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“Pride of ownership” doesn’t have to involve literal ownership: Many of the Best Firms to Work For give their employees a metaphorical stake by letting them participate in the management and strategic direction of the firm.

Most commonly this involves including non-partner staff on committees responsible for specific areas; the trick is to make sure that the committees are empowered to actually make changes. Being able to make a difference helps bind employees to the firm, and is a great way to demonstrate confidence in high-performing staff and the next generation of leaders.

Maryland-based DeLeon & Stang sums up the approach nicely: “Giving the team a sense of ownership and purpose by showing them how their work positively affects the company through involving our staff in the strategic planning, vision and goal-setting and working on the committees to make them happen.”

Not only does working on firm committees and otherwise contributing to the direction of the firm make employees feel pride of ownership; it’s also a great way to unleash their creativity.

Philadelphia-based Brinker Simpson, for instance, has a number of employee-staffed committees for everything from technology, policies & procedures and marketing, to communications and green issues, each with a specific agenda for moving the firm forward – and when the partners discovered that the firm had a problem with late and incomplete timesheets, they tasked the policies & procedures committee with finding a solution. Their answer? To divide the firm into teams and give prizes to those that get their timesheets in on time and complete.

Brinker Simpson also asks each employee, as part of their annual review, to name three things they’d like to change about the firm – and then tasks the appropriate committees with addressing those changes that are most frequently cited.

Blackman & Sloop in Raleigh, N.C., put a pop-culture spin on taking employee suggestions with “Partner Tank,” its own version of “Shark Tank,” where staff can submit ideas to the partner group.

Whatever you call it, though, giving staff a say and a stake in the running of the firm is a great way to keep them on board.

For more ways to create a top workplace, see 20 Days: Building a Better Firm.

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