Talent Management and Development

Clients are essentially 'buying' talented people and their associated ideas and skills when they select a firm. When they meet members of the firm, they expect evidence of how it goes about recruiting, developing and retaining the best talent. Professional services firms can provide some of the best career opportunities for talented people of all disciplines due to the diversity of Clients served and often their global reach. Because of growth and churn, the larger professional services firms can be recruiting hundreds of new graduates each year. In many of these firms a new employee is encouraged to map out their desired career path and, given the right performance, can achieve their personal aspirations. Employees usually have a broad choice of available training and development programmes; some firms create their own academies or universities for this purpose. Others have deliberately created 'fast-track' career paths for their highest performers and succession plans to bring on the best potential partners. Some firms will even sponsor academic qualifications as part of the employee 'package' if it enhances their reputation and retains people.

Corporate buyers expect their organisation to be dealing with suppliers that have talented people who understand their business so that they can keep abreast of commercial developments in their markets. Public sector buyers expect their suppliers to have an understanding of their sector and its different procurement methods; the larger contracts often require considerable preparation and non-billable investment at the pitching stage. Not-for-profit organisations are usually more restricted in terms of expenditure and may have quite a rigorous procurement process.

The difference between a firm's employees that just do the job and those that go beyond a Client's expectations is a key differentiator in today's competitive arena. Those people who go the extra distance stand out in the Client's eyes and will make Client retention easier when competitive situations arise.

It is an industry requirement that specialists in professional services firms must regularly update their technical skills to ensure Continuous Professional Development (CPD) and retain the required operating standards. This is expected by Clients when they seek professional advice. However, although they heed the CPD protocols, many partners and senior managers in professional services firms would admit to having little training or development exposure in Client care, questioning skills and business development skills. Yet it is behaviours in these areas that enable specialists to build strong relationships and stand above their counterparts when technical ability is considered equal by Clients selecting a firm to instruct.

Having a high level of employee engagement, as discussed earlier, is a pre-requisite for firms to retain their best talent, as there is still considerable movement of people between professional services firms. The skills of marketing and business development are generally transferable between different sectors, so a new incumbent can make their mark relatively quickly in a new environment. Other firms sometimes think 'outside the box' and recruit people from the service or consumer sectors to provide fresh thinking.

Recruiting the Best Talent

Recruiting the best talent is one of the main challenges for today's professional services firms. They use various methods to attract new talent. Some have their own resources to advertise new opportunities, whether for recent graduates or experienced people. The firm's website is often used for this purpose. These firms also provide substantial bonuses to employees if they find suitable external candidates for vacant roles. Many firms take space in university open days and recruitment fairs to meet potential graduates.

The use of external agencies or recruitment specialists is also widespread in professional services. These suppliers have built large databases of potential candidates and such outsourcing can often provide a swift response to a Client's requirements, especially if an employee has left the firm at short notice.

Social media sites are becoming more important when seeking new talent, especially Linkedln, which regularly features job opportunities in a wide variety of sectors. Many new positions are not advertised widely to retain confidentiality in the market, as these may give competitors insights into a firm's strategy; specialist recruiters may be used in this situation.

Those firms with international reach also have the opportunity to provide temporary secondments between network members. This usually provides tremendous experiential benefits to people looking for international career development, and some roles eventually become permanent.


Resourcing in Tough Times

Ashley Nicholls, founder of The Recruitment Site Limited, believes firmly that: 'Talent management is recognised as being one of the most challenging and important functions of global businesses today. Faced by budget constraints and frequent revisions to strategies and team structures, the need to recruit effectively and swiftly has never been greater. Some professional services firms have responded by in-sourcing their resourcing teams, moving away from the traditional models of agency recruitment, in an attempt to save money. However, this can be a false economy and a potential risk as firms attempt to source the best talent themselves, replacing the knowledge, experience, networks and connections of recruitment agencies with less experienced in-house teams. Furthermore, the availability and mobility of workers only adds to the pressures faced by Resourcing Managers as access to thousands of potential employees via social media sites, like Linkedln, or directly via advertisements on their websites, creates a multitude of potential applicants that need sifting through to identify the genuine talent'

Resourcing Out of Recession

'Forward-thinking corporates ensure that they are ahead of the game when resourcing out of a recession. Having spotted a turn in the market, these proactive firms begin to implement their resourcing plans to support their longer-term strategic aims, ahead of the competition. By being first to market, they will have the pick of the excellent talent at a fair investment and won't get drawn into the recruitment churn when the momentum in recruiting really picks up. Firms who wait until full economic recovery miss the great candidates. Then they may well find themselves in a situation where the power and control has shifted from the corporate to the candidates, who will be attending multiple interviews, receiving multiple offers and can force salaries up with those employers keen enough to secure the best talent. It is key at this time to ensure existing staff are motivated, well rewarded and their contributions recognised to avoid them succumbing to the inevitable headhunting calls that they will receive enticing them with the promise of pay rises, better working conditions and job satisfaction.'

Great Talent Moves Around

'Professional services firms face tremendous competition to secure the creme de la creme of talent to compete in an overcrowded market place. Experienced professionals will often move from one firm to another, spreading and sharing the knowledge, skills, learning and development across the firms, diluting the ability to differentiate as best practice is recreated and distributed across the industry. Hiring talent from outside the industry can bring in fresh perspectives and ideas and break this cycle of rotating talent.'

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