Top 5 HR Challenges in Law Firms and how SmartHR can solve them

HR challenges in law firmsHR challenges in law firms can present special challenges. This is due in part to the structure of law firms and in part to the nature of legal practice. Below are the top 5 HR challenges faced by law firms with solutions from SmartHR on how to solve them.


  1. Training

One of the challenges attorneys face is the fact that they need to have ongoing training and professional development. As laws change, all employees need to be kept up to date and make sure that they understand the changes. Legal support staff also need to update their knowledges with regards to procedures, such as court filing rules. There are also regular training obligations for all employees on systems and software.


SmartHR Solution: Traditional training methods can be time-consuming and costly, but with the SmartHR e-Learning you can skill up your staff quickly and effectively whenever and wherever they are. The SmartHR e-Learning solution is accessible via browser or tablet so that employees can access training when it suits them and work at their own pace or choose a blended learning approach that combines facilitated e-learning.

The great part is you can also develop your own content with our rapid content development tools, meaning you can make the content industry specific.


  1. Recruitment

Law firms often recruit students straight from university. The problem with this is that it does not always yield a diverse workforce, which is beneficial when you have a diverse client base.


SmartHR Solution: SmartTalent is a SmartHR module that can assist with the recruiting process. Starting with position management, SmartHR models the people structure your company needs to achieve your business strategy. Pre-populated job libraries make it is easy even for non-HR specialists, to define the skills and competencies that are required. Based on the profile of your current high performers, quickly identify similar thinking styles to ensure the best fit.

SmartRecruitment screens track applicants and manages your candidate pipeline whether for internal or external recruits. Successful candidates are on-boarded effortlessly to ensure that the induction experience is quick and professional.


  1. Reporting Structure

There can be quite a matrixed reporting structure in law firms. Regulations require that lawyers directly supervise the legal work their assistants do, which can create conflict. This means assistants might have confusion regarding who to report to when they want to take leave, as the supervising attorney might agree to the request, but the HR manager might deny it to maintain adequate staffing levels.


SmartHR Solution: SmartCharts offers a quick and easy way to provide employees with a reporting structure. You can create professional-quality charts and perform in-depth workforce analysis.

And because it’s web-based, SmartCharts makes sharing up-to-date charts with your colleagues almost effortless. With a direct integration link to the SmartHR people and organisational system, workforce relationships can be generated at the click of a button. You can also easily identify reporting lines between managers and subordinates to make sure everyone know who to report to.


  1. Performance

Monthly or yearly reviews are important in any industry, especially for new employees. Evaluating staff on an equal basis can be quite challenging, especially if you have an equal split of new and senior staff. Also, not all staff members have the same job roles and expectations, which makes these reviews even harder.


SmartHR Solution: Reliable performance reviews help employees know what is expected of them and guide retention, reward, development and succession decisions.

With the SmartPerform module, SmartHR automates the performance review process with generic evaluation templates that can be based on your company’s performance model or the balanced scorecard methodology. Question weighting and ratings can be configured.

It is quick and easy for managers to initiate performance reviews including 360 degree reviews to stored groups of employees.


  1. Retention

Law firms are usually very competitive, both internally and externally. HR always has to try and keep staff happy to prevent them from leaving. It is often difficult to find ways to keep them happy and also keep track of who deserves compensation.


SmartHR Solution: By using a combination of SmartPerform and SmartTalent modules, it is possible for HR managers to find ways to keep the employees happy. SmartPerform allows your company to identify high performers through ongoing goal evaluations and periodic performance reviews. Individual and group performance schemes can be scored and rated in line with company models or use the balanced scorecard approach.

Detailed performance dashboards and analytics help you to spot potential talent and under performers that can drive your retention and reward decisions. This helps you to award employees based on their performance.


There will always be challenges faced by HR managers, but with SmartHR as your partner, you will be able to face most of them. Make use of trusted HR technology that is compatible with business systems, easy to use, and even easier to access.



Everything you need to know about time management

Do you ever feel like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland who said “the hurrier I go, the behinder I get”.  That you feel like you are rushed off your feet, so busy, always a full calendar and you just aren’t making any progress?  Are you always saying that you don’t know where the time went? Do you think about time management and wish you were better at it?

If you were proficient in time management then you wouldn’t have to feel this way.

Time management is a skill that you can learn.

What is time?

The question what is time could be a very philosophical question that is not going to be discussed here.  A physicist would say that time is a basic concept, but is one of the most difficult properties to understand.  But you are going to find out that it isn’t difficult, and you can understand it and use it to your benefit.

To put time into a more relevant context, time is used to sequence events; it is also a fixed moment for something to happen.

You cannot create more time, but you can use it wisely.  You can manage it better.

What is time management?

Time management is the way that you organize and plan how long you spend on specific activities.

Time management allows you to be more effective when there is little time and deadlines are near.  It helps you shift your focus from activities to results.  You can achieve more with better time management.

How to achieve better results with good time management?

Some pros and cons of good time management:

Benefits Drawbacks
Greater productivity and efficiency Missed deadlines
Better professional reputation Inefficient workflow
Less stress Poor work quality
Increased opportunities for advancement Tarnished professional reputation
Achieving important goals More stress


With this in mind, before you get started on that long to do list, spend 10-12 minutes planning your day.  This will save you up to two hours in wasted time and effort throughout the day.

Read on for more time management techniques.

To do list

Prioritize the items on your to do list.  Ensure that the items on your list are written in such a way that they are clear and actionable.

Personal goals

Something else that is crucial to managing you time well is setting personal goals.  Setting a goal gives you that final destination to work toward; you can manage your priorities, time and resources to reach the goal.  Goals also help you distinguish between a distraction and what you want to spend your time on


This will help you to stay focussed on your task at hand.  Don’t just drop everything you have spent the last hour doing just because another distraction has reared its head.  Determine if the task is high importance or low importance to decide what to spend your time on first.


It is easy to get distracted by emails, instant messaging chats going on, phone calls – yours and others in the office.  Distractions do just that – they distract your flow, your progress in the task at hand.  So turn off your instant messaging, let people in the office know you are focussed and close your email inbox while you complete your task.


Don’t keep putting off what you should be doing right now.  Instead of avoiding the task because it seems overwhelming, break it into bite-sized pieces that seem more achievable to complete.

Just say no

This time management technique is a difficult one if you have a hard time saying no to people.  By always saying yes to people results in taking on too much and having more on your plate than you can actually handle.  Learn to decline to demands that do not contribute to your effectiveness.

Focus on one task at a time

Multitasking is not an efficient way of working, in fact you are more likely to both tasks poorly, and end up wasting time when you have to fix errors due to lack of concentration.


It is impossible for anyone to focus and produce really high-quality work without giving their brains some time to rest and recharge.  Having a break will allow you to think creatively and work effectively.  Take a quick walk or get a cup of coffee.


If you know you have more energy and are more productive in the morning, then  make best use of your time by scheduling high-value work during the morning, and schedule low-energy work (like returning phone calls and checking email), during your “down” time.


Work SmartHR, not harder

SmartHR Time Management offers a unique, single platform for Time and Attendance to measure shift employees, and Employee Timesheets to record project timesheets for salaried employees. With the SmartHR leave engine, scheduled and unscheduled leave can be managed for all employees, regardless of how it is accrued, and compared against time recorded for a complete picture of time spent.

Up to 70% of operational costs in your business are spent on salaries and wages. Are you making sure that time is accurately and fairly measured, reported and analysed to ensure optimum efficiency?

Since SmartHR Time Management is part of the SmartHR suite, it provides rich analytics on the productivity in your organisation to ensure less waste and higher efficiency.


More for less

There are numerous techniques you can use to improve your time management skills, but remember you need to shift your focus from activities to results.  Spending your day being busy isn’t necessarily being efficient.  So work smarter to get more done with less time.

Don’t be like Alice and turn down the offer for a cup of tea because you just don’t have the time.




Organisational effectiveness and efficiency at different management levels

Organisational effectiveness refers to the organisation formulating goals and pursuing these goals through completion of relevant tasks. Effectiveness is concerned with getting the job done. When an organisation is efficient they are doing things right in the organisation by utilising resources so that there is no waste. These resources include financial, human, raw materials and capital. Resources are inputs in the transformation process and the aim of efficiency is to use the least amount of inputs to generate maximum outputs during the process of transformation.Organisational effectiveness and efficiency at different management levels.

When an organisation is efficient they are doing things right in the organisation by utilising resources to avoid waste. These resources include financial, human, raw materials and capital. Resources are inputs in the transformation process. The aim of efficiency is to use the least amount of inputs to generate maximum outputs during the process of transformation.

According to Goh, “Being effective is about doing the right things, while being efficient is about doing things right”.

The three levels of management are top level management, middle-level management and lower level management.

Top-level management

Top level management consists of a small group of executives that have control and final say in the organisation. They execute the management process, determine the organisation’s missions and long-term goals and influence the corporate culture. Top level management possesses low technical skills and high conceptual skills which give them the ability to view the organisation holistically.  This level deals with strategic planning – formulating long-term plans and goals that apply to the organisation as a whole.

Top management contributes to the organisation’s efficiency and effectiveness. In order for the organisation to be effective, the correct organisational structure must be created. This ensures that employees with the correct skills are performing the correct tasks that will contribute to the achievement of organisational goals. Employees that are performing irrelevant tasks are not effective. Top management needs to interpret opportunities and threats in the environment and determine what resources to utilise to gain a competitive advantage.

Top management needs to interpret opportunities and threats in the environment and determine what resources are required to gain a competitive advantage. They must ensure that organisational strategies are angled in a way that provides the organisation with a competitive advantage through the efficient use of resources. For example, if top management knows that their competitors are not environmentally friendly, they could incorporate the efficient use of natural resources in their strategy to encourage the use of eco-friendly processes and materials in the attainment of organisational goals.

Middle-level management

Middle-level management are responsible for functional areas of the organisation. They execute policies, plans and strategies of top management. These managers monitor the environment that affect their own departments.

These managers have an equal amount of conceptual and technical skills. They need to be able to see the organisation as a whole to implement top management plans as well as understand the technical activities their subordinates are involved in.

This level of management is responsible for tactical organisational plans. These are medium-long term plans concerned with resource and time allocation as well as human commitments.

Middle management contributes to an organisation’s efficiency and effectiveness. In order for the organisation to be effective there needs to be consistency. This level of management executes the rules, procedures and policies to ensure that subordinates are all doing the right things and following a uniform set of guidelines aimed at achieving the organisational goals and maintaining corporate culture.

Resource allocation, time management and human commitments are how middle management contribute to organisational efficiency. They must determine how to utilise the minimum amount of resources to generate maximum outputs in a reasonable amount of time as expected by top management. Certain tasks should be completed using the correct human resources.

Middle management also contributes to the effectiveness in the organisation by monitoring efforts that are interacting with the organisational environment. For example, it would be ineffective for the marketing department to pursue trends that are not relevant in the external environment.

Lower level management

Lower-level management holds supervisory roles. You may know them as line managers. They deal with day-to-day operations and activities of the organisation and maintain close control of subordinates. The direct influence they have on subordinates puts them in a position to increase or decrease levels of production. T and the role they play in implementing plans, policies, procedures and rules of middle management. This level of management is responsible for operational plans that set unit goals and operational standards. They require a high level of technical skills to supervise the technical activities of their subordinates.

This level of management is responsible for organisational efficiency and effectiveness because it ensures that workers are performing the correct tasks and under close supervision, utilising resources as intended by middle level management.


  • Management Innovations, 2008. Management innovations. [Online] Available at:
    [Accessed 28 08 2016].
  • Brevis, T., 2016. The Management Process. In: M. V. T Brevis, ed. Coontemporary Management Principles. Cape Town: Juta, pp. 28-43.
  • Goh, G., 2013. The Difference Between Effectiveness And Efficiency Explained. [Online] Available at:
    [Accessed 28 08 2015].
  • BJ Erasmus, J. S. S. R.-K., 2013. Introduction to Business Management. 9th ed. Cape Town: Oxford.

Does money motivate performance and employee behavior?

The work behaviour of employees is crucial for organisational success as their behaviourDoes money motivate performance and employee behavior? can directly influence the organisation’s profitability and productivity. Work behaviour can be influenced by understanding what motivates and how to motivate the behaviour of employees. Motivation can be defined as “the inner desire to satisfy a need” as this definition implies, motivation comes from within the employee and managers can only create an environment that motivates employees to achieve organisational goals. An unsatisfied need results in behaviour to try satisfy this need and this behaviour has consequences which could lead to goal attainment. If managers know what motivates their employees they can influence their work behaviour. The question that human resource managers must ask is ‘does money motivate performance and employee behaviour?’

We’re on the fence about whether or not to believe money is a motivator but we will let you decide by presenting some arguments against various theories of motivation as well as Vrba’s statements of money as a motivator for each theory. Theories of motivation can be divided into content theories – what needs motivate behaviour and the factors that direct, produce and sustain behaviours and process theories – how employees are motivated and how to energise, direct, maintain and stop employee behaviours.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which arranges needs in hierarchical order and proceed in succession as follows; physiological needs – including basic survival needs,(food, water, air), and basic working conditions. Safety and security needs – the protection from physical and emotional harm, clothing for protection from the elements, life policies, insurance plans, pension plans and organisational structure. Social needs – affection, belongingness, friendship and acceptance. Esteem needs – high self-confidence, positive self-image, compliments, recognition and challenging projects. Self-actualisation needs – self-fulfilment once all other needs have been met, skills development and being the best version of one’s self.  According to Vrba, money motivates the lower order needs of this content theory (physical needs, security needs and social needs.) We’d like to present an alternative argument – money can be seen as a means to achieve the needs in Maslow’s theory. One may be motivated by their esteem needs and may want to be recognised by their achievements through the purchase of a Ferrari, money will be the means to purchase the Ferrari but the motivating factor was the person’s esteem need of recognition.

The second content theory is Hertzberg’s two factor theory. This theory focuses on 1) circumstances surrounding the task (hygiene factors) which lead to job satisfaction and consist of lower levels of Maslow’s hierarchy and 2) the actual task content (motivational factors) which lead to high job performance and consist of higher levels of Maslow’s hierarchy. According to Vrba, money acts as a motivator when the organisation uses it as a reward for good performance. Our alternative argument is that money motivates job performance and is not a motivator for job satisfaction. According to a study done on the relationship between pay and job satisfaction by Timothy Judge, Ronald Piccolo, Nathan Podsakoff, John Shaw and Bruce Rich, they found that when they compared employees at different pay levels across America, Australia, Britain, India and Taiwan they found that “job and pay satisfaction did not vary across employees at different pay levels” and that there is only variance among the employees about how they value money – is it a means to achieve physical needs or to buy that new Ferrari? They found that money does make employees happy and therefore the writer concludes it does not lead to job satisfaction and is not a motivator for job performance.

According to Dan Pink, money is a motivator and if you don’t pay employees enough they won’t be motivated to perform and they will not experience job satisfaction because all they are focusing on is making money but once people are being paid enough, money is no longer a motivator. An alternative argument is that when employees are not being paid enough they are focusing on making the money to achieve their lower order needs rather than the money itself – as explained by Pink.

One of the process approaches we want to focus on is the expectancy theory that states employees will behave in a way because they expect this behaviour to result in goal attainment with a certain amount of effort being expended to achieve this goal. Work behaviour is motivated through managers properly communicating effort to performance expectancies and what personal goals employees can attain through meeting these expectancies. According to Vrba, money is a motivator in this theory because employees expect that good performance will result in a monetary reward that employee’s value.

An alternative viewpoint uses arguments from ‘Motivation: Good Theory – Poor Application’ that states that “managers should spend considerable effort identifying the rewards at their disposal and determining how they can best use these” we interpret this as managers should take time to find out what needs motivate their employees and translate the standard reward (money) to a different motivator (such as a paid holiday) that the employee values highly. An employee will not expend effort if they are not motivated by money and they know this is the only reward available. This statement leads us to draw another quote from this piece; “the availability of rewards is a necessary condition of motivation, but the most important aspect of availability is not what management says is available but what each and every employee perceives is available” if an employee perceives that the effort they put in will result in them attaining any intrinsic/extrinsic reward, they will shift their work behaviour to result in high performance.

Where do you stand in the ‘is money a motivator argument’? We’d love to know your feedback!


  • BJ Erasmus, J. S. S. R.-K., 2013. Introduction to Business Management. 9th ed. Cape Town: Oxford.
  • Bagraim, J., 2011. Motivating the South African Workforce. In: A. Werner, ed. Organisational Behaviour A Contemporary South African Perspective. Pretoria: Van Schaik, pp. 81-114.
  • Vrba, M., 2016. Principles of leading. In: M. V. T Brevis, ed. Contemporary Management Principles. Cape Town: Juta, pp. 445-457.
  • Joel K. Leidecker, J. J. H., 1974. Motivation: Good Theory – Poor Application. Training and Development Journal, 28(6), pp. 3-7.
  • David C.Wyld, R. M., 2011. Does MoneyBuy More Happiness on the Job. Academy of Management Perspectives, 25(1), pp. 101-103.
  • Pink, D., 2010. The surprising truth about what motivates us. [Online] Available at:
    [Accessed 27 08 2016].

The other side of delegation

DelegationThere are loads of productivity blogs available to learn from.  Many of these are aimed at business leaders who have the ability to delegate.  If you are an employee who is on the receiving end of delegation, you also need some coping strategies to avoid taking on too much.

Well, here’s a post specifically designed for you to teach you how to say no, deal with conflict and avoid awkward situations that may rise while you are sticking up for yourself. We are fully aware that these blogs may seem out of context – I mean how do we go from sub-ledger reconciliation to conflict resolution? Maybe we are onto something here – reconciling the general ledger to the sub ledger is about resolving an inconsistency and reconciling. We have simply extended this into a metaphor for productivity reconciliation.

Having too much on your plate isn’t something that happens overnight and becoming overwhelmed with workload is a gradual process that you only notice when it’s too late. Detect the warning signs early and you may be able to manage your stress levels, confront your employer in time and be more productive to handle your workload effectively.

Signs you are taking on too much:

  1. You have trouble focusing.
  2. You can’t bear to face your email or answer another phone call from your employer.
  3. You’re unable to sleep due to stress.
  4. You have no idea what tasks to start with.
  5. Your social life has taken a backseat.
  6. You can’t see a way out of the piles of work you’re hiding under.

How to deal with the workload

Sometimes you need to slay that dragon, eat that frog or climb the mountain – either way, whichever idiom you choose to use, the job needs to get done. There are a couple things you could do to effectively deal with your workload:

  1. Download some fantastic productivity apps that will help you keep track of tasks, minimise distractions, organise project activities and help you stick to goals. We would suggest looking into: Omnifocus, Streaks, Cold Turkey, Freedom,, Rescue Time, Checkmark, Priorities or Day One.
  2. Identify why your workload is as big as it is. You may be distracted easily and therefore need to identify whether your distractors are due to your emotions, physical surroundings or psychological noise. Once you have identified what distracts you the most, you can work on minimising them.
  3. Try this 5-step productivity hack created by HAN-GWON LUNG:
    • Write down no more than 6 important things you need to accomplish for the following day.
    • Adequately arrange these tasks according to importance and priority.
    • The next day, start and complete the first task on your list before moving on to the next.
    • Move any uncompleted tasks to the next day.
    • Repeat this every day.

Dealing with confrontation

Perhaps there really is an issue or misunderstanding of the workload you are receiving and the type of outcomes expected of you. It may be time to sidebar your employer/delegator and have a friendly conversation.

Before you start confronting your employer/delegator, read this beautiful little extract from the Mindfulness Journal.

Conflict resolution strategies:

  1. Avoid: this is a lose-lose approach where your employer is none the wiser of the stress you’re under and is unable to attribute any reason to your poor work ethic and performance. You, on the other hand stay stuck in the same overworked state without addressing the issues.
  2. Compromise: this is a lose-lose approach where you and your employer have to give up something in order to reach an agreement. For example, your employer may offer to reduce your workload and along with that, your paycheck.
  3. Accommodate: this is a lose-win approach where one of you sacrifice something and the other benefits. Your employer may reduce your workload, pay you the same amount and take the risk of delayed deadlines
  4. Collaborate: this is a win-win approach where you work together to find a solution that suits the both of you where each of you benefits. Perhaps your employer offers to compensate you in a way that motivates you to want to do the work.

We hope this blog has given you some insight into how to reconcile your work life and help you achieve balance.