Strategic Workforce Planning: How To Plug The Skills Gap In The Professional Services

Posted by Neil Davidson on November 21, 2018

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As any chief executive will tell you, a company is nothing without its people, and yet good people are getting harder to find. Globally, professional services companies are facing yawning skills gaps, leaving many short of the expertise they need. This drastically impacts their capacity to perform effectively, posing a constant risk to profitability.

Part of the problem is the fierce competition for tech-savvy millennial workers. These employees seek more dynamic work environments, permeated by technology, and view career progression in a totally different way to generations past. They are less loyal and more inclined to hop between jobs, making retention ever harder.


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Perhaps not surprisingly, 75 percent of decision-makers tell us their business is unprepared to manage the risk of talent shortages, while 38 percent lack successors for various positions. Some 43% consider talent acquisition to be in the top five talent management challenges globally, so what can they do to tackle this thorny issue?

As our report, Insight to Action – The future of the professional services industry, sets out, in the immediate term professional services firms must strengthen their strategic workforce planning and processes. That means ensuring they have a 360-degree view of their project pipelines and of the capacity and skills needed to deliver their projects. This will stop them from not only winning business they can’t deliver, but also hiring star talent that ends up stuck on the bench because not enough business has been won.

Companies must also think carefully about how they attract millennial workers. This might include becoming “digital champions”, as by embedding technology at the heart of their businesses they will be more relevant to next generation candidates. They must also promote their company cultures to potential recruits and demonstrate that strong career development and training opportunities are available.


'75% of decision-makers tell us their business is unprepared to manage the risk of talent shortages'



Avoiding Churn

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The HR departments of professional services businesses must also be primed to recruit responsively, implementing thorough on-boarding programs and closely monitoring feedback to boost retention. Many still struggle to do this effectively, however, with 52% of CEOs considering performance management and documentation of employee development to be one of their biggest talent management challenges.

To avoid churn, businesses must also empower younger, more ambitious staff to make decisions about their work. Younger workers also value competitive benefits and a good working environment, which requires investment.

As our report shows, talent management systems can help firms with strategic workforce planning - enabling them to address their skills gaps by offering a bird’s-eye view of their future resourcing requirements. Such programs enable decision makers to map out and identify employees who are ready for advancement, need development, or should be transitioned out. They also help to calculate “risk of loss,” identifying those employees who need attention and are critical to the business, as well as nurturing employee skills with online learning, goal management, and career development plans.


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