By Aleece Hobson

Professional service firms across the country are experiencing the same issue: an increasing struggle to acquire and retain to talent. The widely publicized, fast-approaching talent gap is an important issue firms simply cannot ignore. In addition to battling for enough staff, firms are also overlooking opportunities to prepare current employees to seamlessly transition into leadership roles.

Firm leadership seems to be taking stop-gap actions rather than finding solutions to attack the issue holistically – for the entire worklife of the employee. Recruiting and developing talent are crucial to any firm’s success. Firms must rethink their hiring process, training programs, and reward techniques, positioning these strategies at the center of their strategic plans. Developing a plan (in writing) not only makes the initiatives concrete, but that process also gives credence and importance for the entire organization. Additionally, the act of developing a plan to solve your firm’s talent gap solidifies the process for investing in your firm’s most important asset – your people. Since many in the professional services sector are data and process driven by nature, the sheer act of stepping out the plan increases the likelihood of success.

Here are a few tips to help your firm close the talent gap:

  • Skills, policies, and procedures are taught. Create an onboarding manual that leaves nothing to chance. Communicate the what with the why and the how to reinforce the expected behavior and “way of being” within your organization.
  • During the hiring process, focus on an applicant’s potential and attitude, rather than relying only on skills or experience. A new hire or employee that is not a cultural fit can become cancerous to the entire team. Those involved in the interview process must ask questions to identify if a candidate is a good cultural fit.
  • Millennials have communicated the importance of working for a firm that supports and encourages firm wide and individual community involvement. Give your team the opportunity to give back to their community. Better yet, team up with a client or prospect to strengthen the relationship between your organizations. Don’t forget to include philanthropic initiatives in information across marketing channels.
  • Encourage and invest in employee continuing education and training programs beyond technical skills to keep employees engaged, as well as create a competitive edge for your firm. Think beyond the skills they need today to the skills they’ll need to fill leadership roles in the future. Train for tomorrow.
  • Analyze your firm’s compensation strategy to ensure it is competitive and aligned with the business plan. Remember that compensation goes beyond salary. Think about everything you can do to better the work environment – the culmination of small things can have huge impact on your team feeling valued.
  • Performance recognition can encourage work productivity, efficiency, and accuracy, as well as employee loyalty. Recognize and reward employees for the performance you want to reinforce. Positive feedback is even more important than telling them what they did wrong.
  • Today’s professional expects a certain level of flexibility with their work schedules. Focus on results, not hours at their desk. Studies continue to show that flexibility, within reason, encourage employees to work harder and increases productivity. Embrace flexible work arrangements whenever possible and the tools that support a multi-location workforce.

The gap will affect your firm, if it hasn’t already. Now’s the time to find creative ways to attract and retain top talent, as well as to nurture and develop your current team. When your firm is ready to give a plan to attract and retain key talent the respect it demands, that’s the point at which your firm truly demonstrates its commitment to the most valuable asset in any professional service firm – people.