The Role of Benefits in Your Law Practice

It's readily apparent to every law firm human resources manager. The American workplace is changing.

Downsizing and outsourcing have strained the once solid relationship between employers and employees, and created a more mobile, more fluid workforce. At the same time, demographic shifts have made it harder for law firms to recruit and retain the best workers.

More than ever, American businesses are facing the realities of a destabilized workforce - and many law firms are struggling to adapt.

Although the ramifications of these changes to the legal industry continue to emerge, one thing seems to be clear. In the new workplace, benefits are poised to play a primary role. As such, law firms that are equipped to maximize their benefits investments have a significant advantage in the labor marketplace. However, current economic conditions have curtailed the budgets for offering new benefit programs.

The solution for law firms is to recognize that benefits are key to increasing employee retention and improving employee morale. That has a direct impact on the bottom line and it should be argument enough to make improving benefits a priority investment.

However, when new funds are not available, there are still a few smart ways to get more mileage out of your existing benefits package.

Leveraging Benefits to Increase Employee Retention

The primary reason to pay close attention to your benefits offering is to keep your best employees. In fact, in recent years worker retention has surpassed cost controls as employers' most important benefits objective.

Despite the transient nature of today's workforce, many workers are reluctant to look for greener employment pastures if it means leaving behind a solid benefits package. A good benefits package creates a "stickiness factor" that keeps employees from jumping over to the competition.

In an effort to retain top talent, smart law firms have amplified their efforts to increase participation in benefits programs as a method of improving employee retention rates.

In other instances, law firms are relying on benefits as a tool for attracting new workers in competitive job markets. This frequently requires the firm to tailor its benefits offerings to a subsection of the labor force.

For example, the looming retirement of the Baby Boomer generation has raised concerns about labor shortages in the legal industry. To compete for the dwindling supply of workers, many law firms have begun to offer certain benefits specifically designed to attract older employees.

Leveraging Benefits to Raise Employee Morale

Beyond helping with employee retention, perhaps the most important advantage benefits can give employers in the new workplace is an upsurge in worker job satisfaction.

Recent surveys indicate that 80 percent of employees who describe themselves as "highly satisfied" with their benefits also report a high level of job satisfaction.

The strong connection between benefits satisfaction and job satisfaction is evidence that new workplace employees link their vocational happiness with their employer's ability to provide them with various forms of financial, health and other benefits.

Making the Most of Your Existing Benefits Package

The key to making the most of your existing benefits package is to personalize the benefits to the individual needs of your employees. Personalization of benefits is a hallmark of the new workplace.

However, many law firms view personalization as a feature that is at odds with the need to control costs. Faced with the choice between a tailored benefits package and cost management, many employers quickly decide that the advantages of personalization aren't worth the price tag.

However, companies can adapt their benefits to the changing needs of their employees find simply by focusing on benefits education and communication.

Rather than increasing benefits coverage, they can achieve the same goals by simply helping their employees take full advantage of the benefits the company already provides.

When intangibles like employee retention and job satisfaction are taken into account, the cost advantages of benefits communication and education become even more apparent.

Current trends suggest that the U.S. workplace will continue on its present trajectory well into the foreseeable future. As the workforce becomes more and more diverse, employers will be forced to address the individual needs of their employees, particularly in the area of benefits. Some law firms will fail to adapt to the changes of the new workplace, and their practices will suffer the consequences.

But those law firms that are willing to meet the challenge by adopting personalized, education-driven benefits programs will inevitably reap rewards in the new workplace.