Over the past decade, HR in professional services has become increasingly complex. There is a need for new tools that give deeper insight into people’s real skills and how they are being applied on projects. The payback for HR leaders is a greater strategic role in the firm’s direction, a more engaged workforce and insight into where one needs to invest, where to outsource, and what skills and capabilities are on their way out.
Structural changes driving the need for skill management include:
– Rapid changes in skills required
– More diversity on project teams
– Technology infiltrating all forms of consulting
– Competition for talent
If you are the HR and talent lead of a professional services firm, please take this short survey. It will help you think about your own leadership skills and how you and your firm are differentiated from your peers. If you are interested in learning more, we will provide you with a personalized report that benchmarks you and your company.
Let’s look a little deeper at the implications of these changes.
Rapid changes in skills required
The old world of predictable repeatable projects is going away. These are what used to be thought of as the bread and butter projects that paid the bills. They are also the projects where it is most difficult to show differentiation and differentiation is the key to profitability. There is huge price pressure on any standard project, and they are increasingly being outsourced and will be replaced by automated solutions.
The top firms are responding to this by sharpening their skill differentiation and finding the places where they can provide exceptional value. This means new offers and obtaining new skills required to deliver them. The evolution of a new skill set from emerging to differentiating to core to commodity is happening faster and faster. Even a skill like predictive analytics, or data analysis, that was seen as emerging as little as five years ago is now being commoditized.
More diversity on project teams
Together with acceleration of skill evolution comes the need for more diverse project teams. As firms work to move away from commoditized projects, they are trying to address more important and more difficult challenges. This almost always requires bringing together people with different skill sets who can bring new perspectives. Building these diverse teams is a new skill set of its own. Team builders (resource managers, allocators) have to learn how to put together people with good combinations of connecting skills and complementary skills and not just rely on availability.
Technology infiltrating all forms of consulting
The emergence of big data, predictive analytics and deep learning is rewriting the basic rules of consulting. For consulting engineering firms this trend is reinforced by the Internet of Things, which is distributing data collection devices into structures and the environment. Almost all types of consulting teams, from HR and talent consulting, to design and build, to marketing strategy are using more and more different technology and tools to solve problems, communicate with clients, plan and manage projects and to deliver solutions. Whole new skill sets are needed for this.
Competition for talent
HR and talent management leaders are responsible for winning the global competition for talent. At the same time, demographics in many countries are shifting away with aging workforces at one end and millennials with different work expectations at the other. There are three keys to ensuring firms have access to talent with the skills they need today and will need tomorrow.
These four challenges become wicked problems as they interact. The need to evolve skills rapidly is made more difficult by the competition for talent (especially for high demand skill sets like information visualization or deep learning) while the need to use new technologies is a challenge for everyone in the organization and is made more difficult by the need to support a diverse workforce (diverse in terms of age, skills, working arrangements and how they work with other people).
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