Open New Lines of Communication

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One of the major differences between the firms that made this year’s Best Firms to Work For list and those that didn’t was transparency.

While that may conjure up visions of revealing all of your firm’s secrets, in most cases it’s actually about making sure staff know all the things you want them to know – and that you hear from them in return.

Open-door policies that encourage staff to talk openly to firm leadership are a staple at the Best Firms to Work For, as are weekly updates via e-mail, blog or even video (in the case of Oklahoma’s HoganTaylor) from the firm’s managing partner or CEO, as well as frequent staff meetings to keep employees abreast of the latest developments.

A number of firms -- like Virginia’s Castro & Co., Houston’s MiddletonRaines+Zapata, and Maryland’s Santos, Postal & Co. -- use Yammer, an online collaboration tool, to keep team members in the loop and generate on ongoing conversation among staff members, and between staff and management.

Another common approach involves the managing partner or senior partners regularly taking different employees to lunch or breakfast. James L. Moore & Co. in Florida uses these “to promote relationship building and get to know each other by removing the barrier of a desk.”

At Georgia’s Porter Keadle Moore, meanwhile, a Staff Advisory Committee made up of employees from all departments and levels below manager provides a voice for employees to communicate with management, while California’s Holthouse Carlin & Van Trigt has a Senior Advisor Council comprised of team members below manager to help the managing partner “better understand issues important to staff, focus on improvement areas and work to enrich the workplace experience.” And Georgia’s Bennett Thrasher has an Associate Council, where one or two representatives of each department bring anonymous feedback from their peers directly to the partners, chief operating officer and HR.

And of course, there’s always “management by walking around” – getting out and just plain talking to your employees. Anything that starts the conversation going is a good place to start.

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