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Professional Services and the Resignation Crisis

The press has recently been discussing what appears to be a resignation crisis that we’re facing globally.  After all, there are four million people who quit their jobs in April in the U.S., a 20-year high. There were a record 10 million job vacancies in June. A Microsoft study indicated that 41 percent of the global workforce are considering resigning within one year, and a Fast Company article suggested that number may be as high as 55 percent.

 

The implications of the resignation crisis are especially dire for professional services firms. I’m thinking of management consultancies and law firms who have a partnership model in particular. Initially, the partnership model only worked if graduates knew they were on an 8-12 year journey to make partner, but what if those graduates don’t care about making partner anymore?

 

This is a potential existential crisis if that young talent is considering leaving every two to five years, which research for my book, Next Generation Leadership, has shown. I talk to firms all the time who are seriously questioning their philosophy of work and the architecture of how they are composed. We have to reconsider the models in our organisations, particularly in partnership models, and think about how can we still imbue people with purpose and values so that they will stay a little bit longer, but also create those organisational designs that are not necessarily ‘up or out’.  That must involve working on purpose and legacy, particularly with senior partners, those in the last trimester of their careers, who might otherwise be thinking, ‘Well, there’s very little else that you can teach me.’

 

I would want to get this stakeholder group together ask them to think about the type of firm that they wish to leave for their successors.  How might it be possible to have more fluid movement in and out of the firm? In that way, top talent might include those who are en route to becoming partners, or might become future clients, or might become suppliers or partners, or might ultimately want to work with you on a contractor basis. After all, over sixty percent of the world’s work is now organised according to projects.

Top talent might even want to return as senior executives later on in your company’s life. In other words, you might get two, three bites of the cherry from that same person who might come in and out of your organisation with greater dexterity that most companies currently would tolerate. It really involves rethinking how you work, but I do think that it is necessary to have that conversation now.

 

 

 

 

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What Is Strategic Innovation?

When I talk to executives about innovation, they generally go right to products and services.  In other words, their default is to explore those innovation questions that everyone asks themselves.  But what questions are neglected as a result?

If you are a senior executive, what are the things that you can affect, that you can change, that no one else in your organisation can change? And generally the answer to that question ultimately is strategic or business model innovation, challenging assumptions implicit in the questions: who are your customers, what are you offering them and how are you offering it.

If you can change the assumptions in those questions you are playing a different game from your competitors and you are giving yourself an inimitable competitive advantage.

Take for example Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Enterprise decided to play in a  completely different sphere. Rather than primarily trying to serve air travellers, they served customers who were suffering from car breakdowns. Now, that implied that they would be putting their depots and their offices in residential areas rather than in expensive airports, so now all of a sudden, they were competing in an area that for a long time had no competitors and offered them cost advantages.

So do consider, when you can think about innovation and if you are a senior leader, what are the business model innovation questions that you can ask yourself so that you can claim advantages that would take many, many years for your competitors to imitate? And in so doing, you truly become a game-changing innovator in your industry.

Adam Kingl is Adjunct Faculty at the UCL School of Management, Hult Ashridge International Business School, an Associate of the Moller Institute at Cambridge University, and the author of Next Generation Leadership (HarperCollins 2020).  www.adamkingl.com 

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Considering the End of Lockdown

What should companies be thinking about regarding their talent as we (possibly?) near the end of lockdown?

First, think about the physical space of your company office.  A lot of organisations are shedding commercial real estate.  The implication is that employees returning to the office are going to be smooshed together in ever more constricted open plans.  Well, that may work for some people but not for others, so do consider also providing flexible, private space.  You have introverts; you have neurodiverse colleagues.  They will, at some points in the workday, need time to themselves.

Second, think about how you may extend flexible work, giving people the opportunity to continue to work from home at least part of the time.  For many industries and functions, an option to work from home is never going to go away now and in fact will be expected from many if not most employees.  For example, over half of the U.S. workforce was already working from home at least part of the time before lockdown happened.  Most companies have already demonstrated that it can and does work.

Third, when your colleagues are back in the workplace, you now have the opportunity to socialise again.  You probably have many employees (hundreds or thousands in some cases) who joined your company during lockdown and have never yet had the opportunity really to get to know their colleagues in social situations.  To do so build trust, and that helps to reinforce culture.

This brings me to my fourth point.  If you want to build a stronger culture post-lockdown, create opportunities for your people to observe important meetings with important clients and customers.  And in that way, they start to understand how you work when it really matters, which is the true test of organisational authenticity.  This initiative can be easier when you are physically co-located, so seize the opportunity to demonstrate that being the office does have its advantages.  Get people together to observe the behaviours you desire and need for a culture that wins and has fun together, where people would not wish to be anywhere else.             

Adam Kingl is Adjunct Faculty at the UCL School of Management, Ashridge-Hult International Business School, an Associate of the Moller Institute at Cambridge University, and the author of Next Generation Leadership (HarperCollins 2020).  www.adamkingl.com