When we carry out employee opinion surveys on behalf of professional service firm clients (they really have to be administered by an objective 3rd party if they are to be of value) they tend to indicate that what professional people want is:
- Fulfilling work that gives them a sense of purpose, real responsibility and a feeling that they are making a difference. The opportunity to handle quality work is a key driver for ambitious professionals
- A firm that will help them to succeed, by their definition of success (for example, not all professionals will see partnership as a desirable goal)
- To be rewarded fairly for their contribution – usually it is not the absolute level of reward that matters most, but a sense of fairness in comparison to others within and outside the firm
- To feel good about their work – this is most likely to be influenced by the way they are managed by their immediate supervisors. Good management skills throughout a firm are therefore important
- A work/life balance that reflects their needs and the stage they are at in their lives and their careers.
However, these are all generalities and it would be wrong to make assumptions. It was David Maister who said, “One of the most dangerous sentences in any language is one that begins, ‘What clients want is …’, for no matter how you finish that statement you will be wrong.”
I think the same is true of your people. The only way to find out what your people want is to ask them. Benefits of carrying out a survey include:
- Improving the relationship between partners and staff by showing staff that the firm respects their views
- Uncovering any difficulties which, if left, could grow into major problems that might affect motivation or cause people to leave unnecessarily
- Giving management an insight into the minds of partners and staff, so helping to manage the firm more effectively
- Generating ideas from partners and staff which, when implemented, could lead to greater efficiencies and other business improvements
- Positioning the firm as a forward-thinking employer and helping to attract people.
Asking people for their views also has the advantage of involving them; a crucial element of effecting change in organisations.