In today’s volatile and data-driven economy, employee knowledge is a hot commodity. Organizations need the best and brightest employees to maintain their competitive advantage. Though this trend affects all industries, this is even more significant in professional services, where they offer clients knowledge and consulting services. The professional services industry understands that in order to attract and keep the best talent, they must invest in their people.
Given the focus on people in this industry, it is no wonder that professional services organizations make up 20 percent of the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For—the highest of any industry. Why do professional services firms dominate the 100 Best list? According to an analysis by Great Place to Work®, some of the strengths of the 100 Best professional services firms include:
- respecting their employees as professionals,
- offering exceptional training and development to employees,
- believing that their leaders are competent, ethical, and communicate a clear vision, and
- having a strong sense of teamwork.
Recent APQC research found that many companies are currently lacking in these areas. In our predictive analytics research on leadership, we found that the top skills needed in companies today include teamwork, collaboration, strategic planning, and listening. However, professional services firms on the 100 Best list place great value on these skills and nurture them in their employees.
The largest skills gaps in companies today occur for strategic planning, change management, knowledge sharing, listening, and emotional intelligence, and one of the top trends driving these gaps is organizations underinvesting in training and development. Great Place to Work®’s analysis shows that professional services firms on the 100 Best list are also not immune to business challenges, and continuously strive to improve.
Some of the challenges that they are experiencing are ones that affect companies across industries. For example, the 100 Best Companies in professional services must continuously attract, develop, and retain key talent, nurture work/life balance in an industry that demands travel or long hours, and help create a sense of community between in-house and telecommuting employees.
Great Place to Work® finds several strategies for success at the best professional services organizations. For example, professional services firms on the 100 Best list are committed to helping employees achieve work/life balance, and provide high-quality training and development opportunities for their employees.
Professional services organizations looking to foster work/life balance in employees that travel a lot may consider looking into using predictive analytics to pinpoint those who are at risk for business travel burnout or turnover due to the toll from client work and travel schedules. In order to retain workers in global organizations, professional services firms may need to better manage employees’ travel experiences. Predictive analytics can help pinpoint the areas that have the most impact on travelers so that professional services organizations can more effectively target their interventions for their employees.
In addition to managing work/life balance, training and development opportunities can be provided to professional services employees in a number of ways. Professional services firms in the 100 Best Companies provide exceptional training and development opportunities to their employees. For professional services firms striving to be more like those on the 100 Best list, they may want to consider providing development to all of their employees if they are not already doing so, whether it is through informal channels or high-potential development programs.
Development for all professional services employees does not need to be costly. For example, professional services firms can develop a culture of mentoring, similar to W.L. Gore, a 100 Best Company and APQC best practices organization in leadership development. Gore embeds development into how they are structured and operates. Gore allows for the natural development of employees through their coaching culture that is supported by what they refer to as “sponsorship.” Sponsorship is focused on coaching and guiding an individual as opposed to a team. Associates change sponsors throughout their careers at Gore as their development needs change. Professional services firms can benefit from informal mentoring relationships such as the ones at Gore, given the type of knowledge work that permeates their organizations. In turn, this training can bolster their client work.
Congratulations to APQC members Accenture, Boston Consulting Group, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers and all of the professional services companies for making the 100 Best Companies list in 2015!