The businesses that thrive coming out of coronavirus lockdown will be the ones who have created a genuine emotional connection with colleagues and clients.
None of us have experienced anything like this before. Our firms have been forced into agile and remote working and we are now communicating with colleagues and clients through Zoom calls and Skype rather than face to face. Some mid-tier firms will have found the transition fairly easy, and there are exemplars who are leading the way. For others it has been a challenge.
The last few weeks have been a period of crisis management for professional services firms as they sought to comply with the Government’s guidelines to ensure as many people as possible work from home.
The key is to focus on creating an emotional connection, both internally with your people and externally with your clients.
Some employees will relish this change and will adapt quickly to new ways of working. Others will find it harder. For some losing control of their diary will be a big issue. As lawyers we are used to managing our time, but now we are finding requests for Zoom meetings and conference calls coming in left, right and centre. We need to understand the challenges and share tips and advice among colleagues in a more informal way than we’ve done before.
Externally it is about the language we use and the way we communicate.
All too often law firms use cold language and are overly technical. At the moment we are all afraid – we have worries about vulnerable family and friends, we are not able to visit older relatives, we are concerned about our businesses. When we speak to clients, we are sure to ask them how they are and find out how they are feeling. We need to find ways of showing that kind of empathy with our other communication just now too. Professional services firms could learn a lot from businesses in creative sectors where they are sharing short videos, filmed from home, which are very human and incredibly engaging.
I think it is wrong to assume that things will go back to the way they were after social distancing measures are relaxed. Some firms will try to go back to exactly how they were, but the firms that embrace the benefits that remote and agile working can bring to their business will reap the rewards.
Our relationship with clients will change too.
We are being flexible now, meeting with clients virtually over video calls at times to suit them, rather than asking them to come into our office for a sit-down meeting. Continuing to be flexible and offer that kind of service in the long term will be welcomed by clients.