Beware the buy-back – how to attract and retain the best.

May 24, 2017    Andrew Peers     ,

Recruitment is the single biggest barrier to growth across all industries and for the legal sector it’s a particular challenge as they deal with ‘buy back’.

Buy back is a growing issue as incumbent employers make counter offers to try and keep staff on the brink of leaving. This ‘late to the party’ approach to keeping staff happy is certainly not to be celebrated, but for legal practices in the market for new skills and talent, this is a very real obstacle to growth.

The rise in counter offers or ‘buy back’ shows that incumbent employers are reluctant to let good talent go (after all they will then face the challenge of finding a replacement) and are using notice periods as a last chance saloon to avoid the costly and time-consuming process of finding a replacement. Promises of pay rises, increased responsibilities and promotion to partner can all be tabled in a bid to retain talent.

All of these challenges are, as you’d expect, indicative of a skills shortage. If recruiting practices are to stand the best chance of turning their job acceptances into new arrivals on their first day – there are some vital considerations to keep in mind.

  • Work hard to keep your candidate engaged while they work their notice period – Invite them to staff events, make them feel part of your culture and invest in ‘getting to know them’ ahead of the start date. If you have adopted agile working or offer a range of staff benefits, introduce them to these concepts or ‘points of difference’ before they start. This will help to reduce the likelihood of the incumbent employer being successful with a counter offer.
  • Use the interview process to establish if candidates really are serious about joining your practice or whether this is an exercise intended to prompt a counter offer.
  • Invest in your approach to recruitment – Make sure you show your practice as a great employer brand and present compelling reasons for the candidate to come and work for you. This should be clear from the way job adverts are written, people specifications are outlined and interviews are handled. Include ‘stand out’ elements into your recruitment process such as an office show-round, a chance to talk to existing staff and your ‘cultural ambassadors’ and sell everything you offer. Flexible working, benefits, workplace facilities, social activities and career opportunities.
  • Make your interview process effective and short – Such is the shortage of talent that strong candidates might be faced with multiple job offers. Ensure that your recruitment process isn’t overly protracted and if you feel someone is the right fit act fast.
  • Manage the talent you already have – The more you invest in your people and provide the right support and training opportunities the most likely they are to stay – therefore reducing the need to recruit. Help your team to avoid burnout and keep them engaged, motivated, supported and enthused about working for your practice.

Statistics revealed by Gallup show that 70% of UK employees are disengaged and uninspired in their roles. Likewise statistics from Deloitte reported that 70% of business leaders have a retention and engagement problem and only 17% feel that their business presents an ‘engaging’ brand for potential candidates. It’s clear that recruitment is a huge challenge for economic growth and knowledge economy professions in particular.

There is no margin for error when it comes to finding, retaining and nurturing talent. The cost of getting it wrong is far too onerous.

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