Retain eDiscovery Talent
How The eDiscovery Industry Can Navigate The Big Quit
Take Advantage Of This Rare Opportunity To Attract Great Talent
By Steve Larsen
You’ve likely heard about the big quit. It may even have impacted your organization by now. The U.S. Department of Labor recently noted that 4.3 million people left their job in January of 2022 alone. As I speak with leaders of eDiscovery practices across the nation, I hear concerns about how this is, or might be, impacting their operations. The eDiscovery industry is not immune to the big quit. In fact, I have a sense that we are right in the thick of it.
But I honestly do not see this as all bad news. Yes, there may be some short-term pain from people quitting unexpectedly and leaving you in a lurch; I acknowledge that. But there is a silver lining here that I don’t think enough people are considering. I believe you’ve never had a better opportunity to attract great talent. When talent-in-transition goes looking for a new opportunity, they might just be looking at your organization. I’d like to share some ideas that could make your organization the preferred destination for eDiscovery talent in motion.
The eDiscovery industry is a high-stress and high-stakes work environment. But this alone does not account for so many people looking for new jobs. After reflecting on the big quit for the last few weeks, speaking with colleagues and talking to clients who’ve been impacted by this, I’ve come up with what I consider to be the top 5 reasons people are moving on:
- eDiscovery workers are overstressed. This is a pressure-packed industry that has a lot of “hurry up and wait” followed by unrelenting bursts of activity. This industry is rarely predictable, constant or placid. Instead, it’s often unpredictable, disruptive and turbulent. While there is truth to the notion that “that’s how things in this business work”, the sentiment of workers I hear tends to sound something like this: “no matter how hard I work or how many hours I put in, it’s never enough. I can’t seem to satisfy the requirements of the role and of the company.” That frustration builds up over time and people leave because of it.
- eDiscovery workers want leaders, not bosses. I consider this to be a young industry, not just because it’s relatively new in the working world but also because it’s so full of young professionals. I’ve noticed a generation gap in eDiscovery: most of the workers are early in their careers while most of the bosses are mature in their careers. That’s usually not a problem unless those young people don’t feel like they’re getting what they need from the leaders. You’ve likely heard the saying that people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses. My sense is that many mature leaders are struggling to understand what younger workers expect from a leader. This gap in expectations can cause worker dissatisfaction, stimulating departures.
- Industry consolidation continues. As organizations merge or get acquired, a perhaps unanticipated message also goes out to eDiscovery workers—your job is not safe. Workers know that mergers and acquisitions can result in the duplicative effort analysis, where people who have similar roles are put at-risk. I have a sense that this is contributing to all-time-low employee loyalty.
- eDiscovery workers believe there are better options out there. A generation of young workers grew up believing that their average tenure with a company would be no more than 3 years. For many people, that 3 years ended when the pandemic abated. People went into the pandemic fearful and with their heads down. Now that the pandemic is ending, they’re looking to shed the fear and take a bold new step.
- Inflation is driving some decisions. Workers in technology roles usually get their raises by trading up, not by performing well internally. To stay ahead of rising prices for consumer goods and cost of living, some tech workers are getting a raise by taking a better-paying job elsewhere.
My sense is that all five of these factors are in play right now. While any one or two of these factors may have been difficult to contend with on their own, when they’re combined, you get the perfect storm. What do you do about it?
If what I’ve stated above accounts for most of the reasons that eDiscovery workers are quitting, what should you do? How should you view this moment and what steps should you be considering right now? I believe you’ve never had a better opportunity to attract talent-in-transition. But to win in this new paradigm, you need to deeply understand what today’s eDiscovery workers want from their careers.
You’ve probably heard the old adage that you attract more bees with honey than vinegar. I think that saying is quite appropriate for where we are today. In that spirit, I’d like to put forward five ideas for helping your organization put your honey on display, so you win in this competitive landscape.
- Redefine what it means to be a leader. Why do I list this as my first recommendation? If you put the word “leadership” into the search field on Amazon books, you’ll discover thousands of titles. And yet, when I think back over the number of offices I’ve visited and the number of video calls I’ve been on where I see someone’s office—I cannot recall seeing a single book about leadership. This tells me that leadership is not very well prized (and I would suggest not very well understood) in this industry. I also can only recall one conversation about this topic with an eDiscovery leader over the prior 4 years. If your organization begins to prioritize and emphasize leadership, you’ll easily stand out from the pack.
- Prize culture over financial performance. One of the main reasons I believe people quit is because they feel like the company they work for doesn’t really care about them. I define culture, quite simply, as what it feels like to work here. There are numerous ways you can improve what it feels like to work at your company: offer flexible working hours; balance workloads so no one person feels overwhelmed; make your expectations clear so workers get the psychological benefit of knowing they’ve hit the mark; practice transparent communication about your business and where things are going; buy some books on culture and even consider hiring a culture consultant. All these changes will send a message to your current workers and those you want to attract. This is like saying—we really want to compete in this new era and recognize that the old way of doing things doesn’t work any longer.
- Emphasize psychological safety. This point offers a direct answer to the industry consolidation challenge. You cannot control industry changes. But you are in control of how you message to people what those changes might look like for your organization. Everyone is dialed into channel WIIFM—what’s in it for me. If you’re communication does not tell people what’s in it for them, they’ll draw conclusions that may not be in your favor. Remember, in the absence of factual information, people will supply their own narrative. The more straightforward and transparent you are in your communications, the more your workers will trust you.
- Get clarity about the skillsets you need for the future of your practice. This moment in time represents a great opportunity to pivot by rethinking the kinds of talent you need internally. I encourage you to make a detailed list of the types of skills you think you’ll need over the coming 3-5 years. Then you can be proactive in looking for those skills. Consider working with a recruiter to help you find those people. Be prepared to tell a story that goes well beyond simply financial compensation. Today’s workers are looking for more than a paycheck. They want interesting work, a great team, trusted leaders and a mission they can believe in.
- Be prepared to reevaluate your entire package: salary, benefits, flexible working conditions, support for childcare, ongoing education, leadership track positions. Give people the chance to be coached. Because this is a young industry, there are a lot of people looking for the opportunity to grow into future leaders. If your organization has not considered a formal coaching program, it’s a good idea to do so now.
The big quit is definitely having an impact on the eDiscovery industry. If your organization hasn’t felt it yet, it’s probably coming. I believe when these types of disruption confront us, we have two options: we can embrace them and take advantage of them or we can hunker down, try to ride out the storm and keep doing things the way we’ve always done them.
My sense is that there will be big winners and big losers from the big quit. The companies who pivot in this moment and put these five ideas into practice will likely come out on top. Those who hunker down and do nothing may very well find themselves without the workers they rely on today. If you have questions about anything I’ve said here, let’s have a conversation.
Vice President of Consulting
An experienced consultant and business leader, Steve develops and governs the execution of George Jon’s strategic business and technology roadmaps. He is responsible for overseeing global business operations for George Jon, including advisory services, eDiscovery platform implementations, on-demand services delivery, and oversight of GJ360 managed service offerings.
Steve has more than a decade of management consulting and project implementation expertise, delivering timely and successful outcomes for VCs, small businesses, and large financial institutions. His extensive professional experience includes business development; key stakeholder management; strategy development and execution; and operational process ideation, optimization, and implementation.
Steve holds an MBA in Strategy and Finance from Brigham Young University and a BS in Accounting from Arizona State University.
George Jon (GJ) is an eDiscovery infrastructure, product and process specialist, delivering performant, scalable, fault tolerant environments for users worldwide. GJ works with global corporations, leading law firms, government agencies, and independent resellers/hosting companies to quickly and strategically implement large-scale eDiscovery platforms, troubleshoot and perfect existing systems, and provide unprecedented 24/7 core services to ensure optimal performance and uptime.
George Jon’s (GJ) conclusions are informed by fifteen-plus years of conducting enterprise-class eDiscovery platform assessments, application implementations and infrastructure benchmark testing for a global client base. GJ has compiled extensive quantitative and qualitative insights from the research and implementation of these real-world environments, from single users to multinational corporations, and is a leading authority on eDiscovery infrastructure.