hour”
“Recruiters not taking the time to find out what the candidate actually wants”
“The role being very different to the one painted by the recruiter”
“Was a hindrance rather than a help”
A fair number, thankfully, gave glowing appraisals of the recruiters that had helped them find their perfect role. Some of the more positive comments included:
“Going above and beyond what I had come to expect of a recruitment consultant”
“Was knowledgeable and well informed and knew a lot about the culture of the firm, the team and the role itself”
“Took the time to understand what the candidate actually wanted from a job”
“Managed expectations and kept the candidate in the loop throughout the process”
“Helped out with interview preparation”
“Was trustworthy and efficient”
“Was easily contactable and seemed genuinely interested in helping”
It struck us that in a candidate driven market awash with legal recruiters that we needed to take on board what our most valuable commodities were telling us. Without them we simply wouldn’t have a successful business.
Since the very outset, Thornton Legal has been keen to emphasise what it stands for. We want to be the best we can at what we do and this is only possible by offering a first rate service to all of our candidates.
It simply isn’t good enough not to respond to enquiries, not to get back in touch when we say we will get back in touch, not to prepare candidates properly for interview. I remember only too well from my own time a solicitor in private practice, the frustrations I had with some recruiters who suggested roles to me that didn’t fit with my experience or ambitions, who didn’t call me back, who didn’t offer constructive feedback or advice.
Thornton Legal is keen to buck the current trend of impersonal legal recruitment. We want to meet candidates, to get to know them, to offer a consultative approach to recruitment that ensures that each and every candidate we deal with feels as though we have listened to their needs.
We have received some fantastic testimonials from candidates placed through us recently. We think we are doing the right things. The recurring themes we came across were; acting with integrity, a knowledge of the market, offering a personal service and believing that we care.
We are happy that our candidates value the service that we offer but we don’t want to rest on our laurels. The recent survey has highlighted just how competitive the legal recruitment industry is and that candidates have a lot of choice as to who represents them.
The best kind of marketing a recruiter can get is our recommendation from a happy candidate to one of their colleagues. The number of referrals we have had this year is testimony to this.
There are a lot of legal recruiters in the North West. Some are great. The majority are pretty average. We want to be able to stand out from the crowd and ensure that we are memorable. We can only do this if we do what we say we are going to do and apply the Thornton Legal ethos consistently to each and every candidate we represent.
If you are a lawyer working in the North West who wants to have an open and honest chat about the job market, your career or an opportunity advertised on our website, we would be happy to take the time to listen. We appreciate that it can sometimes be difficult to speak during the day and are only too happy to put time aside in the evenings or at weekends if this suits you better.
We are fairly certain that we can help. We are absolutely certain that if we can’t help, you will still come away from the conversation having thought it was a positive and constructive experience.
Joe and I have over 20 years combined experience in what we do. The contacts that we have made during this time and the knowledge that we have gained has seen us successful place all types of lawyer from partner to paralegal, at international firms to busy high street practices.
We are often viewed as the best alternative to some of the larger, national recruiters. We want to succeed because this is our own business. We have a lot riding on it. We can’t afford to fail!
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