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The CTC Productivity team recently reflected on our work with the world’s largest employment and labor law firm and realized there is an important message here that all organizations should follow. Thank you to Michelle Gomez, Senior Director of Engagement and Development, and Littler for allowing us to share this case study.

Here’s what Jan Lehman had to say about their challenge, the CTC solution, and the results:

 

About Littler:

Within the first few minutes of speaking with a potential client, I can tell right away when our values align—and when they do, we can do great things.

CTC Productivity clients typically don’t start off by saying “I want my employees to work harder.” Our clients tend to be heart-centered leaders who begin workplace discussions by talking about their focus on the people behind the work. If they’re concerned about efficiencies and want employees to work smarter, it’s usually not just about the bottom line—it’s about their team not needing to work such long hours to get their job done.

This was the case when I started working with the world’s largest labor and employment law firm Littler Mendelson, PC. Another law firm had recommended working with CTC Productivity, and Littler reached out for coaching services for several of its attorneys. When that proved successful, Littler planned to expand coaching to more and more attorneys across the firm’s many offices.

Challenge:

Early on when working with Littler, I started observing something I really respected. There was a noticeable trend in the various levels of attorneys they would have me coach—oftentimes, they were attorneys who were just starting off. I can tell you that this is rare. Most organizations invest instead in coaching for their veterans and higher-level leaders.

This law firm was willing to invest right away in their newer attorneys. And I believe that made all the difference in their company culture and bottom line.

While at first I was surprised, in hindsight, this strategy is brilliant. When you look at the cost to recruit, onboard, and train a new employee, the cost of coaching is small in comparison.

According to benchmarking data from the Society for Human Resource Management, the average cost per hire is nearly $4,700. But a recent Forbes article, “Five Hidden Costs of Employee Attrition,” cites additional costs, like lost productivity, that can bring that estimate to as much as three to four times the position’s salary.

New hires often need coaching not in professional knowledge, but rather in workplace productivity skills. Higher education does a great job of teaching college students their area of study, but managing day-to-day work in an office environment is rarely on the syllabus. Time management, planning, organization, and leveraging workplace technology are all things that are second nature to a veteran employee but need to be taught just like any other skill.

This especially applies to first-generation college students and anyone who doesn’t have preexisting connections in the business world. When I think about everything I didn’t learn in school, I realize now that my network of friends and family was crucial in educating and guiding me. I am so thankful I was able to follow in the footsteps of my parents and siblings, who all had experience with receiving business degrees and finding jobs. They informally mentored me and helped fill in the gaps that education could not provide.

Without that built-in network—and even with it!—many new hires are responsible for teaching themselves soft skills in business and the productivity strategies that can support them. Workplace technology can assist with at least four of the soft skills listed in the recent Forbes article “The Top 10 In-Demand Soft Skills To Learn In 2024, Based on Research,” including presentation skills, financial management, goal setting for strategic thinking, and even innovation.

Coaching for new grads is also extremely effective since they are smart, motivated people and typically eager to learn. Plus, these are skills they will use for the entirety of their tenure at the company, so why wouldn’t an employer invest in training right from the start?

But Littler’s story gets even better. I started noticing another trend while working with Littler: many of the attorneys they hired me to coach included individuals from historically marginalized and underrepresented groups.

I’m so thankful Littler allowed me to share this story with all of you, as all companies should recognize that this strategy not only makes smart financial sense for their business’s bottom line, but more importantly it is the right thing to do to level the playing field.

Many companies talk about their IE&D strategies, but all too often I don’t see much action to support those words. At Littler, that is not the case.

Solution:

Finding top talent is harder now than ever, but it is and will continue to be one of the most important strategies for every company. Yes, even as we embark into the world of AI. AI will not be replacing our people—it will be freeing them up to work on more human tasks that require an even more robust set of skills for success. And with that, productivity skills will become even more important.

So, when your company finds an exceptional team member—that smart, motivated person who has the brilliance to deliver your product or service—why wouldn’t you do everything in your power to eliminate all obstacles in their way?

By intentionally investing in individual coaching for new hires who are just getting started in their careers, Littler has a fresh and incredibly brilliant strategy for making things fair and equitable across its entire organization.

Individual coaching meets the employee where they are in their professional journey, which is important because everyone struggles (or excels) in different areas. Coaching helps get to the root cause of any individual challenges, so it is much more effective (in other words—a smart use of their time!).

An article by the Harvard Business Review explains, “Women of color and Black women specifically continue to be significantly underrepresented, making up 8.57% and 1.73% of all attorneys, respectively. Law firms are overwhelming white and male despite efforts to recruit people of color from prestigious academic institutions.”

Private law firms’ efforts to diversify the law profession can lead to insecurities when hires might worry their colleagues think they got the job because of their underrepresented status. Imposter syndrome is a real issue for confidence, and it impacts productivity as much as any time-management strategy. Second-guessing yourself and triple-checking everything to make sure it’s perfect is a time suck. (See our blog, How a Lack of Confidence is Hurting Your Team’s Productivity in the Workplace.)

With individual coaching, we are able to focus intentionally on building confidence for historically underrepresented new hires—which helps not only the team member but the business overall.

So, if your organization is a firm believer in leveling the playing field to ensure more candidates get hired and are set up for success, consider a fresh IE&D strategy that focuses on investing in your systemically underrepresented candidates, especially when they are entry-level employees.

And the equity angle doesn’t stop there. There are individuals with invisible barriers to productivity. These people often need advice and coaching that their peers within the firm may not be equipped to provide.

For example, many people with ADHD develop their own unique strategies to not just manage their differences but harness them. Working in a linear world can be a challenge, and it is critical to intentionally organize systems in a way that supports the way your team members work best. It is also equally important for employees to know that differences are embraced, such as what I found at Littler, not judged or dismissed.

For example, one client revealed that they had suffered a huge loss in their family. Littler, provided various way to support them through this time in their life. Giving them grace when they needed grace, and then giving them support when they needed support, made all the difference in retaining an extraordinary team member.

Another way Littler invests in their new hires is through group training. Each year Littler has me lead a time management training session for all new hires during a multiday orientation program. Again, this is a brilliant strategy (if I do say so myself) to make sure they start off with the right foundational skills that they will use every day for the rest of their career.

One of the observations I’ve made in my years of working with companies is that leaders often assume people know what they know. It’s how our brains work! So it’s easy to see how a leadership team would assume people are good time managers, know how to manage email, and have good organizational skills because those leaders already do.

So, again, kudos to Littler for investing upfront in all new hires and in employees who are showing signs of needing one-on-one support.

Results:

Littler has not only devised a smart strategy for ramping people up to be the best version of themselves as early as possible, but they have also established a very loyal following among their employees. A team member I coached who was grieving the loss of a loved one was so deeply appreciative of Littler’s support that I anticipate this will be someone they will retain for years to come.

So I’ve provided some anecdotal information, now let’s talk metrics.

Here are the coaching results for one of the new hires at the firm.

As you can see from these results, the employee and the firm not only got a boost in productivity, but the employee’s stress reduction and job satisfaction went up by over 31%.

Here are the survey results from a young woman from an historically underrepresented group at the firm. In our one-on-one coaching, we focused on productivity strategies, but confidence building was another primary focus that led to her success.

This time we see an even bigger bump in productivity and, again, the same amazing changes in stress reduction and job satisfaction.

I always say, Give me someone who is motivated, and we really can accomplish magical things.

Here are the training results from just one of the Littler training sessions:

Employee engagement scores at Littler are on the rise!

What is the metric you are trying to improve in your company? Why not focus on something that multiplies the benefits—increased productivity, retention, and employee engagement. A triple win!

Finally, kudos to Littler for having a brilliant long-term strategy and seeing the value in investing in people. I have no doubt the loyalty they have built by investing in their people will have an even bigger ROI over the years to come.

 

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