Why You’re Not Out Of The Woods Yet With The Staffing Crisis (and What To Do About It)

The pandemic may not be as hot of a topic as it was in 2020 and 2021, and we may not have the restrictions we used to have, but that doesn’t mean issues originating from the pandemic are over with.

In some areas things seem to have backed off, but in others, the aftershocks keep coming, including with regard to the staffing crisis.

A lot of people don’t realize that the staffing crisis didn’t originate with the pandemic. The pandemic simply sent the many employee engagement issues into overdrive. While fewer may be falling ill, a lot of people are still falling out of love with their jobs.

A phenomenon known as “quiet quitting” has taken hold, where people do the absolute bare minimum to not get fired, but they don’t excel at their job, either.

Things have permanently changed, and if you want top talent on your team, it’s time to get creative with legal recruiting.

It Was Already an Issue

Legal staffing agencies will tell you that the problem of attracting legal talent was brewing before the virus rose up. COVID-19 may have driven a large percentage of baby boomers into retirement, but it’s likely they had one foot out the door already.

In the same vein, working-age adults were trending towards a preference for temporary work over full-time employment. The pandemic simply accelerated the trend.

Additional staffing crisis factors that were already in place before the pandemic and that the pandemic also accelerated include the mental health and substance abuse epidemic and an increasing tendency to industry-hop instead of sticking with one industry for most of your career.

And because these issues were also in place before the pandemic, and have only gotten worse since the pandemic, legal recruiting won’t be getting easier anytime soon.

How to Improve Employee Engagement

What’s critical to understand about the staffing crisis is that it’s not about a lack of talent. It’s about a lack of desire. Today’s employees don’t want what yesterday’s employers are offering, which means floundering law firms need to get both feet in the present and offer today’s employees what they actually want. Here are three ways you can start doing exactly that:

1.  Cutting-edge Technology

Legal staffing agencies have, for years now, been highlighting the importance of leaning into cutting-edge technology, even at small firms.

The legal industry (along with everything else) went digital long ago, so if you haven’t caught up, you can expect to be looked over. Millennials and Gen Z grew up on tech, and aren’t interested in performing mundane tasks a computer could easily handle. They want to be good at their jobs, and for them, being good means capitalizing on everything technology has to offer.

Another factor is that lack of tolerance for poor tech skyrocketed during the pandemic, because while working from home, employees were able to equip their home office with the software, hardware, and web-based resources not available in their office. After gaining a taste for what a difference better tech makes, they aren’t interested in working someplace that refuses to provide modern technology.

2. More Flexibility

In 2019, back before coronavirus was a word we all knew, 70 percent of surveyed lawyers acknowledged that flexible hours and remote work were the most attractive incentives a law firm could offer.

Post-pandemic, that’s even more true. Top talent is fed up with the 9:00 to 5:00 (or, more accurately, 9:00 to 9:00) five days a week. Get on board with flexible hours and remote work, and top talent can be yours again.

3. Mission-driven Work

Today’s young talent–Millennials and Gen Z–want their work to align with their values. Meaning, they want what they’re doing to mean something, vs. “just pay the bills.”

What that looks like depends on the person, but a few examples relevant to you as an employer are volunteer-able programs, corporate social responsibility programs, gift-giving, philanthropy, or engagement with community programs.

Explore how you can incorporate more meaning into what your firm offers, which will appeal to mission-driven generations and bring in more top talent.

The bottom line is that the labor market has changed, and while economic conditions may further impact it, waiting around for things to “go back to the way they were” is not an option if you want to attract top talent.

Things are not going back to how they were, because too much has changed. Instead of making things harder for yourself by keeping one foot in the past, bring both feet into the present, embrace our current reality, and utilize what’s true now to attract the top talent you really want working in your firm.

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