3) The workforce-focused will win. The professional services winners will be the firms that do the best job of recruiting, hiring, and retaining the best consultants. There’s a growing emphasis on building differentiated brands based on culture to attract top talent. All firms must learn to manage multigenerational workforces, especially since we’re seeing a younger and younger workforce (24.7 percent are under 30 years of age).
We also see rising attrition, which has been increasing steadily over the past 10 years and now stands at 13.9 percent. This is worrisome for a people-based business. In 2018 we saw one of the strongest job markets in history; in September U.S. unemployment was 3.7 percent, a 48-year low. Since that time, unemployment has inched up, but we are still experiencing an incredibly tight job market. Another big factor in rising attrition is the fact that younger workers are more likely to switch jobs. According to a Gallup poll, 21 percent of millennials switched jobs in 2016; for older workers, it was less than 7 percent.
Leadership could be a factor as well. With this virtual, multigenerational, collaborative, and mobile workforce, today’s leaders must be more agile—the culture captains who walk the talk. The downside is that a lot of leaders aren’t prepared to lead; this lack of leadership itself is probably one of the contributors to high rates of attrition. The best firms understand this and they’re working hard to grow the next generation of leaders.
4) Virtual everything. The nature of the work is changing, with more virtual consulting delivery: 47 percent of billable consulting hours were delivered virtually versus on-site. In this digital age, everything has to be smart phone-enabled and virtual, with an emphasis on simplicity, ease of use, streamlined user interfaces, and streamlined reporting.
Flexibility is important for both leaders and consultants in addressing this shift. While “virtual everything” means consultants can be available 24/7, they don’t want to be. They want to work hard when they work, but the younger generations, in particular, prize their non-working time. This is a challenge for consulting organizations because consultants may not want to work when clients need them to. Some of the best professional services organizations offer working from home options, sabbaticals, and generous paid time off.