Immigration Practice News

January 2013 (Vol. 4, No. 2)

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Resolve to Build a Culture of Retention by Peter Roberts A new staff member started today! Despite the experience that this new person brings, let's not forget that the person possesses no knowledge of how we do things at our firm. The new employee may (or may not) know immigration law and its underlying procedures, but the way we prioritize and serve our clients is unique to our firm and we should convey this information in a welcoming fashion. Your offer letter may describe the first 90 days as an "orientation period." After the 90 days are over, you should provide feedback regarding the employee's performance—how they handle mistakes, special skills they contribute, problems you saw them overcome, etc. In addition, asking their opinion about their performance and your management skills can help to resolve minor misunderstandings. But before you get to the 90-day performance review, make sure you start the new employee relationship on a footing that speaks to employee retention—commit to communicating effectively. THE FIRST DAY Remember the amenities. Take your new employee out to lunch in a nice but relaxed environment. Open the communication barrier by discussing your clients and the nuances of your practice. Share a great victory on a recent case and encourage the feeling of working with your staff as opposed to them working for you. Demonstrate that you are invested in the new employee's success by spending time educating them on office and computer systems. Present your office policies and procedures in an organized fashion and keep all instructional materials on your shared drive for easy reference and updating. By being more handson in the beginning you will find yourself spending less time putting out fires due to poor training methods and focus more time on being a good lawyer. THE SECOND DAY On the second day and after, schedule time to continue discussing clients, upcoming cases, special challenges, office systems, procedures, and what the local judges or officers like and dislike. Ask your new employee to share his or her own "war stories." Show your support to your staff. During times of stress, the payoff in strong morale is incalculable. Describe your expectations of the position that the new employee is undertaking. Leave nothing to assumption. In addition, ask s/he to describe their expectations of the job. Identifying and setting expectations in the beginning is essential as it will help gauge the full capacity of the job. Blame has no room in supervisory parlance. Instead, redirect your efforts to mutually solve the problem. AFTER 30 DAYS Taking time off due to illness is not unusual. However, watch out for consistent patterns. Does the employee frequently take off on Mondays? Are they usually late for work? Are they reliable? Answers to these questions may suggest disinterest in the job or that events in their personal life may be too demanding on the employee's time. Such incidents during the first 30 days are not encouraging. Remember you have an "orientation period" after which you will decide if the match will continue. If you meet with the person about these issues, keep formal notes. PERFORMANCE There are many ways to identify performance problems: projects falling through the cracks, clients voicing frustration regarding the employee, too many personal telephone calls, etc. Again, keep notes of such mistakes or errors and address your concerns in a nonthreatening way. Also, consider whether the employee's poor performance is a result of poor training on office procedures, which you might need to address. COMMUNICATION Plan A is always to "retrieve" the employee. Follow Keep lines of communication open within your up on tasks assigned and provide positive feedback office. Your new employee should feel comfortable in when warranted. Maybe a little time off is necessary communicating when s/he has made a mistake. The to deal with a domestic situation. Remember your sooner you know about an error, the more options you investment—termination should be the last resort. have to correct the situation. By resolving the situation in a calm and composed manner, you can make e Peter Roberts is the Practice Management ld b t. Advisor with the Law Office Management your employee feel less apprehensive shou r about the incident. Forget Assistance Program of the Washington State ion st reso at min a la the notion of blame. Bar Association. Ter www.aila.org 4

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