In this Q&A with Modern Counsel, Joe Scotto directs all aspects of human resources at employee-owned HCMC Legal, parent company of Hire Counsel and Mestel & Company, to attract and retain top legal talent for the staffing company.

In today’s legal economy, many organizations need customized legal services that lead to fast, responsive results in a timely, cost-effective manner. HCMC Legal, the parent company of Hire Counsel and Mestel & Company, provides both temporary and permanent placement of attorneys, paralegals, and other legal professionals as well as a wide breadth of services in areas such as e-discovery, project management, outplacement, and M&A consulting. “We are experts in investing in legal human capital and positioning them for long-term success,” says Joe Scotto, vice president of human resources and administration.

Attracting, recruiting, and retaining that talent is at the center of Scotto’s mission. With nearly thirty years of HR experience, Scotto is working—in a way that may seem unusual for someone at a staffing agency—to differentiate employee-owned HCMC Legal from similar employers to ensure that all its employees know they are valued. Here, he discusses how he does this.

HCMC is an employee-owned company. Does that make a difference in how you hire?

As an employee-owned company, we want to hire professionals who have the desire to work toward and celebrate both individual and collective success. It also makes us attractive as an employer. Our employees have the ability to participate in ownership after about a thousand hours of service, which gives them a reason to want to continue working with us and to choose us over other employers. We are unique. There aren’t any other companies in our space who share ownership privileges with their employees.

Does that change how you manage HR needs or how employees are treated?

Being employee owned doesn’t change our approach. I am always looking for ways to make us the employer of choice and to drive value for our shareholders—who happen to be our employees. I am very involved in providing training and education opportunities for our employees, to make sure they are at the top of their game in this competitive field. I want them to know this is an exciting, rewarding, and long-term career path, not just a temporary assignment. We see a need to provide avenues for employees to acquire, develop, and hone skills—and to reward them for that. We recently formed a partnership with ACEDS, an organization focused on e-discovery training and accreditation, to provide education and tuition support to our e-discovery professionals. By taking a two-pronged approach and providing ownership and education, we are able to attract and retain the best and the brightest legal talent in this competitive field.

How else is HCMC addressing the needs of its workforce?

We understand that our contract attorneys work hard and the work they do is important, which is why we are always looking for ways to create the best day-to-day experience for them. Currently, we are in the process of enhancing our document-review centers across the nation in order to provide work spaces that are more functional and comfortable.

We have also improved communication by conducting town hall meetings and employee surveys, which allow us to get employee feedback and help us pinpoint the improvements we need to prioritize. There has been a big uptick in communication from our C-suite. Our CEO, Joan Davison, is out in the field frequently, meeting with employees to talk about their successes, needs, and concerns. Transparency is a key element in our overall communication strategy.

What else?

We have added many benefits over the course of the last year, such as a flex-spending plan and increased employer contributions to our healthcare coverage. We also have added volunteer opportunities for social outreach, and we are paying for time off for employees to pursue volunteering in their communities. And, we changed PTO time to be more flexible and added floating holidays, discounts for movie tickets and social activities, and discounted cell phone service.

Most importantly, fun has become a workplace requirement. We celebrate each other’s successes, large and small, whether it’s having pizza with colleagues to kick off a holiday weekend or celebrating the grand opening of a new office with clients and candidates.

Do you highlight these aspects of the culture for potential new hires?

When we meet with potential new hires, we want them to understand that working with us is so much more than a job; it is an opportunity to immerse yourself in a culture of growth, learning, and entrepreneurship. Everyone must be ready and willing to roll up their sleeves, work in a dynamic environment, improve continually, and celebrate wins. Our employees are the backbone of our company. We underscore our appreciation for our employees by not only encouraging and hearing their feedback but reflecting and acting on it. This is what makes us different from other staffing companies.

What are the challenges of staffing in the legal-services industry, and how do you overcome them?

The industry is moving as quickly as technology can push it. Technology plays a key role in the legal-services industry, but it is only part of the equation. The human element of our business, supported by technology, is a huge advantage for us. For every document review or legal assignment, it is the human element that makes the difference in the quality of the results. This is still a hands-on, person-to-person business, and we can’t lose sight of that.

I am proud that that is always a focus here at HCMC Legal. The message is “It’s about people.” To be part of a leadership team that understands that the employee is the driver makes my job interesting and allows me to be more creative. Not every HR person gets to do that, and I feel very lucky.

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