Recruiting & Retaining a High Performing Team

By Team Kantata

Being able to recruit people with the right skills is crucial for any professional services organization. It can be challenging to find talented employees and turn them into valued members of your high-performing team.

Finding the right person for your team is only the beginning. There are hurdles that must be recognized along the entire employee journey, from recruitment to retention; otherwise, employees may feel undervalued or that they are not being given the opportunity to advance in their careers.

For employees to be successful in their roles, you must provide guidance and opportunities for them — and not just at the beginning of their tenure. Training and onboarding may be the first time you have the chance to show a new employee that your company prioritizes supporting them in their success, but once the onboarding portion is over, it’s important to reinforce that support. As an example, are you giving your employees access to more senior members of staff for advice and guidance, as well as new work opportunities that require more advanced skills, allowing them to further hone their skills and expertise?

Retaining employees once onboarded and trained is key to success. Finding and training replacements takes time, which could be time wasted if the new hires also leave quickly. The most obvious way to make sure you retain your best employees is to make sure they feel like your organization is a great place to work. This can be fueled by giving your employees:

  • The opportunity to develop their expertise and skills
  • The ability to mold the direction of their own career growth
  • Access to a variety of engagements that expand their knowledge, experience, and skills
  • The right balance between internal and customer-focused (external) work
  • The ability to learn and/or teach in-demand skills with other team members

The benefits can be enormous. According to recent Kantata research, 92% of full-time employees say they would be more loyal to a company that invested in their professional growth by paying for certifications, continuing education, and masterclasses. But most professional services leaders struggle with granting some or all of these opportunities to their staff. Here are some tips on creating processes that will help increase the chance of repeatable employee success.

Underlying Challenges

No matter what advances there are in technology, managing people is always likely to be challenging and complex. However, the first step to building repeatable success is to identify some of the pressure points that can make it more difficult than it needs to be.

1. Recruiting is a Scramble

A thoughtful recruitment process takes time — finding good candidates, assessing the different mix of skills that they have, and determining how they will add to the current team you are fielding makes it worth the investment. But all too often in professional services, time is the one thing you don’t have. By the time the management team gives the OK to start the hiring process, it is because people are not available to deliver committed work, so it becomes a scramble to go out there and hire the right person. That time pressure makes it much more difficult to recruit effectively.

2. The Onboarding Process is Ineffective

Once a new team member has been recruited, there can be a gap between the excitement they felt at the interview stage and how they feel in the first few months on the job. Sometimes they end up feeling that what they were told about the culture and mission of their new organization doesn’t measure up in reality. They may feel unsupported or under-informed. The training materials they need to help them to succeed may be out of date, there could be a lack of engagement with other team members, and it can feel a struggle for this new team member to see how they can fit in.

3. Employees Are Out of the Loop

Is information shared with employees? Many employees feel they have little insight into how their businesses are performing, with either a lack of effective communication or a lack of transparency, with higher ups refusing to give insights into business success, keeping employees in the dark.

In these kinds of companies, employees are generally expected to input information into the system, information which is vital for managers to draw on to run the business. But it is a one-way street — information isn’t shared with them in return. This makes it more difficult for them to see the bigger picture or to evaluate their own contribution. This lack of information tends to fuel disengagement, as they are less likely to feel part of the team.

4. Employees Aren’t Involved in Resourcing Decisions

Some business leaders treat their consultants or other service professionals as “fee-dogs” — they are put on one project after another without being involved in selecting the projects they work on or setting the direction of career advancement in any way. That might have been acceptable in the past but, to attract and keep the brightest talent, that kind of approach is unlikely to be successful now. People want to develop their skills and take their careers in directions that align with their goals and aspirations.

Equally, as employees do develop their skills and experience, is the business able to keep up to date with the new skills they can offer, or do those skills get lost in the shuffle? Resourcing managers can make a better match with appropriate roles when they have access to updated profiles.

5. Incentives are Individual, Not Team-Based

In the past, bonuses and incentives were often attached to individual targets. But that doesn’t always drive the right behaviors. When it comes to sales, for example, targets are traditionally biased towards new customers — but if existing customers are a big source of repeat and new business, then arguably, the team which has been nurturing them and providing the service that is bringing them back should figure in the reward.

Incentivizing the right behaviors isn’t just about bonuses. It is also about creating a culture where people feel that their contribution is recognized and where everyone can take credit for success.

How to Solve

Many of these underlying challenges take root because the right technology is not in place to give teams the clarity, control, and confidence needed to optimize recruitment in retention. For many businesses, essential information that would ensure the best people are matched with the best projects that align with their goals and aspirations gets lost in difficult-to-maintain spreadsheets, or siloed in point solutions that create blind spots for professional services decision-makers.

Using technology that’s purpose-built for professional services organizations can make the recruiting, training, and retaining of employees more predictable and proactive. Having a solution that houses accurate and up-to-date data increases the confidence of resource managers that their decisions will result in more satisfied employees and customers. Professional services software supports resourcing managers by freeing up time otherwise spent scrambling to put together the right team — allowing them to spend more time with their employees, understanding their needs, skills, and the desired direction of their careers. This in turn helps to foster happy employees, more successful projects, and ultimately, a more satisfied customer base that is likely to return time and time again.

1. Begin Recruiting Earlier

Because the sales process is generally quite protracted, services organizations which have visibility of the pipeline can often see ahead of time what skills are likely to be in-demand. They are likely aware what roles they are likely to have to fill and where bottlenecks might occur. But that doesn’t always translate into a decision to go out to recruit as early as businesses should.

Perhaps the organization doesn’t have confidence in the information regarding demand or the pipeline. Or perhaps they are not certain this will be sustained over the long term. There can be a reluctance to act on clear signals in the pipeline that should influence headcount — and thus a reluctance to begin the hiring process. But for a services organization, recruiting great people is the best way to grow and ensure customers are able to realize long-term success by working with your business.

Professional services software plays a critical role in increasing the accuracy of the backlog, pipeline, and future demand — all which lead to more proactive and strategic recruiting decisions. The right software solution will increase the trust that resourcing leaders have in incoming demand, and will allow them to make more confident decisions about who to hire and when. Professional services software empowers resource managers to look forward, recruiting and hiring in the months ahead of work rather than scrambling to hire when a resource gap impacts customer satisfaction and business profitability.

2. Take a Strategic Approach to Onboarding

As soon as someone has been recruited, before they actually start work, you can begin involving and including them in outreach work, team building, online activities, and offering initial training and educational material. It’s important for resourcing leaders to have visibility into who is being onboarded and when they will be utilizable so they can strategically and proactively put the best-fit resources onto projects. Adopt resource management software that allows resourcing leaders to see the status of new recruits and outlines who will be available to be put onto billable work, and when they will be available. This increases the chance that the right resource will be put on the right project — ultimately fueling more successful project delivery and more satisfied customers.

3. Make Information Accessible

Ensure that everyone can access the data they need to feel in the loop. This data might include things like: 

  • What are the overall targets that the business is working towards?
  • How is the business performing against those targets?
  • How is each individual department contributing to that performance? 

When people on the ground feel they are in the loop, they will work and contribute more effectively, and find their jobs more rewarding.

A purpose-built professional services solution gives employees to access the metrics and information that will drive everyone toward the same targets and business goals. These solutions are proven to help align all teams around the same metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs), reducing the chance that information about KPIs will be miscommunicated from one team to the next. That means it isn’t up to business leaders to constantly remind their team what goal they are working toward.

The digital workplace requires people to be autonomous, to self-manage, and to make decisions which affect the future performance of the business. It’s key to share how employees’ decisions impact the overall success of the business rather than just the impact on their individual roles or within their team. In order for individuals to be confident to make the decisions they are most fit to execute on, they need relevant information at their fingertips. Having the right technology in place allows for access to data that is up-to-date and accurate.

4. Encourage Employees to Contribute to the Resourcing Process

One key to retaining top talent in services organizations is ensuring service delivery professionals feel engaged in their work and have a stake in their professional development. This starts with giving users the ability to raise their hand for assignments that interest them or map to their career goals. Look for software that can ensure skilled professionals’ preferences are accounted for in the system and do not go unnoticed.

The right resource management software will also make it easier to keep tabs on the new skills and expertise your people are developing over time and suggest people who might be newly qualified to take on more senior roles. If people realize that updating their profiles is likely to lead to them achieving new work goals and being offered exciting new opportunities, they are that much more likely to participate in this process.

5. Review Team Performance

Think about how performance is reviewed within the organization. It is helpful to have software that can surface accurate data that shows which teams and departments within the business are the strongest performers and what practices they’re using that can be deployed elsewhere.

Teams have to be encouraged to consistently share information about what they are doing and what they have learned. If the organization is going to continue to improve, they will have to share the knowledge they have acquired on an ongoing basis with new people who join.

Final Thoughts

Recruiting and retaining high performance teams is a virtuous circle. When talented people are swiftly and effectively brought onboard a strong team, the experience is rewarding and engaging. Creating a one-team culture in turn contributes to a unified and positive customer experience.

Today’s resource managers need technology that will help them understand and better serve the needs of both clients and employees without sacrificing one for the other. See how the Kantata Professional Services CloudTM can help you put your people at the center of your business.

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