Resourcing In Uncertain Times – Hold on or Reach Out?
June 26, 2023
This year’s economic uncertainty has led employers to trim teams or freeze permanent and contract staff hiring. This state of affairs contrasts with past cycles (including the pandemic), where a brief hiring pause (due to restricted budgets for permanent headcount) preceded increased contract hiring. However, with ever-increasing workloads making burnout and attrition inevitable, balancing capacity and expertise against existing and emerging needs has become crucial. That, and the ongoing scrutiny of costs, militate for alternative resourcing solutions.
Not everyone agrees. Some hiring managers harbour rigid – and, frankly, out-of-date – notions about the resources they need and the cost involved. But today’s Talent market is unique. The depth and scope of the flex legal talent pool are unprecedented and traditional benchmarks – e.g., the comparative cost of law firm resources, incumbent contract staff, existing vendors, or permanent hire salaries – no longer accurately reflect what is achievable.
In working with our customers, my colleagues and I have helped hiring managers understand the new possibilities for resourcing strategies. The time is ripe for new approaches and fresh thinking, including:
Focusing on the actual requirements of the task or project at hand rather than fixating on qualifications or experience. Because most tasks within a law department do not require a licensed attorney, a law department pays a premium by insisting on using a lawyer rather than engaging a suitable professional. A ‘mix-and-match’ approach often delivers superior value – for example, law firm senior associates supported by lower-case direct seconded resources.
Engaging Talent beyond a specific location. The pandemic prompted exceptional Talent to relocate beyond large cities. Consequentially, the economics of obtaining excellent practitioners have shifted. The number of cost-effective resources available is unprecedented, particularly at companies willing to be flexible with return-to-office protocols.
Building your relationships with Talent.Ongoing communication and transparency pay dividends. Nowadays, many Talent will consider shorter-term contracts if coupled with attentive oversight and reasonable extension notice periods. Likewise, being up-front about a future intention to (or the possibility of) hiring a contract resource can result in meaningful savings and a more fruitful relationship with Talent. Law organisations should also keep engaged with their alumni and alumnae – the preexisting relationship with this Talent makes them an excellent source of flexible resources.
Leveraging multi-service providers (like Elevate).Partnering with a law company that provides contract staffing and has a law firm (e.g., ElevateNext) minimises the extent to which internal oversight of contractors is necessary, with lower costs than a law firm.
Thinking across the short-, medium-, and long-term. Rather than viewing the use of contractors as a series of unrelated tactical ‘one-offs,’ organisations should seize the strategic opportunities available from the unprecedented availability of experienced flex practitioners.
The last point bears elaboration. It may seem counter-intuitive to design and invest in a resourcing strategy during a period of economic uncertainty. However, the gathering economic storm clouds remind us that an organisation’s long-term survival and success require a long-range plan for securing the skills and talents. Staffing needs do not exist only in the present. They continue into the future as market conditions evolve and new opportunities emerge.
Furthermore, no matter how tempting the near-term savings are from skimping on staffing strategy, that approach guarantees significant and ever-increasing costs. Without a long-term approach to finding, securing, and retaining Talent, an organisation risks higher turnover, decreased productivity, and increased healthcare costs – not to mention lost opportunities from not having the resources (or ready access to them) for pursuing new ventures.
In the current environment, legal resourcing is not for the faint of heart. My Elevate colleagues who work with our customers as resourcing specialists can attest to the surge in hiring managers reaching out for help from the Elevate Flexible Resourcing team. Experienced, skilled resourcing specialists like Elevate’s can help – not just with tactical hiring but in crafting budget-sensible solutions that alleviate the pressure on existing teams, get the job done now, and lay a sound foundation for future staffing. Where hiring is an option, they can free up internal resources for other work by helping to ensure the recruitment process runs more efficiently and effectively (including handling job postings, candidate screening, interviewing, and more).
The current period of uncertainty will inevitably end. But simply holding on and ‘pushing through’ with the existing team is a dangerous approach. The new era of flex legal talent means new tactical and strategic approaches that are available now, and that respect cost pressures, provide relief to teams, and deliver better and sustained results. With the right assistance, hiring managers and their organisations can not only weather the storm but look forward to smooth sailing ahead.
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