5 golden rules to working effectively with employment consultants

We specialise in providing specialist employment consultancy to professional service providers and their clients . We work predominantly with law firms and accountancy practices to support  business with employment problems.

Professional services offer sound advice to their clients in a range of different situations including employment, but this advice isn’t always put into practice.

This can be for a variety of reasons:

  • Concern about creating conflict
  • Lack of experience or confidence to deal with such situations
  • Implication in events, perhaps a key witness or hearing manager in the early stage so unable to hear the appeal
  • Limited managerial capacity to handle what can be time consuming issues
  • Lack of appetite to deal with the situation and will therefore unlikely to apply the right level of rigour

What sorts of situations are we talking about?

These situations are wide and varied but include:

  • Conducting investigations
  • Handling disciplinaries, grievances and appeals
  • Reorganisations
  • Changing terms and conditions
  • Pay and grading implementation, and
  • Redundancy consultation

But how do you ensure that you get the best from employment consultants so that they create value for your client and knock on benefit for your business?

What are the 5 golden rules to ensure employment consultants add value to your clients?

You will have developed trusted relationships with your clients over the years and often you will be the first port of call when an issue arises.

Why would you want to introduce another party?

Often you will offer initial advice on how the client should handle an issue, but what if they need more than that?

Sometimes the client needs somebody to do some of the work or to support them whilst they deal with matters and put your advice into practice.

The way Athena work is to maintain a three way relationship:

We work closely with the client to understand what they need, support them with the difficult bits on the ground and keep you informed of what is happening and how matters are developing.


You
keep us informed of the advice you have given so that we can let you know how and whether your advice is being followed.  You also get to know what is happening enabling you to adjust your advice accordingly making it even more commercially grounded and appropriate.

The client has support both in terms of sound advice ans how they put that advice into practice in a way that will ensure process is followed throughout.

Concerns and risks

A common concern voiced by professional service providers is that there is overlap between what we do as employment consultants and what you do as professional advisers.  If you introduce  us we will do the work that you currently do and you will lose business as a result.

Another concern is if we, as the consultant mess up, this creates reputational risk for you and your business.

Mitigating these risks is key, and in our work we have identified 5 golden rules around setting such a relationship up for success.

  • Be clear who owns the client relationship, and be granular about any limitations you want to impose on direct client contact
  • Communicate effectively with the employment consultant and set clear expectations around how you want the employment consultant to communicate with you
  • Do your homework, there are a lot of employment consultants out there of varying ability, ask to see examples of independent work undertaken and take up references
  • Be clear about any referral arrangements
  • Complete case reviews to ensure lessons are learnt

Setting the relationship up for success

Building trust between you and the consultant is the key to making the relationship work, so that the communication flow between you, the client and the consultant is seamless, ensuring your clients are delighted, your advice is followed and matters are dealt with in a way that will stand up in a tribunal if necessary.

Your client will then have choice over how they settle matters.  If process has been followed in a robust manner the client will be able to choose between litigation or settlement.

If you would like more information about how we can set up a mutually beneficial relationship call us now on 07977 932551 or email on jane@athenaprofessional.co.uk

Bang goes the tick-box boys; SRA Consultation on reform of cpd announced

The cpd hour is dead (we hope): long live learning!

The SRA has today published plans to reform the regulation of cpd.  In a consultation paper they propose;

  • the end of the minimum hours approach,
  • no more annual returns on cpd, and
  • the end of SRA accreditation for cpd providers

Cpd would become a matter for over all compliance with requirements to show that individuals are competent to deliver legal services and that staff are being trained and supervised.

Different kinds of straitjacket

A couple of alternatives are suggested:

  • prescription of process – a different set of tick boxes to show that “reflection” and development have happened.
  • a minimum hours + inclusion of new ways of learning, inc. on-the-job learning

I presume these are being offered in case it is felt that professional people really cannot be trusted/bothered to take responsibility for their own learning.  Anyone who thinks its a good idea to tick a box to say you have “done” some reflecting, needs to think again.  When I think about it, ticking a box is the antithesis of reflection (L&D joke I just made up).

The Opportunity

A lot of law firms have got big, expensive strategies and very little idea of what to do to implement them.  Values, culture, employee engagement, they are all important.  But learning is where its really at.  If people are not minded to learn, they are not minded to change.  Here are three questions to get started:

Q1 What does “competent” look like?

Lawyers need to get over the idea that competencies are reductive.  Being able to articulate what a good lawyer actually does in order to be good in respect of a number of key areas is a common sense approach.  It helps set expectation, makes performance management meaningful and liberates people to find their own way to competence.

Q2  What learning needs to happen?

There is a chance now for individual lawyers and their organisations to consider what learning really needs to happen.  What does the business need people to be able to do?  What competencies are weak in individuals and in the organisation as a whole?

Q3  How is the learning best delivered?

Face-to-face learning is not necessarily the way forward.  Lawyers need to learn to share ideas and develop knowledge with their colleagues, possibly with their clients.  Social network learning has a huge amount to offer the legal sector.  Oh, and by the way, coaching is the best way to enhance performance.

Pin them down

Pin learning to business goals.  Aren’t you sick of having an expensive business development plan nobody knows about?  Here’s a way of pinning people down to demonstrable behaviours which fit with your plan.  Simples.

Dull is dead!!!

Attending updates sessions in person may have other, social & networking benefits, but in the age of the search engine its really not necessary.  I walked out of the last law update course I went to.  It was appalling.  The photo of the presenter’s dog was no substitute for learning.

Bring on the new shiny things

Here are three tools on which a firm could build an effective personal/professional development plan:

  • Lumina psychometrics – for self-awareness and awareness of impact on others + other skills development steps including team-work, communication, client service & sales
  • 360appraisalforlawyers – feedback from colleagues about competence – a great basis for identifying development needs, starting coaching conversations, setting a benchmark at the start of a development programme,
  • Curatr 3 – a social learning networking tool – structured and facilitated learning which allows participants to contribute ideas and content.  All those cheesy graphics of seeds germinating?  Its like that.

Yes, I do use all three.  That’s because they are great.  See below for links.

Back them up

Tools alone do not maketh the learning.  Brave new behaviours will wither and die in the workplace if they are not supported by colleagues.  COLLEAGUES means EVERYONE.  If your peers think your mad, you’ll stop.  If your staff think your on one, you’ll stop in the end.  Most of all, if your senior colleagues are not encouraging (leading?), you’ll know its all just window-dressing, and go back to your targets.  Effort is something we chose to make.  Most people are like a pup with four tails if they are encouraged.

Wild excitement

I’m really chuffed (can you tell?), because I think the legal profession was at risk of looking ridiculous hanging on warehouse “updates” as a fig leaf to cover their embarrassment about not giving a stuff about learning how to do things differently.  It is entirely possible to value erudition and be able to understand how to create great relationships with clients and colleagues.  Now that’s a thrilling prospect.

Nicola@athenaprofessional.co.uk

@NooJones

Read the consultation paper here:  http://bit.ly/1b4xmXt

Lumina Learning www.luminalearning.com

360 appraisal www.360forlawyers.co.uk

Curatr 3 www.curatr3.com