In our most recent insight report, Six Things Keeping Managing Partners Awake at Night, the top-cited risks on managing partners’ minds as a result of COVID-19 can be broken down as: Are we performing well enough, financially? Are our employees coping? How can we best allocate resources? All of them are big, complicated questions, and consequently, the answers law firm leaders try to find for them need to be carefully communicated internally.
The way a law firm engages with its people is critical for the successful navigation of a crisis. Here are some key areas to consider when planning your internal communications in a world of uncertainty and change.
1. Demonstrate leadership
Your people want to know that the firm’s leadership team, not just the managing partner, is in control of how it is responding to the pandemic. This means it’s important to ensure that all partners and members of the leadership team are at the forefront of all internal communications; in other words, they need to understand the firm-wide policies and procedures and understand developments well enough to be confident in discussing them with their teams.
In this, communicating facts needs to be balanced with empathy. You need to be mindful of the concerns of your employees, many if not all of whom are working in isolation, under challenging circumstances. Make it clear that their wellbeing is important to the firm and its leadership team.
2. Consider your audience
Just like clients, your people have differing priorities, roles and ways in which they like to communicate. Consider having employee avatars where you group your colleagues into segments and tailor your approach to communicating with them. For example, does your business support team need different guidance compared to your fee earners? Does one group engage better with town hall sessions, and another prefer to digest information via email?
3. Cultural relevance
This is a global crisis, so if your firm operates in multiple jurisdictions you must have one voice, especially when it comes to company policies and procedures. But each country has its own cultural nuances to be considerate of. So local communication leads and managing partners need to be empowered to do the right thing for their specific region, especially in the event of a local COVID-19 outbreak.
You should also consider how messages may alter slightly when translated into different languages. If providing information on prevention and protection measures, do not assume everyone understands what is expected of them, it’s best practice to ensure that even basic advice is in accordance with that of a credible source, such as the World Health Organisation or a local health service provider.
4. Facilitate a dialogue
While leadership communication is vital, it’s equally important that you allow employees to ask questions, give feedback and air their concerns. Again, take note of how teams and individuals like to actively engage: do they appreciate regular phone calls, do they prefer to access videos and content on the company intranet, or do they prefer to use email?
Humans are social beings, so working in isolation can take its toll. By encouraging employees to talk to each other often and wherever possible by video to promote more face-to-face interactions, you begin to ease any feeling of loneliness, promote morale and foster a team spirit.
5. Be ready to evolve
As well as tailoring your messages to different employee groups and locations, you must be ready to evolve with the crisis itself. The pandemic and its impact on individuals, communities, businesses and countries around the world is changing almost day-by-day. You must stay on top of these developments and adapt your employee communications plan accordingly. Whatever happens, though, always back up any new health advice or safety protocols with clear signposting to certified information sources.
Every firm is different, and while the long-term impact of COVID-19 is still unknown, being proactive and responsive today is one of the best communication practices any law firm can take. Because in times of uncertainty, if you don’t say something, then people will start to fill in the gaps themselves. So always be sure to control your firm’s story by ensuring clear and consistent internal communications.
Book a free one-hour consultation with Byfield Consultancy
In tandem with our new report The Six Things Keeping Managing Partners Awake at Night, Byfield is offering managing partners and their teams a free one-hour consultation to discuss their key business and reputational concerns, and how the six communication areas of focus might be more effectively applied to help them meet their business challenges.
For more information on how to book, download The Six Things Keeping Managing Partners Awake at Night.