Blog: HR Management Challenges in the LPO industry

Strategic HR

HR Management Challenges in the LPO industry

HR managers in the LPO industry are coping with several challenges, such as performance measurement and talent availability
HR Management Challenges in the LPO industry

The Human Resource function often keeps reinventing itself to match the pace of changing times. The function needs transformational in itself to truly support and adapt to the changing business needs.

While most of the challenges seemingly appear to be standard across all sectors, there are some that are unique to a specific industry, mainly due to the nature of the business or services offered. The Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) industry is fairly nascent in India. Therefore, both internally and externally, there are a number of strategic HR interventions required to keep pace with the business demands. In this article, we would take a closer look at specific areas of HR management that need special attention with respect to the LPO industry.

Who are we managing here? HR managers have the responsibility of grooming Legal Talent.

Young professionals – lawyers or Engineers…majorly! These professionals highly contribute to a business that specializes in niche domains. Predominantly in India, a lot of lawyers prefer to work with a law firm. They are acquainted with the Law Firm style of working and are adept to thinking in a similar fashion. Most lawyers that join an LPO (early or later in their career)and subsequently get into people management roles, often find themselves struggling with general management skills, usually not part of the job description in a law firm. They are expected to manage teams and lack of exposure to people management skills in general, impact the business. Additionally, exposure to understanding company financials while working on P&L accounts is also a need.

Imparting general management skills along with people management capabilities is a key game changer in LPOs driven by strategic HR interventions. Inculcating the emotional quotient in professionals and making them sensitive towards team needs and peers, also adds up in the task list for HR managers. For e.g. UnitedLex has specifically designed interventions (aligned to their calendar for the year) for People Managers that help them to upskill through functional and behavioral programs. UnitedLex is a unique example of having leaders with both domain and management capabilities. This helps us stay ahead and be leaders in our space.

Does productivity alone count for success? HR to ensure that high productivity is coupled with high quality.

The Legal Process Outsourcing industry is fast growing and the number of professionals is expected to cross the 70000 (I think that was the number?) mark by 2015 as per an industry report. With such a growth rate, HR management can be quite a task, specifically when faced with the challenge of ensuring that the workforce is not only highly productive, but is also capable of churning out high quality work products.The nature of work in LPOs is not like the traditional process outsourcing in BPOs where it is a much simpler task to assign metrics across a standard operating procedure. On other hand, there is a high degree of individual input involved in work products that an LPO has to offer. UnitedLex has been able to find a balanced score card approach to defining and assessing the quality of work to ensure best in class output to the customer through monthly employee scorecards. This is not typical of the industry given the nature of work done by these knowledge professionals. Usually, the end deliverable to a customer is unique and specific to that customer. Therefore it becomes difficult to standardize and measure metrics transparently. This becomes a key challenge for HR if not managed well as it impacts a fair performance management system.

Can you succeed in an LPO? Breaking the myth!

The LPO industry has suffered in the recent past of having an image of an outfit that does only low complexity backend work. But not anymore! We have the capability to combine deep domain expertise with cutting edge technology, without compromising on quality. This industry is not just about cost savings anymore. It has successfully been able to add value to its clients’ business by continuously evaluating their changing legal/business requirements and tailoring its offerings accordingly. Having said that, there has been a considerable shift in the way LPO’s have been perceived. As we have been experiencing stupendous growth in this sector, we are now being seen as a specialized and knowledge-driven industry that combines deep domain expertise with a blend of technology and people processes to deliver success benchmarks in the legal arena. Our clients don’t perceive us a legal services vendor but engage with us on a long term basis with strategic transformation objectives.

We are helping our clients reduce risk, improve consistency and efficiency through process standardization and process improvement, thus maximizing the returns of their legal investments.

Usually talent is not available readymade to this kind of work. Therefore considerable investments need to be done in up skilling and cross skilling employees. This in turn also helps build longer term career paths. LPOs often actually are the extension of legal departments in corporates or law firms. However, this is not the perception of budding legal students in law schools.

Again HR faces complex challenges when it comes to instilling confidence in the workforce of having chosen the right career path. They constantly engage with them through various knowledge forums and also expose them to industry experts time and again. UnitedLex organized a knowledge session with Tim Cummins, the CEO of IACCM on “The Future of Contracting.” This exposure gave contract professionals insights into the world of contracting and helped establish a connection with the high complexity work they do.

We also ran a 4 week internship program for Law School Students and let them explore our world. This was a great boost for these students as it paved way to have a clear understanding of an industry and capabilities at the onset of their careers. Some of these internships also convert into pre placement offers and are a great career prospect for the Gen Y that is willing to challenge the traditional legal career options. The Human Resources team needs to keep organizing these programs to clear the misconceptions about this industry and create a positive impact amongst the legal student fraternity.

How do we measure success? Measuring and benchmarking the quality of work is important for fair performance management.

Employees would often have concerns around measurement of their performance at workplace. For an industry like ours (that is still in the nascent stage of evolution), the lack of standardized metrics and evaluation system, poses as a great challenge. Failing to measure the quality of work uniformly and the absence of a standard system in place can be the cause of failure for organizations. Measuring performance in a standard manner and aligning employees to it is critical as rewards & recognition are a great way to boost employee morale. UnitedLex has made huge strides in this direction by implementing monthly scorecards for individual employees and driving a very transparent performance management system comprising on both multiple formal and informal reviews during the year. The teams have great alignment to the larger business goals and individual KRAs are actually driven from the top, literally. The company ran a 3 month long goal setting process where the goals from the top were converted into logical KRAs for each unique role through a series of participatory workshops and town-hall style meetings.

What is your level of engagement with the organization? Employee engagement and HR go hand in hand.

Like performance management, the legal industry needs to emphasize on employee engagement as well. There is strong need for this sector to design highly effective employee engagement programs and listen to the voice of the workforce. Engaging well with the employee base is both a challenge and opportunity for this industry. If we execute this well, we would be able to gauge the pulse of the organization and operate more efficiently. The reason this is unique is because traditional legal services firms do not really subscribe to the culture of engagement and morale.

UnitedLex recognized this need and participated in the Great Place to Work Employee Satisfaction Survey (thus becoming the only LPO to have participated in the survey) to gather employee feedback towards traversing the journey of becoming a great place to work. The results of the survey helped us create action plans for ESAT with participation and involvement of teams across the board. We also reviewed out progress against the plan on a monthly basis. This is now a yearly program and we see great value in implementing programs that help us listen to and engage with our employees.

Do we have the right mix of employees? Working to get the best on board in high on priority!

LPOs also need to align its people well with the organizational objective and vision. The industry is on the lookout for highly skilled people who can adapt well to a global working environment and contribute towards fulfilling the business requirements. Creation of a competency based framework for hiring the right candidates becomes the ultimate priority for HR and they also need to train business managers and vertical leaders on getting the best of talent on board.

How do we communicate? Business Communication skills and etiquettes need to be developed early on.

While the employee base of an LPO (largely lawyers) is high on domain expertise, they may not be the best of communicators when it comes to business interaction with the clients. There is high focus on training employees on the domain of written and verbal communication especially in a multi-national cross border environment. Straight forward, articulate business communication is one of the challenges that this industry faces and there is a continuous need to impart trainings in this regard. For client facing roles, it becomes a little challenging for the industry to source candidates with exceptional combination of domain and communication skills.

Act Local, Think Global! Global Integration is imperative.

This is one of the major concerns that most LPO’s face while working with global clients. Majority of them fail to work across geographies and seamlessly integrate their global operations. UnitedLex otherwise has been successfully able to bind its global workforce into a single fabric of values that make the foundation of our culture. We have been able to meet the need of successful integration of operations and our people, thus cutting across barriers of location and geography. We are a global company that thrives on a cohesive team equipped with the agility to respond to the needs of our customers.

Finding the right talent? It’s important to find the right mix of people.

The biggest strength of any global organization lies in its people. Companies also struggle with finding experienced and fully trained candidates for roles that need a mix of domain and communication skills. It is a challenge to find talent that is aligned to the global way of operations and the ones who can adapt to diverse processes. At UnitedLex, we make sure that our people are not only the right match for the role but also possess the capability to align themselves to the environment and culture of the organization. A strong and capable workforce is the backbone of any company that will help it scale up the business needs and also succeed when it comes to winning in the marketplace!

LPOs are still under the process of evolution and if companies can find effective ways to handle these core challenges, there is a whole new world of opportunities waiting to open up. The Human Resources team has a huge responsibility of helping companies traverse this journey of excellence and create new paths of success for its employees.

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Topics: Strategic HR

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