Many law graduates start their careers at this time of year. It can be a… Read more
Many law graduates start their careers at this time of year. It can be a daunting experience, so what can law firms do to ensure they settle in quickly and soon begin to contribute real value?
According to The Law Society, 15,986 students graduated with law degrees from universities in England and Wales in 2017. Most won’t end up as qualified solicitors. In the year ending 31 July 2016, only 6,346 qualified solicitors were admitted to the SRA roll.
Starting a new career in law when you’re in your early 20s can be slightly intimidating. Some young graduates struggle more than others when transitioning from academia into the world of work. It often involves having to move to live in a new place, of course, which also brings challenges. Others, it must be said, have no problem at all, helped by their supreme self-confidence.
BCL found that more than half of “Generation Y” graduates (AKA millennials – those born between the early 1980s and 2000s) expect to be in a management role within three years of joining, while 13% expect it in just one year. About 40% of young graduate respondents were unhappy with their lack of career progression, with many saying they’re likely to leave if this didn’t change.
Millennials are believed to have a very different approach to work. They expect their managers to be “coaches rather than bosses” and if you want them to stick around, you’d better offer them freedom and autonomy in their roles. That said, millennials also value strong working relationships, good communication with and trust from their managers, variety in their duties and the opportunity to learn new things, while welcoming new challenges.
According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development: “An employee’s first impressions of an organisation have a significant impact on their integration and job satisfaction. Induction [enables] a business to welcome their new recruit, help them settle in and ensure they have the [necessary] knowledge and support for the role.”
ACAS provides free and impartial advice to employers and employees. On its website it makes the key point that settling in new recruits is “much more than showing them where the toilets are and then leaving them with a pile of work”.
It says: “Employers who get [induction] right succeed in creating a positive sense of loyalty and attachment in new staff”, while getting it wrong can “foster feelings of disappointment and resentment that never disappear,” it warns.
In advance, your law firm should plan to meet your graduate new-joiner’s training needs. This will include health and safety, IT and systems and training which helps them to better understand your culture and standards. Many new recruits will be nervous, so you should help them to settle in quickly, so they can begin to make a meaningful contribution.
ACAS recommends having a planned induction programme. And before your new law graduate recruit starts, “plan who will meet them, who will act as a ‘buddy’ or mentor, where they will work, and send them useful information about [your] organisation and their new workplace”.
Help them to “find their feet” on their first day and get familiar with their work environment, while first meeting colleagues. Tell them about local lunch options – or better still – take them for lunch on their first day.
Show them where the toilets and staff kitchen/canteen are and let them know about coffee/tea making, as well staff social events. Crucially, they should receive fire safety and first aid advice. Your employee handbook should ably summarise your law firm’s HR policies and procedures.
Writing his employee “onboarding” checklist blog for the TPP Recruitment website, Rob Hayter recommends giving new team members written details of their key objectives and responsibilities, so they “know what’s expected of them”. They should also know when their probation period will end and how they can get through. On their first day, they should also receive any HR paperwork that needs completing, he advises.
With the right introduction, by the end of their first week, the new-joiner should better understand how your organisation works, what their role is and how they can contribute to your firm’s plans and vision.
According to ACAS, new-joiners should be encouraged to share any concerns or problems – at any time – but brief weekly catch-up meetings are advised, to find out how they’re settling in. A more formal review should take place after one month, with appraisals at three and six months.
And, so you can improve as an employer, after their probation period, ask new-joiners what your law firm could be doing better when it comes to welcoming recent law graduates into the fold.