Building a Future-Ready Workforce for the Professional Services Industry

Building a Future-Ready Workforce for the Professional Services Industry
July 2, 2024 16 mins

Building a Future-Ready Workforce for the Professional Services Industry

Building a Future-Ready Workforce for the Professional Services Industry Image

The need to attract and retain high-quality talent in an environment of intense competition is at the forefront of professional services leaders’ minds.

Key Takeaways
  1. The best employers foster a positive and inclusive company culture that values diversity, collaboration and employee wellbeing, thereby creating an engaging and supportive work environment.
  2. Organizations are thinking more deeply about how inclusion, wellbeing and flexibility play a part in their overall talent and business strategy.
  3. Professional services firms should use people data to personalize learning and development journeys — a key part of prioritizing budgets, adapting processes and programs to meet the changing demands of employees and retaining talent.

The failure to attract or retain top talent currently ranks as the professional services industry's second-most critical risk, according to Aon’s Global Risk Management Survey.

Top 10 Current Risks
  1. Cyber Attack or Data Breach
  2. Failure to Attract or Retain Top Talent
  3. Damage to Brand or Reputation
  4. Economic Slowdown or Slow Recovery
  5. Failure to Innovate or Meet Customer Needs
  6. Increasing Competition
  7. Workforce Shortage
  8. Business Interruption
  9. Tech or System Failure
  10. Regulatory or Legislative Changes

The Quest for Professional Services Talent

Competition for top talent has always been intense, but the stakes are particularly high for professional services firms. Human capital is their most crucial asset and a key source of growth and innovation. Other areas of consulting are also emerging, placing the focus on new skills, niche skills and a demand supply mismatch for specialized roles. Even further, innovation, artificial intelligence (AI) and tech convergence are moving at a fast speed in this sector,1 adding complexity when it comes to understanding the specific talent requirements to accelerate business strategy.

In the quest to secure the most in-demand skills, professional services firms are now competing for talent with sectors they may not have previously considered as rivals. The competition from newer tech, fintech and other digital service providers makes it difficult for professional services firms to promote their employer brand and attract talent. Especially since these sectors have deeper pockets and possibly more enticing employee value propositions (EVPs).

5%

Despite it being the industry's second-most critical risk both now and in the future, only 5 percent of professional service respondents stated they had quantified the impact of failing to attract or retain top talent.

Source: Aon's 2023 Global Risk Management Survey

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Professional services firms are re-thinking their EVP and brand to attract the right talent. The brand must resonate internally with current employees, as well as be aligned to the organization’s purpose and values.

Adithi Jagannathan
Human Capital Solutions Advisory Partner, UK

There has been a huge shift in employee expectations since the pandemic, with a much tighter focus on employer brand, sense of wellbeing, work-life balance and work experience. Organizations find themselves challenged to meet the rising salary demands of critical talent with scarce and valuable skill sets and competencies. Beyond pay and benefits, employees are increasingly interested in how companies support the health and wellbeing of their people.

Generational differences in the workforce drive distinct needs with respect to pay, benefits, wellbeing, job security and career progression. For example, graduates are asking about diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) policies when attending recruitment programs. There is also a larger focus on mental wellbeing, encouraging businesses to respond with an increased investment in areas like lifestyle benefits. The key for every firm is to understand the preferences of its own employee population. The trend of “follow the market” is no longer sustainable.

Now more than ever, lawyers are craving more than just financial success; they yearn for a firm that embraces a robust work-life balance and can demonstrate solid ESG and DE&I strategies, making their professional journey not just prosperous, but purposeful.2

Defining Factors of a Future-Ready Workforce

Having a future-ready workforce will depend on many factors, including getting the business culture right and understanding the changing expectations of a multi-generational workforce. Too many companies, for example, focus on developing a more traditional and reactive “illbeing” strategy as opposed to a more proactive “wellbeing” strategy that seeks to promote better physical and mental health.

  • Employee Wellbeing

    An essential component of employee wellbeing is workforce resilience, which creates an environment where one can better adapt to adverse situations, manage stress and retain motivation.3 Aon’s data show that organizations in the professional services sector score only a 4.5 on a 1-9 scale on resilience, and rank as number 13 out of 16 sectors in total.4

  • Inclusive Company Culture

    The best employers foster a positive and inclusive company culture that values diversity, collaboration and employee wellbeing, thereby creating an engaging and supportive work environment. When acceptance and inclusivity is high, individuals have a sense of alignment and belonging with the organization. The professional services sector, however, scores a 4.5 on a scale from 1-9 on the assessment of inclusive mindset, which is lower than almost all other sectors.5

  • Employee Engagement

    Forward-thinking companies are now focusing on how to design teams and organizations in a way that supports growth and talent sustainability. This includes role design, workload, values and reward design; and the ability to tailor these to multi-generational needs.

  • Employee Engagement

    Employee engagement is another focus area for many firms. Providing regular feedback mechanisms, employee surveys and opportunities for involvement in decision-making processes, all help enhance engagement. Employee recognition programs, performance incentives, and rewards to acknowledge and celebrate contributions and achievements are also important. At a minimum, companies should offer competitive salaries, bonuses, and comprehensive benefit packages to attract top talent and incentivize retention — but that alone is not enough.

    Results from Aon’s U.S. Law Firm Human Capital Key Topics and Trends Survey show that law firms are responding to changes in the talent market by taking strategic actions like focusing DE&I initiatives on the areas of highest impact and cultivating a culture of wellbeing by matching attorneys and staff with the resources they need.

    Nearly all respondents — either “Am Law 200” firms or firms based outside the United States with gross global revenues in the Am Law 200 range — listed increasing overall engagement as one of their primary medium and long-term goals.6

  • Talent Retention

    There are now a range of additional strategies being employed to retain talent, such as flexibility in work schedules, remote work options, and alternative work arrangements to accommodate employees' preferences and promote work-life balance. Investing in training is also important, as well as upskilling programs and career advancement opportunities to support employees' professional growth and development.

    Developing targeted retention strategies tailored to different employee segments, such as high-performing employees, key talent or specific demographic groups to mitigate turnover risks, is additionally vital in the current competitive talent market. And offering support services, counselling, and resources to assist employees with personal and professional challenges, can demonstrate a commitment to wellbeing and retention as well.

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Recent studies underscore a critical truth: employees crave clear and visible career paths. It’s not just important — it needs to be front and center and shouted from the rooftops. Without it, talented people will walk away.

Charlotte Schaller
Partner and Head of Aon Assessment, EMEA and UK

The Intersection of Talent and Business Strategy

Our research found that there is a relationship between wellbeing and a sustainable working life, and that relationship can affect company performance. Namely, the higher an organization’s ratings in overall employee wellbeing, culture and climate of wellbeing, performance of wellbeing initiatives and funding allocation toward wellbeing are, the better their scores in the categories of a sustainable working life; workforce resilience, agility and belonging. There is also a direct relationship to company performance. Improving these factors can enhance company performance by at least 11 percent and up to 55 percent.7

Sustainable High Performance

Professional services organizations are thinking more deeply about how inclusion, wellbeing and flexibility play a part in their overall talent and business strategy. This conversation has been elevated to the C-suite, with an appetite to better understand the link to business performance. The result is a new focus on “sustainable high performance,” which is subsequently being woven into board priorities, organizational reporting and change management methodologies.

11%

There is a direct relationship between wellbeing, a sustainable working life and company performance. Company performance enhances by at least 11 percent and up to 55 percent when improving overall wellbeing ratings.

Source: Aon's 2022-2023 Global Wellbeing Survey

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Linking wellbeing and other human drivers to business performance is critical for keeping it front of mind at the C-suite. Using integrated and predictive analytics to understand how interconnected risks can be managed to achieve sustainable growth.

Rachel Fellowes
Global Chief Wellbeing Officer

To create a workplace culture that fosters loyalty, engagement and long-term success, organizations need to think about how to progress their culture and EVP in order to retain and attract the people they need most. Professional services businesses need to ask what kind of employee experience their employees really want.

Key questions to answer are:

  • What do employees value?
  • Does the employee offering resonate with the employer brand and the overall mission?
  • How do we create a sense of belonging in a hybrid world?
  • How do we ensure talent is productive, engaged and supported while teams interact in new ways?
  • How do we attract diverse talent in a way that differentiates us from our competitors, but doesn’t limit performance?
Sustainable Talent Pipeline

From a recruitment perspective, there are increased efforts to educate recruiters and interviewers with statements that clearly articulate these emerging elements and focus on questions that go beyond pay.

Given recruitment is challenging, the best employers are proactively building and maintaining relationships with potential candidates through talent pipelines, internships and networking events to ensure a continuous flow of qualified candidates. They are cultivating a strong employer brand and reputation as an employer of choice through effective marketing, social media presence and positive employee testimonials. They must then build this all into their recruitment campaigns, careers landing pages and throughout the whole talent acquisition process.

The Need for Continuous Learning and Future Skills Requirements

In this competitive talent market, professional services firms are taking a strategic look at skills. Analyzing people data can help organizations navigate what skills are needed today and how they map to future skills requirements. This can then help identify whether the gap can be filled through transferable skills or internal mobility. And if not, what other skills or acquisitions are needed to fill that gap.

Structured Training Programs

Structured training programs tailored to different career levels and skill sets, covering technical expertise, leadership development and soft skills are offered by professional services organizations. In addition, mentorship and coaching programs offer opportunities to connect employees with experienced professionals who can give guidance, feedback and support in their career development journey. Investing in online learning platforms and resources to enable employees to access training materials and courses allows for continuous learning and skill enhancement.

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Firms need to personalize their learning and development journeys, since it’s no longer one size fits all. Using people data is key to prioritize budgets, adapt processes and programs to suit individual needs and to protect and retain talent.

Charlotte Schaller
Partner and Head of Aon Assessment, EMEA and UK
Performance Management Systems

Implementing performance management systems that focus on regular feedback, goal setting, and development planning to support employees in achieving their career objectives will help to meet their demands for personal growth and advancement. Supporting employees in obtaining relevant certifications and credentials to enhance their expertise and credibility in their respective fields is also beneficial. For high potential employees, offering specialized programs can help develop leadership skills and prepare them for future leadership roles within the firm.

Flexible Work Arrangements

In addition, organizations can look at providing flexible work arrangements to accommodate employees' learning and development needs while maintaining work-life balance. This includes establishing employee resource groups or affinity networks to foster a sense of belonging and provide opportunities for networking, collaboration and professional development among diverse groups of employees, as well as offering tuition reimbursement programs to support employees pursuing further education or advanced degrees relevant to their career aspirations.8

For more information on how to build a future-ready workforce for your professional services firm, please reach out to our team. We provide integrated solutions and specialized advisory services for both risk and human capital.

Our teams of industry and subject matter experts work together seamlessly to deliver integrated solutions, including dedicated verticals within the Risk and Human Capital practices providing specialized client advisory services.

Aon’s Thought Leaders
  • Rachel Fellowes
    Global Chief Wellbeing Officer
  • Adithi Jagannathan
    Human Capital Solutions Advisory Partner, UK
  • Charlotte Schaller
    Partner and Head of Aon Assessment, EMEA and UK

General Disclaimer

This document is not intended to address any specific situation or to provide legal, regulatory, financial, or other advice. While care has been taken in the production of this document, Aon does not warrant, represent or guarantee the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or fitness for any purpose of the document or any part of it and can accept no liability for any loss incurred in any way by any person who may rely on it. Any recipient shall be responsible for the use to which it puts this document. This document has been compiled using information available to us up to its date of publication and is subject to any qualifications made in the document.

Terms of Use

The contents herein may not be reproduced, reused, reprinted or redistributed without the expressed written consent of Aon, unless otherwise authorized by Aon. To use information contained herein, please write to our team.

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