It is easy to talk a good game when it comes to putting people at the heart of what you do but, in a global market where uncertainty is rife and there are more known unknowns causing sleepless nights than ever before, one of the few things we can all be sure of (apart from ever increasing pressure on costs) is that demand for top talent will continue to increase.
No matter how the geopolitical tectonic plates settle in the coming months (if they do settle), providing clients with better service will depend on employing the right professionals with the right talent, development tools, and environment to deliver the best service.
A constant focus on having the right balance of services in the jurisdictions that clients need us to be in is part of the answer, as is finding the right tech solutions and delivery systems for clients and allowing personnel to move freely around a multi-jurisdiction setup, but just as vital as that agility is the ability to get the right people in the organisation and contributing all of their talent.
The market in which we operate is only going to get more competitive, and experience and having a deserved reputation for a strongly commercial approach is going to be ever more important – not just for our clients, but for the people who want to work for us and alongside us. Although there may well be more consolidation in the market over the next 12–24 months, top individuals still have a wealth of offshore firms looking to harness their knowledge and expertise for the most complex international transactions and cases. That means standing out in a crowded market.
We are all searching for that next generation of partner who can combine technical excellence with the interpersonal skills, commercial sixth sense, and project management needed for leadership. Recruiting and retaining that talent relies on much more than lucrative (and transparent) remuneration packages and clear progression pathways. The expectation of employees has changed and firms need to alter their own focus to develop a higher level of trust and partnership throughout the business and to find ways to give autonomy and purpose in every role.
A few years ago, we made a conscious choice to combine a client-led approach with the development of an inquisitive, supportive, and fun culture, actually walking the walk on innovation (before going public with it), continuous talent development and moving away from a top-down hierarchy by recognising and listening to the talent we have throughout the business. We don’t get everything right, and we have the confidence to acknowledge when that happens and learn from it, but we have got enough right to sustain strong organic growth with people who get what we are setting out to do and want to be part of it. It is an approach which is serving us well.
Involving legal teams – alongside a dedicated service innovation function – means that they are engaged at the outset in infrastructure development and streamlining the way that client work is undertaken to deliver a consistent service meeting client expectations.
Employee engagement, a focus on wellbeing and an emphasis, at all levels of the business, on supporting people to be the best version of themselves at work all increase that sense of a working partnership.
At Ogier, as befits our strategy of ‘getting to the point’, we focus on tangible things. Supporting flexible working, providing the technology to enable that, operating an ‘open from day one’ approach – so you don’t need to wait until you’re at a senior level to have your ideas taken seriously – all reinforce the value of individuals.
Ultimately, while in some respects this required a cultural shift, the basic premise is not difficult to grasp, but it really does resonate. It is about respecting and supporting the individual, treating our people as the talented adults they are, and delivering on our promises when it comes to supporting people and their work-life balance; genuinely enabling flexible working and making sure everyone has a voice. You’ll very quickly get found out if you are just paying lip service to these ideas, but people get it when they see it happening for real.
Get that right, and with 600 empowered, intelligent, and aligned people, an agile platform, and sophisticated and robust systems, the known unknowns which could derail the best thought-out strategies are at least mitigated.
If 2020 is the year the economic cycle shifts decisively, we are prepared. If not, we continue to build a better place to work.