Across industries, COVID 19 accelerated widespread digital transformation. For professional services firms, the impact of that acceleration is exponential. Not only is the organization itself tasked with internal transformation, but it’s clients seek their own transformation in tandem. While urgency for change drives client growth, it also creates new competitive dynamics for the firm. They have to compete with entirely different industries for increasingly non-traditional roles such as engineers and UX designers. The more complex the client problems are to solve, the more technical and specialized a firm's people need to be.
When it comes to attracting and retaining the right talent as digital transformation peaks, professional service organizations face three big challenges. Creating and maintaining skills agility, managing volume in a passive candidate world, and competing with cross-sector employment brands. In this post, we break down each challenge and offer suggestions for what firms can do now.
Challenge 1: Creating And Maintaining Skills Agility
Hiring for “digital” capabilities is now the highest priority for most talent teams. As client demands get more complex and a firm’s service delivery model transforms, critical skill sets continually emerge across both client facing and non-client facing roles.
The challenge for talent teams within professional services firms is the ability to create and maintain skills agility. Meaning, they must simultaneously capture an accurate inventory of the skills their people already possess while quickly identifying, competing, and hiring against what is essentially a moving target of emerging skills.
At the team level, hiring managers need an agile process for identifying which skill sets are driving success in a role and which skill sets their teams are still lacking. They need an easy way to communicate the ideal skills mix and then hand that ‘recipe’ off to recruiters who can immediately connect them with a qualified short list. For their part, recruiters need a streamlined way to replicate how they identify, engage and shortlist talent against the right criteria.
It should come as no surprise to anyone - in a competitive recruiting market, the speed of your process and the accuracy of your data wins. The ONLY way to create skills agility is through a centralized source of truth that delivers fresh, reliable data about the current skills and capabilities of employees, alumni, freelancers, emerging graduates, and other existing talent pools.
Challenge 2: Managing Volume In Passive Candidate World
When events like COVID force mass change upon the entire world of work, candidate volume skyrockets. Simply put, unemployed people apply where the work is. In 2021 furloughed talent from across industries still floods the applicant pipeline, with top tier professional services such as Ernst & Young facing an apply-to-hiring ratio as high as 26:1. The sheer volume of applicants makes it harder than normal to pinpoint, engage and attract the right talent before they get snapped up by the competition.
Making matters even more complex, the most highly sought after talents are often passive. They are already employed, progressing in their careers and in full control. To that end, recruiters need a reliable way to nurture relationships with top tier talent and keep their ongoing conversations warm and relevant.
Recruiters in professional services need data that alerts them when a target’s skillsets reach a new threshold. In order to present the right kinds of opportunities to this talent at exactly the right time, recruiters need a real-time CRM tool that allows them to maintain accurate, up-to-date information about a potential candidate’s skills and experience. When they have this, they can pick up conversations at precisely the right skills level - not just where they left off the conversation years ago.
Challenge 3: Competing With Non-traditional Employment Brands For Highly Skilled Millennials
Competing with desirable technical firms for the same millennial talent isn’t easy. Although most professional services firms benefit from a strong employment brand, when they are competing next to the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Apple attracting top tier candidates - especially developers, engineers and product designers, they have to step up their game. For example, according to Universum’s 2020 Top 50 World’s Most Attractive Employers Global Business Ranking Deloitte is 5th, Goldman Sachs is 6th, EY is 7th and PwC ranks 8th, but when you look at the same top 50 rankings for Global Engineering/IT students, Goldman Sachs drops to 24th, Deloitte to 27th, PwC barely holds on at 50th and EY drops off the list altogether. What remains the same on both lists? The top three spots go to Google, Microsoft and Apple.
Professional services firms have to convince this non-traditional talent that the professional services industry is a place where technical talent can thrive long term. They have to engage talent and prove that their firm has the most important attributes in an employer that they are looking for. According to Universum, the top 3 attributes engineering and IT talent are looking for include high future earnings, innovation and a friendly work environment.
In order to tell the right story and win the right talent, recruiters need the ability to customize nurture content that ushers tech talent through a recruiting experience they both expect and already receive from high tech competitors.
As professional services firms continue leading the way through digital transformation their success or failure depends on the emerging skill sets their people can bring to the table. Helping recruiters and hiring managers know what they already have and giving them the tools to either develop or hire for what they don’t will be increasingly critical. In order to do that, they need data driven tools that allow them to stay current with passive candidates skillset, keep conversations relevant, and present an ever evolving brand story that attracts innovative talent.