How to engage & motivate staff in the shifting culture of consulting

Managing burnout
Remote working
Employee-value propositions
written by
Ellen Darbyshire
Jul 12, 2022
minutes read

In the current market, keeping up with the changing attitudes and expectations of staff & candidates can feel taxing.

How can you keep talent engaged and motivated, while navigating an increasingly digital workplace and talent pool?

In our latest consultancy webinar, our panel of experts shared their experiences attracting and recruiting staff, and developing methods to keep them on board.

New questions and conversations

“There’s been a pretty dramatic revolution in the way we talk with consultants as an industry,” says Jeff Merkle, Senior Partner with GRAPH Strategy. Historically, Jeff noticed 3 key themes kept occurring in conversations with candidates:

  1. Packages — what sort of package can candidates expect, both at a junior level and as they elevate?
  2. Career acceleration — how will this consulting firm enable candidates to advance and enhance their resumé?
  3. Promotion — how quickly can candidates move up through the system to a senior position?

However, in recent times, Jeff’s noticed a significant shift in these topics. “Nowadays, the conversation is much more sustainability and career oriented.” This means that hiring managers in consultancies can expect a greater volume of questions around workplace culture, training, managing burnout and work-life balance.

Because these are relatively new questions being asked by the workforce, many firms may be caught off-guard and struggle to come up with the answers. But for Jeff, firms can’t afford to simply scratch their heads.

“Candidates aren’t getting one offer—they’re getting four or five and choosing between them,” he said. If firms can’t answer those common questions, they won’t be able to close candidates.

“The pandemic has accelerated a wave of discontinuity throughout the entire industry,” added Simon England, Partner with Garwood Solutions. “It’s going to have a profound change.”

Many of the traditional myths around the “constraints” of remote working have been debunked in this shift, and firms are having to work out how to build sustainable client relationships in an overwhelmingly digital space.

“It’s become so hard that there’s now a far greater onus on having strong, effective and inspiring leadership to run firms,” Simon continued.

Creating balanced solutions

Sometimes, consultancy firms can fall into the trap of “throwing money” at the issue: higher bases, stronger OTEs and better bonuses. However, with an increase in candidates asking for improvements in leadership and culture, firms don’t necessarily have to pay out to attract and retain.

“It’s not an either/or. It’s both,” said Jeff. While offering an employee a raise may meet their current expectations, it’s a sense of empathy and understanding that they’re seeking from their leadership.

One of the most important things Simon’s learned in his thirty-five years of experience is to never compromise on talent: “Every time I’ve made a compromised talent decision, it’s come back to haunt me.” Whether this translates to individual workplace adjustments or 50% bonuses, securing the best talent is more than worthwhile.

Adapting to cultural shifts

In today’s consulting workforce, there are new managers within firms who might have little to no experience in the office—and, consequently, less experience building relationships with clients and colleagues alike. For Jeff, this shift in culture is a lived experience that consultants are going through in real time.

“It’s vital to spend time around people who are more experienced than you,” he said. This is important for any consultant, but especially for new staff who haven’t had the opportunity to brush up on their interpersonal skills. It’s also beneficial not just to see what your more experienced colleagues are doing, but how they’re doing it—understanding the process that got them there, not just the final outcome.

Of course, putting this into action can bring its own challenges as you navigate a remote working landscape—nobody wants to sit on a screen-sharing session for hours on end. That’s why putting time aside (if you’re able to) for in-person teamworking sessions can create “magical moments” as tenured managers and senior partners can show staff how the work is done.

The firms that Simon has seen achieving the most success are those that not only have a tight strategic focus, but also a clear understanding of why the firm exists and why they want to be doing the work they do. “This requires a continuous maturing of the employee-value proposition.”

To watch the full discussion, click here.

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