Competing on salary alone won't see the legal sector win its fight to attract a more diverse pool of talent
Whilst we know the City of London doesn’t operate on the traditional Monday-Friday footfall rhythm it once did, we also understand that getting workplaces right can support businesses with a range of factors from talent attraction, productivity, reputation and even revenue.
Benchmarking workplace performance is an increasingly complex picture and the rules have changed – and so it’s my firm belief that the way we measure performance must change too.
I’m not suggesting it’s a case of throwing away everything we know. Discerning occupiers are however, expanding the conversation. They know that the way we value our world and the businesses we chose to work with or indeed work for, is evolving at pace.
Especially prevalent for many employers in the fiercely competitive legal sector, holding on to their top talent whilst seeking to attract a diverse future workforce is of the utmost importance and on the agenda at the highest level. I believe one crucial discovery when making their case to potential recruits that could influence opinions should be investment in working environments that promote collegiality and a true sense of belonging.
People and their interactions and relationships with clients undoubtedly hold tremendous value to organisations. Yet what gets overlooked by some, is the realisation that the physical environments and culture they help represent, all have a direct impact on business performance.
The evidence behind the case...
To bring some evidence to what might seem a bold assertion, let’s consider arguably the most overt baseline indicator of business performance – turnover. If we’re to ask ourselves whether investment in quality workplaces can be linked to higher results - a recent study by ISG called The power of place says yes. In fact, it found a direct correlation with an uplift in revenue when getting offices right; investing in place alongside enabling remote working is intrinsically linked to revenue growth.
Moreover, 50% of firms that only invested in office workspace found it easy to recruit staff who fully met their role descriptions. The corresponding value for organisations that only invested in enabling remote working stands at 20%. Once again, all evidence points to physical place representing the lion’s share of influence.
For those seeking further proof points, allow me to draw focus to the financial services industry where talent comes with some of the highest price tags and there is much competition. Despite these conditions, – they were also the sector to invest the most in both improving workplaces and enabling remote working and the results showed they were also the sector that found it easiest to hire candidates who met all aspects of the job description.
On discussing ISG’s recent research, the reality for the legal sector was endorsed by David Crewe, Head of Corporate Real Estate at Hogan Lovells, as David commented on the challenges around learning and development. “Essentially, we're an apprenticeship firm where we spend a lot of time and money training our associates and trainees… We have to find a balance between having supervision in the office and supporting our trainees, while also being supportive and productive for all of our people across the organisation.”
Let this be a blueprint for many other sectors, whether those that are expanding rapidly or nascent industries looking to attract new talent. Less attention on what your competitors are doing, and a focus on an enhanced experience through the lens and experience of your people and clients will reap rewards.
It seems increasingly clear, that if we only view investment in workplaces as a cost, we severely limit the upside for business performance, societal, environmental and commercial gain that can be achieved. So as with any asset, it will be important to be able to demonstrate and measure the effectiveness of our investments. And the onus has to be on us across the industry to get a grasp of and guide both owners and occupiers towards their goals.
I was heartened to hear alignment on the topic at the launch of another of ISG’s research reports, ISG’s Sustainable Building Monitor, where Nick Jackson, Director at Arup, spoke on the topic “We’ve good air quality sensors, noise sensors, people counters – we’re getting so much data out we’re trying to work out how to filter it and digest it. We’ve got a live model of the way the space is being used and we can monitor that against MEP systems, we can look at how people are using the space, gives us an understanding of the reality of what happens. We’ve seen a lot of clients having interest in that now, for example air quality, how it’s performing from a wellbeing perspective – a lot of big organisations are particularly interested in seeing how it operates."
All organisations will need to look inwardly at how they can chart progress in striving towards their goals. When it comes to a new yardstick to benchmark performance, the case for doing so is mounting so its now incumbent on us all to be prepared to take the stand and seize this opportunity to bring about sustainable change that delivers for businesses, their people and the communities in which they operate.