Under pressure – Seven stressors on the road to business recovery

As law firms start to think about the physical return to work and business recovery, I thought I’d just do a quick round-up of seven particular pressure points that keep coming up in chats, meetings, webinars etc, and that are exercising leadership as we move through the next phase of the pandemic.

One – “We need more on mobile”. There’s widespread recognition that the mass mobilisation of workers has been an incredible feat, with kudos to the IT staff who reacted so well. Plus fee earner work and effective collaboration has owed a lot to project tools like Microsoft Teams. But the passing weeks have also revealed that for many people ‘agility’ still has them tethered to their laptop, still reliant on email, still plugging into a static intranet. Expect more on mobile strategy in the weeks and months ahead.

Two – “There has to be a single source of truth”. The need to control the narrative, manage information flow, direct tailored messaging and keep people on side has shone a harsh light on firms’ ability to communicate to everyone quickly and easily, and to give staff the reassurance of a ‘go-to’ place for the latest news and directions. Myriad WhatsApp groups or unstructured chats in Teams are no answer – you need a trusted corporate channel that can get to everyone in a timely fashion.

Three – “Is our intranet really fit for purpose?”. It goes to the mobile point above. Some firms are definitely struggling to deliver on operational essentials because their intranet is old and static, and certainly not geared to enablement and self-service, or indeed pushing out key content at this critical time. Thoughts are turning to a genuine workplace companion, something accessible 24/7 across multiple devices.

Four – “How do we push out notifications to support business continuity planning?”  If the VPN is down, what solution do we have in place that provides access to everybody in the firm?  There’s often the challenge that not everybody has a firm mobile device and not everybody has registered their personal mobile to receive messages.  The need to communicate with the whole firm or sub-groups has been highlighted, how can this be easily enabled to ensure everybody is on an alert list?

Five – “What are we going to do about onboarding?” A really regular lament, this one. New recruits are coming into a much altered business, and can’t expect the same sort of high touch induction experience now as previously. Interestingly though, Covid may just have hurried along change in this area as this is a topic that has been bubbling away for a while. Can we digitally pre-board people? Induct them via eclassrooms and video-based modules? Support their physical introduction with app-based maps and guidance? Survey feelings and sentiment and deliver ementorship?

Six – “Managing the health of the firm – literally and metaphorically”. Not so much about managing the public health aspects of the virus, but more about people’s individual well-being and the collective mood towards the business. Covid has placed unique stressors on the workforce and the workplace and monitoring how a firm rebuilds, keeping all its constituent people parts intact, is a massive challenge.

Seven – “What will client engagement look like in the months to come?” There’s a natural concern that for all the regular interactions firms have with their clients – the calls, emails, video conferences – the limits on face-to-face meetings, on professional events, social occasions, all that classic in-person networking stuff, that those limits will impact relationships. Suddenly the touchpoints in between matters aren’t happening the way they used to, so firms and partners need to rethink how they manage the client lifecycle, how they strengthen the end-to-end relationship when some of its weapons of choice are no longer so freely available.

What should encourage firms is that throughout this unprecedented, hyper-stressful situation, they have done pretty well all things considered and should look to the future somewhat emboldened – there’s definitely latitude to try new things, to experiment, to properly innovate because there is no playbook for this, there is no-one who will call you out on your ideas.

There’s been a lot of talk more generally about doing things differently post-Covid during our window of business recovery. For law firms, perhaps that should extend to different technologies too.

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