Appraisals – A Blessing in Disguise?

This article was first published in Lex Witness May 2017 issue.

The annual appraisal season is in full swing, and it is inevitable that there will be some movement in the industry. Attrition rate is at its highest during this time of the year. It is important to understand the dynamics of the situation, and accordingly address the challenges and work towards shaping a more efficient first structure and appraisal process.

Are You Appraising on the Right Criteria?

While setting up the appraisal structure, it is important to take a holistic approach. Review not just a resource’s work capabilities and contribution, but also their overall professional character.

Following are some of the criteria to include in the 360 degree appraisal process:

Overall Performance – key responsibility areas, along with their comprehensive set of competencies

Soft Skills – address the soft skill elements like relationship management with clients, seniors, peers, leadership skills, ethics etc.

Goals & Ambitions – syncing individual missions with the overall growth of the firm

Strengths & Weaknesses – evaluation and self-evaluation, leverage one’s strengths and work through the weakness

How to Use the Information?

A 360 degree appraisal process is incomplete without completing the full circle of incorporating the necessary changes basis the results. Of course these changes have to be aligned to the overall firm’s needs and growth plans, while keeping in perspective the talent management priorities.

Some of the key change criteria can be:

Training & Growth – a 360 degree appraisal can help you evaluate the current talent landscape, and formulate strategy and incorporate plans for structure trainings and CLEs for overall growth.

Mentorship Programs – the need to incorporate a new, or strengthen an existing mentorship program could be the need of the hour, young talents thrive in a challenging environment, such as the legal industry, if there are senior Partners or General Counsels willing to take the effort to provide honest feedback, guidance and lead them through tough situations without compromising on one’s integrity.

Open Communication – it is always healthy to encourage open dialogue, in order to foster a feedback conducive work environment. This will encourage effort and improve overall performance through time.

Remuneration & Growth Structure – it is important to understand expectations, and offer a transparent growth chart, both from a remuneration as well as hierarchical perspective. This will tackle with latent issues on such matters that your team members may experience, given the competition and the unavoidable politicking.

Moving Forward

Despite all this, it is inevitable that you may lose a few talent post the appraisal season is complete. This may not necessarily mean that it’s a problem with your appraisal structure. It may very well be the case that the team member’s priorities have changed, i.e. preferred practice focus or brand name association, or relocation requirement etc. Or it may so be the case that one of your competitors is willing to offer a much higher pay, as compared to what makes business sense for you.

There is no reason to fret!

Use this opportunity to recruit people who fit the firms needs and growth plans even better. Hire junior associates whom you can train and mold keeping in perspective an organic growth from a long term perspective. In the case of lateral hires in senior positions, ensure that the key elements of talent analyzation is in place in order to avoid future culture and leadership clashes, polarization of long term goals and so on.

Build an ‘Intrapreneurial’ Culture! An effective organizational growth is only possible when there is harmonic and collaborative approach towards the goals. This requires for the management to encourage and reward an ‘intrapreneurial’ mind-set and attitude amongst all the team members. This intrinsically means that the team members should be encouraged to think on the overall growth of the firm, which in turn benefits themselves. There are a variety of ways to do this, including efficient lawyers and employees being compensated for his or her non-billable contributions. Insist on the term “our” instead of “mine” and “yours.” Leaders must do everything possible to promote trust, teamwork and fairness within the firm. Resist the temptation to enhance profitably through cost cutting. Profitable firms look at long-term impacts.

I am the Principal Consultant at the Lex Witness Strategic Counsel Desk, an invitation based initiative, which caters to various entities who seek to create and improve their brand and undertake market activation strategies in the Indian legal market space. Much beyond the space of the magazine, the Strategic Counsel Desk aspires to provide a holistic framework for the firm’s positioning and business growth, primarily focusing on the strength in the Indian legal industry.

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