Why Solving The Challenges Of The Professional Services Sector Starts With Your Next Hire

Why Solving The Challenges Of The Professional Services Sector Starts With Your Next Hire

The Coronavirus crisis has been challenging for organisations. However, perhaps one of the most surprising outcomes of the pandemic has been the power shift to employees. The last few years have fundamentally changed the way we work. While there has been a notable shift in where we work, there have also been paradigm shifts in when and how we work.

This agility can be seen as a benefit to executive leaders looking to reimagine the organisation and build resilience for future adaptability. However, in the professional services sector, there are many challenges that come with the coronavirus power shift that has put employees in the driving seat:

Challenges Of The Professional Services Sector


Employee Retention

Pre-pandemic, the professional services sector was already known for its fast employee turnover. The ‘Big 4’ regularly report turnover rates of 15-20%. However, from 2020 to 2021, the voluntary turnover rate almost doubled as employees look elsewhere for more comfortable and enjoyable conditions, whether that’s employee development, reduced stress or fewer hours.

It is no secret that the professional services sector have some of the highest weekly hours, with 92% of those in the professional services saying that they regularly work beyond their contracted hours. Furthermore, 18% of those work an additional ten or more hours each week.

However, the last few years has put a significant focus on work-life balance. Consequently, many professionals seek roles that put less demand on their personal life and mental wellbeing. This is contributing to the rising attrition rates in the sector.

What’s The Solution?

Considering that rehiring a highly skilled professional may cost up to 400% of their annual salary, employee retention in the professional services sector can become essential for the bottom line.

Your next hire is looking for an organisation that values the work-life balance and gives them the autonomy to choose their way of working that is most productive.

When we consider that billable hours become a significant focus for professional services, creating the support and structure that enables your team to be as productive in their billable hours can be the difference for the organisation’s bottom line.

Examples of this success include Deloittes’s ‘WorkAgility Programme’, which offers extended time off for travel, PwC’s flexible work programme, which had a 90% uptake and Baringa Partners who provide each employee with a £300 wellbeing budget which has increased employee satisfaction to 92%.

Slow And Costly Onboarding

Onboarding in the professional services is often seen as a catch-22. Your time-stretched team need the support, but your new hire needs your time for training, onboarding and getting up to speed. All of this requires extensive non-billable time, and it can take weeks, if not months, to get the new hire up to a billable level.

Neglecting this onboarding stage can reduce the experience for hires who may not feel fully integrated, supported or engaged in the organisation. This in itself can increase employee turnover, especially when you consider that 70% of employees are likely to stay with an organisation for more than three years if the onboarding experience was great.

If your organisation struggles to set welcoming foundations in place, your unsettled new recruits may be looking elsewhere for somewhere to feel more welcome.

What’s The Solution?

A strategic onboarding process becomes essential to reduce the burden on existing staff while giving your new hires the support they need. Automating the onboarding process can be a critical step to save money and help the new hire get up to speed as quickly as possible.

Another critical factor to consider is the balance between hiring top talent and developing talent. In a time-critical, fast-paced scenario, hiring top talent typically shortens the onboarding process as they can get up to speed faster. Hiring developing talent will require more onboarding and internal training for their support. Again, talent strategy becomes essential. When does the business need to see a return on its hiring investment?

Inclusivity And Culture

Diversity, inclusion and equality are critical for the professional services sector after recent surveys have found that just 0.4% of partners in professional services firms in the UK are Black.  As well as racial bias, there is also a gender imbalance. For example, PWC has a 20% female representation, and Deloitte has a female partner rate of 19% and a recent study of Danish Consultancy companies found only 13.5% female partners/management and 36% female consultants.

As a result, there is a huge drive for professional services to change their organisation’s culture, remove unconscious bias, and address diversity gaps in the business structure. This is not just driven by the employees, but clients also expect to see a diverse proposal team when pitching and many state that diversity becomes a deciding factor in who they work with.

Shifting the culture becomes imperative for the whole organisation. By creating a purpose for the organisation, employees can not only understand what the organisation stands for but also become ambassadors.

Post-pandemic, this connection to a meaningful purpose is becoming a more important factor for employees.

What’s The Solution?

There are many solutions available to drive a workplace culture, from hiring a D&I lead to developing culture champions, spending time focusing on the company’s focus, purpose and what it stands for.

Developing An Agile Strategy

With your next hire, you have the chance to set out your future expectations of the organisation. However, the first step for organisations to overcome these (and many other) challenges in the professional services sector is to be strategic.

With employees firmly in the driving seat, professional services need to adapt and create the organisational structure and culture that helps to:

  • Attract top, diverse talent
  • Addresses employee turnover
  • Create a meaningful purpose
  • Balances wellbeing, flexibility and mental health
  • Advance with technology and future trends
  • Provide a competitive advantage
  • Increase employee engagement and satisfaction
  • Improves the client experience for organisational success.

With every challenge that the professional services sector faces also comes opportunities to improve and thrive. It’s time to take advantage of the opportunities ahead and build an organisation for the better.

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