Balancing Supply And Demand For Talent In The Services Firm

Written by: Elliott Ichimura

Maintaining client relationships, delivering on commitments, and building the firm’s brand all depend on assigning the right people to work with each client despite the digital, generational, and cultural divides that permeate today’s changing workforce. Professional services firms live or die by their ability to attract, hire, retain, and motivate exceptional employees and indeed freelancers and subcontractors as well. You need the right people with the right domain expertise—saleable expertise. It’s a balancing act of finding the right talent, developing professionals, and encouraging the innovation that is necessary to create new thought leadership and to build on the value that the firm has to offer while managing the risk associated with talent.

Unlike in manufacturing or retail, many of the assets you have are uniquely fluid and highly portable, highly poachable. They can join a client organization or walk over to a competitor just about any day of the week. You have to get the right talent in the door to begin with, but you also have to “harvest” the right intellectual property or develop and improve the quality of the IP you have, to make it reusable throughout the rest of the firm and for other clients.

Compounding this ongoing challenge is the changing workforce, including the mass retirement of a generation of skilled professionals. In many markets, there is or will soon be a shortage of local and sufficiently mature successors. Meanwhile, we see rapid growth in highly educated and deeply digital, next-generation workers in emerging economic hot spots that offer new growth opportunities.  This has created a very real digital divide between how current decision-makers and senior staff work and the way workers just entering the marketplace are naturally inclined to learn and communicate. How can the mature workers best connect with and train the new workforce? How can the new generation leverage their digital knowledge in the workplace while learning to develop trusted relationships with coworkers and clients in a more traditional sense?

Not too long ago, Virtusa tackled a similar issue.  As a young multinational organization with a large number of ‘Gen Y’ employees, the company wanted to provide an engaging work environment. Its vision was to build a computing environment that closely resembles the social networking experience that its employees have at home, but with a business focus. “When you are considering adopting a social platform, it’s very crucial to think about how your ‘social graph’ (i.e., all social information such as friends, likes, and profiles) can be carried across to all applications and processes where your employees work, learn, share and connect,” explains Madu Ratnayake, Vice President at Virtusa. “We wanted the social experience to be pervasive. Social cannot be a webpage you go to. It has to be integrated with the tools people use every day to get the work done. It must enable people to find the right inputs at the right time.”

Global design firm Woods Bagot also understands the value of business-style social tools to facilitate knowledge management. “Being able to have social conversations in a specific context, within a site, within a community, is key for boosting productivity,” explains Felicity McNish, Global Knowledge Manager, Woods Bagot.

We know how critical it is to transfer knowledge between generations in the workforce and to make it easy for new workers to absorb that IP and then use it in their own unique way for the benefit of the company.  This is reflected Microsoft’s mission to drive connections with people, with customers, and with business partners across processes, data, and the ecosystem in which organizations operate. This commitment to connected organizations includes our vision of anywhere, in-context collaboration services that link people and companies to the right people in the right place, in the right context, at the right time, through the right communications channel.

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