How to communicate change initiatives to administrative support staff
To any law firm planning on implementing substantial change, it won’t be news that a strategic approach is imperative to the success of the transformation.
But when this change involves potentially sensitive subjects such as; outsourcing, reorganising processes, reallocating work or introducing new technologies, what does this ‘strategic approach’ look like?
In this blog, we reveal:
- What to consider when communicating change initiatives to your administrative support staff
- How best to approach announcing change to ensure that administrative support staff are on board with your plans—a strategy which is imperative if you want these changes to have the desired impact
And who are ‘we’?
We’re the leading provider of PA, document production and administrative support services to the UK legal sector. With over 17 years’ experience in the industry, we’re well placed to help you devise a strategy for the successful implementation of structural changes and effective communication of those plans to your administrative support staff. A strategy which will ensure buy-in, thus future-proofing the success of the initiative.
If your firm has identified outsourcing as a way of improving the efficiency of its administrative support functions, read a little more about how we can help on the 'What we do’ section of our website.
What to consider:
1.‘Change’ can be a daunting word for staff in support functions
In a time where many law firms are decreasing the number of full-time staff in support roles (Source: PwC’s Law Firms’ Survey Report 2017), and new technologies are encroaching on jobs that are susceptible to automation, concerns amongst support staff regarding their livelihood are growing. In fact, just last year, The Guardian reported that 1.1 million people in administrative and support services in the UK were at high risk of being replaced by robots within 15 years. Whether this prediction turns out to be true or not isn’t the point—announcements like this are causing unrest, and turning ‘change’ into a word that (if used without context) can cause panic among those who believe their jobs may be under threat.
If you want buy-in from the staff that will be most affected by the changes, you need to think carefully about how you announce your plans. Get it right and you’ll have prepared administrative support staff who are on board with the plan. Get it wrong and you’ll cause unnecessary worry that hinders the effectiveness of the change before it’s even begun.
2. Administrative support staff need to see the point in the change
Successful change management relies on four key principles:
- Employees see the point of the change and agree with it
- Relevant recognition and reward systems in place to accompany the new behaviour required of the employees
- Prioritisation of the skills employees need to adapt to the change
- Role models within the organisation also display the new behaviour
If outsourcing is one of the planned structural changes in your firm, then it will be the responsibility of the outsourcing provider to ensure the systems needed for principles two, three, and four are in place. Principle one however, is a foundation that needs to be laid by the firm early on in order to ensure that administrative support staff are willing to play their part in new procedures.
If individuals do not see the point in the change they will be reluctant (at best) to realign their thinking and behaviour to the new way of doing things, and disgruntled enough (at worst) to default back to old behaviours at the earliest opportunity.
Read our blog ‘The incentives administrative support staff care about’ to find out more about how we effectively motivate PA, document production and administrative support staff in order to get law firms’ admin support functions working at optimal efficiency.
What to do:
1. Avoid a situation where rumours of ‘change’ circulate in your firm before you’ve had a chance to make an official announcement
As you know, ‘change’ has become a word that can cause concern among those who believe their job may be under threat. For this reason, you don’t want to cultivate an environment where rumours of ‘change’ have time to develop into negative attitudes towards your proposed plans.
We recommend being as transparent as possible about change. Addressing employee concerns head-on rather than allowing negative feelings to fester is important if you want to ensure your administrative support staff deliver on new objectives. And if you don’t? It won’t just go away. A negative attitude towards your plans will drain the efficiency of your support functions.
2. Ensure that the firm’s goals surrounding the change are made clear and reinforced regularly
If an individual understands why the firm has chosen to make changes to administrative support functions, and how it will improve both the firm as a whole and their specific environment, then they are more likely to accept the proposed changes.
Make sure you communicate, and then reiterate, how this change will positively affect the firm and the individuals involved.
3. Give staff a voice
The ability to ask questions and get answers early on will play a significant role in getting your administrative support staff on board with the changes your firm is making. After all, if they feel like they have a voice (and what they have to say is being heard) then they will feel engaged and involved.
If you ignore their questions and concerns, you’re risking apathy and demotivation among staff members—both of which will serve as major roadblocks to the growth you want to achieve.
At Intelligent Office, we offer a range of PA, document production and administrative support services which help law firms achieve operational efficiency and increased revenue. These are:
- Personal Assistant services... for firms looking to free up fee earners’ time for higher value work
- Document Production… for firms who need to improve the consistency, quality and speed of their current document production functions and possibly want to improve their use of real estate by moving this service offsite
- Print and mailroom, front of house and records management services… for firms wanting to improve the quality and output of these functions
If our extensive experience in supplying these services has taught us anything, it’s that the transfer is a lot smoother if the firm’s management team works with the third party provider to lay the right foundations to ensure the proposed change is accepted by existing support staff.
If you have any questions regarding how we would recommend handling this kind of sensitive situation in your own firm, or about the level of involvement we have before and during the transfer, you can get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or giving us a call on +44 (0)7984 252 150.
Alternatively, if you’d like to hear more about outsourcing your law firm’s support services to a third party like us (and hear from the people who are currently doing just that), we send emails once a month to our database.
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