IDear Workforce-I How Do I Attract and Keep Receptionists

October 15, 2000

Dear Workforce:

We would appreciate any help/insight you could give us on hiring and retaining a good receptionist. The last several that we have had tired of the job and brushed up on their skills and moved on to become a secretary or paralegal either here or elsewhere.

We are a small law firm (15 lawyers) and pay what we believe to be market salaries ($23,000 currently for receptionists) along with a good benefit package.

We understand that other firms have "career" receptionists and wonder if such a position exists and how to go about hiring a long-term receptionist with good phone skills. We appreciate any information that you can pass along.

-- Curious lawyers

A Dear Curious:

There are several ways to approach this problem.

First, consider whether you really want a "career" receptionist or whether you want to look at this postion as an entry level opportunity to move people with potential into higher positions.

Second, seek people who are more likely to be seeking a permanent position to fill this post. Examples might be older workers looking for a last job before retirement. You might also consider hiring two part-timers for a job sharing arrangement. Third, explore the idea of hiring college students in some sort of a job-sharing arrangement that fits their schedules -- if that level of employee will have the competencies the job requires.

If you’ve checked the comparative salary in your market, and you’re in a competitive range, dismiss the money factor when you examine why people are leaving. Look carefully at your organizational culture.

  • Is it conducive for people to perform, be happy, and stay at that level?
  • Or is it great for the attorneys, but rough on the "non- professionals?"
  • How about the relationships in the office?
  • Is the position respected by co-workers?
  • Is the person supervising the receptionist really sensitive to the people issues?
  • Is the receptionist included as a member of the team, or just regarded as a hired hand, a commodity?
  • What benefits and perks do you offer your people?

The law firm of English & Gloven in San Diego pays for monthly manicures for all employees. Modest cost, high return. What can you do for your people that will make your place special?

SOURCE: Roger Herman, CEO of the Herman Group and author of "Keeping Good People," "Lean & Meaningful," and "How to Become an Employer of Choice."


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