I have written often about the importance of creating a learning culture at your law firm. It’s truly the only way for your firm to embrace new technologies and innovative solutions, thus serving your clients better and more efficiently. At the heart of any genuine learning culture is a training program that helps people advance their skills and knowledge. But how do you conduct law firm training without burnout? How do you foster a culture that rewards learning while people can still get their jobs done?
It is a tricky balance.
I recently read an article titled “5 Ways to Upskill Your Employees Without Causing Burnout” in HR Daily Advisor by Vance Hilderman, founder of aviation company AFuzion. The aviation industry is obviously one that demands continuous learning: you don’t want your plane built by engineers who rely solely on 1960s knowledge! I would argue the same is true of law firms. How many clients want their legal documents created on a typewriter? Zero. While those are extreme examples, they illustrate what it would be like if we didn’t foster continuous learning in our law firms.
But how do you conduct law firm training without burnout? Hilderman had some great ideas and I’m going to embellish them with a few of my own. Here goes!
5 Ways to Conduct Law Firm Training without Burnout
- Create a Personal Development Plan for Each Employee: This plan should not only enable the employee to carve out dedicated time for learning without feeling like he/she is just getting deeper underwater with work, but it should also reward employees for reaching certain benchmarks. I have long been an advocate of linking the annual review process to learning benchmarks. If a person’s salary or bonus is tied to learning new skills, you can bet it will happen. (But it’s nice to offer rewards above and beyond salary bumps, such as gift cards, etc.)
- Set Realistic Expectations and Timelines for Reskilling: For new tech rollouts, obviously everyone needs to be trained in a relatively short period of time. Those trainings should accompany a “grace period” when workload expectations are diminished. For example, if you offer an all-day training, those employees should be allowed to turf some of their work or email load to others so that they don’t have to spend the entire night catching up. However, for ongoing training – the meat-and-potato training that should happen all year long, you also need to set reasonable expectations. Law firm training without burnout demands that employees be givien breathing room to train! Whether it’s weekly, monthly or quarterly. For example, if you have a cloud-based learning management system for law firms, you could give employees the option to train from home for a day, protecting them from the sudden interruptions of the office. Hilderman also adds, “Additionally, managers need to remain empathic. When an employee is learning a difficult new skill, it’s natural for the worker to feel a bit overwhelmed and fearful of failure. It’s important that managers understand, communicate, and embrace this as part of the process.”
- Leverage Remote Training Programs: That’s what I just said above! Hilderman agrees with me, saying, “Allowing your employees to study from the comfort of their own home will mean they can spend more time with their family and save on any unnecessary travel, making the whole process less stressful for everyone involved.”
- Establish a Wellness Culture in the Workplace: I think Savvy does this very well. For example, everyone on the leadership team recognizes that we each have lives outside of the office and sometimes those lives spill into a workday or a workweek. We give each other grace to take care of our families and ourselves, understanding that the work will always get done. Though it may not get done in the traditional workday. Remember that your employees are not robots, and we have all been through a lot in the last two years. If you are adding training to your firm’s professional expectations, make sure to balance it with a bit of humanity. Hilderman adds, “The … best thing you can do to combat burnout is to establish a wellness culture in the workplace. This is when management puts a high priority on looking after the mental well-being of their employees. Burnout almost always results from a workplace that does not have adequate structures to provide support for employees who might be struggling with either professional or personal issues. There needs to be a healthy work environment in which employees feel valued, respected, and listened to.”
- Evaluate, Iterate and Evaluate: Basically, this step demands that you create a system for checking in with your employees, evaluating the impact of training across the firm, and then adjusting to accommodate what you learn. Force-feeding training is a sure-fire path to burnout. Hilderman adds, “As every manager knows, no two employees are the same. Just because a few of them are finding success and enjoyment with your current training program doesn’t mean the rest are getting the same results. This is why, as a final step, you must allocate some time to survey and evaluate how each employee is performing. You may also want to offer different training opportunities and schedules so each employee can find what works best for him or her.”
The Savvy team is highly experienced at creating law firm training without burnout. Need a brainstorm session to see how you might create a learning culture at your firm? Contact me today.