Craig talks with Geoff Zodda on the advantages of promoting from within your firm.
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Announcer: [0:03] Welcome to Legal Leaders Podcast, the show by and for legal administrators, IT directors, and other law firm leaders…Today’s leaders on today’s topics.
Craig Huggart: [0:20] I’m your host, Craig Huggart, and this is episode two, Geoff Zodda on “Promoting from Within”. Geoff has been an executive recruiter with Glenmont Group since 2005. His focus is partnering with top law firms across the globe within the IT industry.
[0:39] He considers himself a consultant. All of his legal clients working hand in hand to develop solutions for their most complex IT staffing needs.
[0:48] Geoff holds a BA in business management and a technical certification in Sarbanes-Oxley.
[0:56] Geoff though came to my attention from a blog post he wrote entitled “The Importance of IT Trainers in Law Firm Environments.”
[1:04] I’ve got to say I’ve been a law firm trainer for over 10 years now, and his post is the best piece I’ve ever read on the value of what I do. It was great, and I will put a link in the show notes to that, so you can refer to that and other things we mention in the show. So Geoff, how are you doing today?
Geoff Zodda: [1:23] Great, great, and thanks so much for having me, Craig.
Craig: [1:26] Well, I’m really looking forward to our chat today. Before we talk about the topic, I wanted to let everyone know, at the end of the show we’ll be sharing Law Firm Laughs and Today’s Tech Tips. So Geoff, tell me about promoting from within.
Geoff: [1:43] So promoting from within is a tricky topic, and that’s why I wanted to touch upon it. There are several components that go into it.
[1:51] Now I know that as a recruiter [laughs] it’s not the smartest thing in the world to talk about promoting from within, therefore potentially taking business away from us. But in some cases it is the best move to have. I wanted to start off with something real quickly as numbers to back up promotion.
[2:15] In an article written and published by Forbes, external hires were 61 percent more likely to be fired from their jobs, than those that had been promoted from within. That’s just a stunning number to start off right there. I think parts of the reasons are those that are promoted from within know the legal environment, the culture. They have relationships from within the organization.
[2:41] That’s something that is essential to not only having a great technical background, but really putting things together and having those soft skills to round out your job.
[2:54] When we talk about promoting from within, I’m not only speaking about moving up vertically within an organization, but also horizontally.
[3:04] Whether you move up vertically, and go from a developer to a development manager or whether you move from a developer to an engineer, having new positions within an organization can be considered promoting.
[3:23] A couple of things that we should know about promoting from within, one size does not fit all. Promoting from within really needs to be the right situation in order to do so. There is a contrast out there that sometimes you do want to bring new ideas to the table, and you need to go outside to do so but I am a big fan of promotion from within.
[3:49] That certainly creates and forges a great relationship between the employees and the firms itself. The firms that I work with personally that promote from within have great retention. The employees are generally more happy. Really in a nutshell they’re buying into what the firm is selling. When the morale’s up within an organization, the production is as well.
[4:16] It’s really something great to see. There’s a ton of interesting articles on the pros and cons out there from promoting within. Some are pro. Some are con. I’m all for it, if the skill sets are there.
[4:30] If you feel like skill sets are transferrable, and the person has good upside and a good feeling to be promoted from within, I think we should certainly do that. If you feel like the skill sets aren’t there and it’s a reach to promote from within, then you may want to go outside the organization to find the right person.
[4:51] A lot of times within your organization if you do have a cultivating culture, where you’re able to really train the talent, educate them, and just foster an environment of learning, you’re going to have those people that are on deck ready to roll in these TESA positions.
[5:15] That’s really my case on promoting from within when the numbers are there, and the facts are behind it. If you ask anyone within an administrative position or a C-level position in a law firm, 75 percent of them would say that they would love to promote from within on a certain position.
[5:35] But there are certain ones where the skill sets just don’t match for the promotion. That’s when you go outside and you call someone like me to fill the position.
Craig: [5:46] That’s a great perspective. Boy, I wholeheartedly agree because, as you well know, the law firm culture is a different culture than the corporate culture. I had an experience where we hired a trainer, who had been a very successful trainer in the corporate culture, but really had a very hard transition to the legal culture.
[6:08] Certainly, hiring from within, kind of overcomes that because people are already used to the legal culture. I was thinking, as you were speaking, without breaching any confidentiality, could you give a specific example or two where you’ve seen promote from within really work well?
Geoff: [6:27] Definitely. I certainly can, Craig. For, especially, positions that someone’s in a lead role, this is a lead specialist, it was someone dealt with helpdesk, it dealt with support, desktop support. They moved into a pure IT management and oversight of an IT organization.
[6:50] They weren’t at the C-level, but it was a good enough promotion where they had a feel of the culture, they knew the intricacies of the organization by being in a support position, because you really get to touch all sides of the IT organization.
[7:05] They had great relationships with the staff. So, it was a nice move for them to get promoted from within. I think that was a great move for the firm that did that.
Craig: [7:14] That’s a great story. I think the challenge in some firms, is they would love to promote from within but there really just aren’t any slots there. They’re not a big enough firm to do that.
[7:26] Those that have it, I think that’ a great idea. I’ve been in situations where outside hirers have come in where I’ve thought, “Oh, boy. Somebody within the organization was really perfect for that role. Why didn’t they pick them?”
Geoff: [7:40] Sometimes they get past up for, unfortunately, political reasons. But on the other hand, individuals get passed up because they just may not have the exact fit for what the hiring managers are looking for.
[7:57] Because the hiring manager knows someone that’s been working within the organization intimately, they know some of the strengths and weaknesses of this individual. If you’re hiring someone externally, you don’t necessarily know their strengths and weaknesses.
[8:12] You get a feel from an interview process, and you’re taking a chance on someone, but you’re sort of a taking a flyer in hopes that they don’t have those weaknesses that the other person that you’re passing on, may have. It’s sort of playing Russian roulette, but it’s something that I think a lot of organizations do.
Craig: [8:32] I would agree with that. From a different perspective, kind of a perspective of, let’s say you’re a staff person in a firm, what strategies would you suggest to position yourself so that, should an opportunity come available, people look to you and say, “Maybe you’re the one to fill that opportunity?”
Geoff: [8:53] That’s another great question, Craig. You’re just piling them on today, huh? [laughs] In a nutshell, the best way to position yourself to get that promotion, to get promoted from within, and not get passed on, is to really take it upon yourself to mentor others within the organization.
[9:13] Those that are coming on board, you want to mentor those individuals, make them feel comfortable. Teach them some of the new technologies. Also, you want to take on training on your off time that may position you well with the different technologies that you’re utilizing. So you become that subject matter expert.
[9:33] If you’re that subject matter expert, it’s going to be hard to pass on you for a promotion. Last but not least, you really want to take on extra projects. Put in the extra time that’s necessary.
[9:48] When no one’s raising their hands at the table, you want to be that one that’s raising your hand and saying, “I’m willing to take on this tough project.” That’s going to really position you well for the future within the organization.
Craig: [10:01] I would definitely agree there, kind of going above and beyond the call of duty. One other question on that, and then we’re going to move on. Do you think for most law firms, that degrees and certifications are something that is essential or not so essential?
Geoff: [10:23] That’s a question that I get a lot. My take on that is, for the really technical positions, I don’t think a degree is as necessary as the upper management, C-level, senior management divisions. If you’re looking to get into a senior management/ C-level position I would certainly suggest the advanced degrees or getting your bachelor’s at the least.
[10:50] That’s something that certainly separates candidates that get the position from ones that don’t. For the more technical positions, if you’re really an artist in what you do and you are a subject matter expert, it’s not going to come into play as much.
Craig: [11:08] I think that I would agree with that as well, very good.
[11:12] Just a question about your field, I think everyone needs to be in contact with a recruiter or maybe two recruiters. I know you guys don’t always like to hear that, but what advice would you give to the legal admins, the IT directors, the rank and file staff out there? How do you connect with the right recruiter and maybe avoid connecting with one that’s going to be calling you every day?
Geoff: [11:41] I think the biggest thing is find out which recruiters specialize in that subject matter that you’re looking to sell.
[11:48] There’s a lot of general recruiters out there, there’s a lot IT recruiters out there but there aren’t a ton that’s specialized specifically within the legal industry, and have a great feel on what it takes to get the right person on board, knows the culture of your firm.
[12:06] You sort of want to stay away from the generalist sort of organizations that can fill your accounting positions but then say that they can fill your share plan positions. That’s one thing. Open communication, with not only the admin group, but also within the technical group, certainly helps the process of finding the right person.
[12:30] Having that connection with the technical managers certainly gives you the ability to really go through a ton of the technicalities, and vet out the right resumes. Get the right person a more efficient manner.
Craig: [12:46] Outstanding. I take the position, like I think smart folks do, that whatever position you’re in, even if you think it’s never going to change, it very well may just the road. It’s always good to be in contact and have your resume update and all that. Any other thoughts you want to add on this subject or anything else?
Geoff: [13:08] I would always say, as far as promoting from within, throwing a job posting out there, internally, certainly helps out. But I think doing an internal search sometimes, prior to going externally, may promote the promotion from within, more so than just throwing it out there and hopefully some people respond. Because everybody’s really busy.
[13:33] They may not have a chance to check out the postings. That may be a missed opportunity for the firm, and the individual to find the right person. As far as hiring’s concerned, it’s on the up. There’s a ton of positions out there. It’s all about finding the right person, whether it’s internally or externally.
Craig: [13:52] Very good. Great advice. I’m going to talk about a law firm laugh. This is where I share, or the guest shares, a true story from the law firm world. Past couple of years I’ve been doing a lot of Windows 7 and Office 2010 upgrades. As part of that, I talk about the Windows key. Often, people don’t even know there’s a Windows key on their keyboard.
[14:15] I always say, “Take a look at the Windows key. It’s the key two keys to the left of your spacebar. It has a flag on it.” In one class like that, I had an attorney who looked up, and I’ll never forget this. He looked at me and he says, “Where’s the spacebar?”
Craig: [14:37] I just thought, job security, baby, job security. In today’s tech tip what I wanted to suggest to you is that when possible, that you choose apps that are cross platform. What I mean by cross platform is they’re available in multiple environments. Maybe you use a Windows machine at work but maybe you use a Mac at home.
[14:59] Wouldn’t it be nice to be using the same thing on both of them? A couple of apps that are good examples are Evernote, which is a great note taking program. As I say that, I think calling it note taking program is kind of like calling the Mona Lisa a painting. It will change your life if you start using it. Another one is LastPass. LastPass is a password manager.
[15:22] You may think, “I really don’t need a password manager,” but you might. In today’s world it’s essential that you have great passwords and a different password for every site. To do that, you simply need a password manager.
[15:38] For more information about Evernote and LastPass, I’ll refer you to a blog post I wrote called, “Seven Super Apps You Shouldn’t Go Without.” Geoff, this is your opportunity to let people know how to get in contact with you, or to promote anything you might be working on right now. Tell us what you’d like to you about that.
Geoff: [16:01] Sure. I’m not big into self-promotion, even though I’m all over LinkedIn. But the best way to contact me is via email. It’s email@example.com. Also, you can find me under Geoff Zodda on LinkedIn. Feel free to connect with me. As far as what we have going on, we have a nice combination of technical positions.
[16:43] A lot of Citrix, a lot of desktop engineering positions across the country to go along with IT management positions that require prior law firm experience. The positions we have are vast. The Glen Mont Group has been around since 2001, specializing within the legal technology industry.
[17:03] All we do is specialize in this subject matter. If you’re looking for a group that can really bring you a great process, a good user experience and terrific candidates, feel free to reach out to us.
Craig: [17:19] Outstanding. On my side of things, I’m offering a free one-hour webinar on Word 2010 or Excel 2010 to the first three firms that request one, using the contact firm at the website this podcast. That’s legalleaderspodcast.com. That’s so much for joining me today, Geoff.
Geoff: [17:41] Thank you, Craig. I appreciate you having me on board for this.
Craig: [17:45] Good Deal. That’s a wrap for episode two.
Announcer: [17:52] Thanks for listening to this episode of “Legal Leaders Podcast.” For your law firm training consulting needs, please visit alawfirmtrainer.com.