Law firm’s revamped HR policies save £2m

Law firm DLA’s HR policies have dramatically improved staff retention rates,
saving the company £2m.

DLA graduate retention rate has increased from 60 per cent to 96 per cent
and HR director Robert Halton said the changes were the result of a long
culture change process, which started five and a half years ago.

"The firm places people at the heart of its core values and as a
result, this ensures we invest in the careers and reputations of all our
people," he said. "It’s usually a cliché to say ‘people are our best
asset’, but for a professional services company like us, they are the only

After developing a set of values, DLA sent surveys to people who left the
company during an 18-month period asking them why they left, and what would
have made them stay. "We got a 25 per cent response rate which was quite
high," said Halton.

The company found that most people didn’t leave for more money, but in
search of more experience. So, Halton said, DLA worked on boosting retention by
developing a curriculum and setting aside time for training.

He said that because the company is part of an industry where time is
carefully watched and recorded, it was necessary to stress that training and
development time was not wasted time.

DLA decided to abandon the traditional breakdown of time into billable and
non-billable, and list time as ‘client’ time or ‘firm’ time. This meant time
spent training became seen as an investment in the firm, and was acceptable.

Performance management targets are based on both client and firm time –
rather than just being based on billable hours, like many other companies.

DLA has also initiated a holiday scheme where workers are given two weeks
extra holiday for every three years worked.

A staff ‘helpline’ service has also been introduced, and the company is
trialling the use of a concierge service at its London and Birmingham offices.

DLA won the award for ‘Best HR Initiative’ at the inaugural European
Practice Management Awards last month.

This year, it was listed as a ‘Great Place to Work’ for the second year
running in the Sunday Times Survey 2002.

By Quentin Reade

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