It is not the onboarding, but the hiring process

Law firm hiring processWhen new employees do not last long, many are tempted to point to the onboarding process. The thought is that if the onboarding process was better, perhaps the employee may have lasted longer.

Yes, the onboarding process is essential. It is important to have informative onboarding materials. It is also critical to have an informative onboarding video. It also helps when there is a team approach to onboarding where everybody in the firm works to acclimate a new employee, not just management.

But an onboarding process cannot teach every employee everything about their job. The truth is that most employees learn how to be a lawyer, paralegal, or other administrative staff members through their college education or from previous jobs and training. They do not learn how to do their specific jobs during onboarding.

All onboarding can do is explain how your law firm operates. It can also explain the policies and procedures of your law firm. But the onboarding process cannot be too lengthy. Otherwise, many new employees will tune it out or they might not absorb it all. After the onboarding, it takes a concerted effort on the part of all employees to make a new employee feel welcome and show them how things work within your law firm.

After the onboarding, there is on-the-job training that has to take place. This on-the-job training usually involves an employee who has been with the firm a while mentoring that new employee. Mentorship can take place in many different ways, but having set meetings scheduled between a new employee and a more senior employee can be helpful. Lawyers, for example, should almost always help mentor and supervise paralegals and legal assistants assigned to them.

But in terms of whether an employee lasts long-term, that typically has more to do with the hiring process. In other words, if the law firm makes a good hire, the employee is likely to last. But if the law firm makes a bad hire, the onboarding process is probably not going to make a difference.

To make good hires, law firms have to put in play a thorough vetting process. That vetting process has to be followed by the recruiting team with every hire. No matter the temptation of some to short circuit it, there needs to be a process that the law firm follows in terms of deciding to hire a new employee.

A thorough vetting process involves interviews that are scripted out and thought about in advance. Law firms need to learn about the candidates and see if what they are looking for in a job matches what the law firm and the firms’ clients need. There should almost always be at least two interviews.

Personality is essential as well in the hiring process. Is the prospective employee humble and hardworking? Or, is the potential employee a me-monster who will focus more on themselves than the clients or the firm?

To make good hires, law firms need to meet lots of candidates. If the law firm is making one hire, a law firm should meet a minimum of four or five candidates for that position. By meeting many candidates, the likelihood of a good hire is much higher.

But where the recruiting team is focusing on one or two candidates, the chances of a good hire decrease. In these instances, the law firm is not utilizing a thorough vetting process. Instead, the process looks much more like a coronation of a single candidate versus a journey in finding a candidate that is truly a good match.

References make a big difference, as well. When a candidate has references from prior managers or supervisors, this can make a big difference in making a good hire. But where the references are from coworkers, friends, or family only, that is often a red flag.

When a candidate does not last long, the temptation again is to put it on the onboarding. The reality, however, is that if it was a bad hire in the first place, the onboarding process is not going to turn a bad hire into a good one.

If some employees are not lasting long, the first area where most law firms need to focus on is the hiring process. Is the hiring process effective, thorough, and being followed?  Or are there kinks in the process or areas where your team is short-circuiting the process?

If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.

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