Why Professional Services Firms That Emphasize Learning Lead the Pack

Research shows the professional services industry faces growing attrition and decreasing growth, yet one important solution that's often overlooked is an effective learning program. Here's how various learning approaches can keep employees engaged throughout their careers.

The professional services industry faces some challenges, and firms that want to thrive will need to find ways to overcome them. According to the Service Performance Insight (SPI) “2017 Professional Services Maturity Benchmark,” employee attrition is increasing while revenue and headcount growth are decreasing. On top of this, firms are struggling to make new employees productive as quickly as possible.

In an industry where your employees’ skills have such a clear impact on your bottom line, knowledge truly is power—and profit. While services firms often make considerable efforts to address these business challenges, one important thing that’s often overlooked is the development of a learning program.

Learn from the Leaders

SPI reports that “leading firms” have lower levels of voluntary attrition, more employees who would recommend the firm to friends and family, and higher levels of employee training investment. So, what makes leading firms better? On average, these firms guaranteed 11.5 annual training days for employees compared to 8.1 days for “average firms.” Some leading firms have even created rotational assignments that allow employees to gain exposure to other services and clients so they can continually develop their careers.

With so much depending on their people, professional services firms have a great incentive to keep and grow the talent they have. Most firms focus on recruiting and onboarding in the early stages of the employee lifecycle, but an effective learning program can keep employees engaged throughout their careers. This is critical when you consider that attrition in the industry has risen to 13.6 percent, the highest in 10 years, according to SPI.

The nature of consulting revolves around providing specialized skills and knowledge. Because of this, it’s critical to your firm’s bottom line to ensure that employees are up to speed on the latest technologies, business processes, and best practices, and a learning program is a powerful way to spread this fast-moving knowledge at scale.

Unlock the knowledge held by a limited number of people and disseminate it across the organization.

Additionally, a learning program allows you to train employees in specific areas to help them quickly adapt to customer needs. SPI’s report shows that firms providing services related to the cloud, security, analytics, and artificial intelligence are experiencing more growth than traditional sectors like accounting, architecture, and networking.

According to the report, “Now is the time for all PSOs [professional services organizations] to carefully evaluate their markets and market positioning to ensure they stay ahead of the curve and to seize emerging market opportunities before they become mainstream and commoditized.” A learning system enables you to create content that addresses how to stay ahead of leading trends and technology changes.

Types of Learning Approaches

According to the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, learning is the second-most important business trend executives think about. Business leaders must understand how to build and maintain a structured learning program for both new and existing employees. Based on specific roles, job changes, or stages of the employee lifecycle, you can provide your employees with personalized content that is curated to their unique needs.

Below are a few types of learning approaches:

  • Peer learning, or social learning, allows your employees to share best practices and practical examples that are directly applicable to your organization. You can encourage employees who are experts in a specific skill to share their knowledge and get company-wide recognition. All the while, you’re unlocking the knowledge held by a limited number of people and disseminating it across the organization.
  • Interactive video offers employees engaging experiences, with features like quizzes, open responses, and note-taking to improve information retention. Interactive content can be delivered on mobile devices, making it easy for employees to develop their skills wherever they are.
  • Mentorship increases employee engagement and helps new employees become more valuable to the organization. Encourage your employees to connect with others with specific skills and experience to hone in on their areas of interest. Within Workday Human Capital Management, this can be done through the connections/mentoring feature.

By fostering a learning culture, you can attract, develop, and retain the best talent. Incorporating career development opportunities into your company culture ensures that your employees are equipped with all the skills they need to succeed now and into the future.

More Reading