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HR leaders need to generate change through innovation, disruption and improvement. “Work” as we know it has, and will continue to, change. We are only beginning to fathom the impact artificial intelligence, robots and other technological advances will have on people, jobs and the work force.

In our global economy the intersection of consumer choice, innovation, generational shifts and technology has created a ripple effect that has only just begun to impact businesses and their workplaces.   Hiring and retaining the right employees are becoming an even greater challenge.  Law firms and other organizations are struggling to fill open positions, with some positions remaining vacant for six months or more, causing losses in both revenue and opportunity. For law firms in particular, the  decline in law school enrollment since 2010, combined with the increasing number of lawyers who seek careers outside private practice, will continue to put pressure on traditional hiring and staffing models. As firms increasingly look to fortify and/or elevate their in-house business capabilities, true impact players within marketing, business development, talent management and legal project management/pricing will be in even higher demand.

Leading firms are beginning to recognize that their talent is the only true differentiator. The article “Nine Best Practices of Effective Talent Management” (published by Development Dimensions International) demonstrates how quickly a new product or service or a lower price is duplicated by competitors.  As the article notes,

“Replicating a high-quality, highly engaged workforce is nearly impossible. The ability to effectively hire, retain, deploy, and engage talent—at all levels—is really the only true competitive advantage an organization possesses.”

The impact of “The War for Talent,” a concept originally introduced by McKinsey & Company in 1998, is a competitive differentiator in law firms today.  The daily headlines which boast partner and practice group coups between firms in the Am Law 200 provides ongoing validation.

A “Play to Win” Strategy

Firms that intentionally develop effective talent strategies which directly support their business strategies will be the ones to rise to the top.  In this hyper-competitive environment, it’s not enough to promise a client-value focus. If you don’t have the right people with the right skills compensated at the right level and available to work at the right time, you will be unable to deliver the value and service promised to clients.

The ability to attract, retain, reskill, upskill, reinvent and get creative with how you attract and deploy your talent will be the game changer. Firms who “play to win” the war for talent recognize the need for new strategies that challenge the status quo, disrupt traditional approaches, anticipate business challenges, search for new technologies and continuously seek creative solutions that differentiate them from their competitors.  They also recognize the need for cross-functional collaboration and alignment in order to achieve exceptional operational execution.  A “Play to Win” strategy is:

  • Unique
  • Intentional
  • Employee centric
  • Client focused
  • Inclusive
  • Dynamic
  • Adaptive
  • Data driven

A “Play Not to Lose” Strategy

Firms who take a more traditional approach to talent management will find themselves in a defensive position reacting to departing talent while struggling to attract the right new talent.  While it’s not impossible to come from behind, it is daunting given the pace of change in the world today.  The workforce of the future will look and operate very differently than it does today.  An article published in Forbes on the workforce of the future predicted that 75% of the workforce will be Millennials by the year 2025.

“In short, they want to be highly engaged by what they do and smart leaders will harness their sense of mission or risk losing these employees to more purpose-driven companies.”

Retention will be the “Play Not to Lose” firms’ most significant pain point.  They will deploy defensive strategies and work much harder just to hold their ground.  A “Play Not to Lose” strategy is:

  • Expected
  • Traditional
  • Consistent
  • Static
  • Default
  • Slow to change
  • Process and policy focused
  • Reactive

Ultimately, the collective experiences of your clients, candidates and employees will determine the winners and losers.  A strong brand, reinforced by a meaningful purpose, values and culture, is required for firms to engage, deliver value and impact employees, candidates and clients.  An integrated business and talent management strategy is essential to attain maximum impact. While the battles rages on in the “War for Talent” the most successful firms will choose to Play to Win.

This article, authored by Calibrate Legal alumna Carol E. Crawford, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, originally appeared in High Performance Counsel.

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