Steven Forth is a co-founder of TeamFit. See his TeamFit skill map here.

See also The ROI on Skill and Expertise Management: Part 1 Win More Work and The ROI on Skill and Expertise Management Part 2: Utilization.

The ROI on skill and expertise management goes beyond the purely economic drivers of winning more projects and higher utilization rates.

We discussed these in earlier posts. Here, we focus on the softer but critically important questions of consultant engagement and consultant retention. Why are engagement and retention so important? Professional services is first of all about people. It does not matter how good processes are or how well they are supported by systems if the people delivering the work are not committed and engaged. The costs of retention are well known and are rising as the competition for talent increases and demographics shifts.

So how does TeamFit help with consultant engagement?

As human beings, we all want recognition for our skills. TeamFit provides a simple way to do this. The combination of the Skill Map and Skill Search make it easy for people to represent their skills and how they put them to work and then get found when people need those skills for advice or project work.

Our users found that skills alone did not tell the full story. They asked us to add the ability to highlight the most important parts of their career. Often when talking with people, we ask about the highlights of their work to date. TeamFit provides and easy way to do this. Scanning a person, or a company’s, highlights is often the best way to get a feel for what they do and what matters to them. Giving people a way to tell their own stories is critical to building engagement.

From a personal point of view, there are two key categories of skills: core skills and target skills. My core skills, the skills that I rely on for most of my work and that are richly developed and connected. They are part of my sense of who I am today. Companies need to understand the core skills of their staff and how they are being applied to really engage on a meaningful level. But core skills are not all there is. Most people aspire to be more than they are today. This is especially true of the best knowledge workers. TeamFit makes it easy to call out target skills as well as core skills. If core skills help show where a person has come from and what they can do today, target skills signal where they want to go.

Smart professional services companies have long been aware of this and have had informal ways to help consultants get on the the projects that will help them to develop their skills. TeamFit takes this tacit best practice and makes it easy to implement and scale.

One important way that skill management systems can integrate with CRM and project management systems is to give consultants insight into upcoming projects so that they can put their hands up and suggest that their core and target skills are a good fit. It is important to give consultants a voice on the projects they are assigned to. People need to feel that their own aspirations are being recognized and acknowledge. Without that, they will gradually lose interest in their work and start simply checking the boxes while they look for other opportunities. TeamFit’s mission is to is to uncover human potential and help people find the projects where they can have the most impact. Helping people get on the projects they want to be on is one way that we will do this.

Most of us work where we do because we like and trust the people we work with. Skills provide one lens into this. Knowing who people work with and what skills they use together helps to build effective teams. TeamFit makes this visible.

 

 

One can learn a lot about a group of people by following their connections from one person to another and seeing their skills.

All of this insight into people’s skills, especially their target skills, provides great insight into learning and development. Companies that invest in helping people to build their target skills are more likely to have engaged teams and see retention issues fade away.

A focus on understanding, supporting and growing skills is critical to building engagement for knowledge workers. Engagement is critical for two reasons: it results in better work and it improves retention.

The ROI for the ‘results in better work’ are captured in our previous two posts on Win More Work and Improve Utilization. We will go into even more depth in a fourth post in the skill and expertise ROI series that will focus on the impact on project outcomes.

The ROI on improved retention

The ROI on improved retention comes from two things:

  • The cost of losing a person
  • The cost of replacing a person

The cost of losing a person

When a knowledge worker leaves, even a fairly junior person, knowledge walks out the door with them. It will cost money to recreate this knowledge with other people and some of that knowledge is gone from the organization forever. Part of that knowledge is embedded in relationships. When a person leaves, for whatever reason, it is a good exercise to look at who they communicated with and how those communications were connecting people inside and outside the company. There is also the direct impact on project work, current and future. The organization’s capacity will have been diminished and that needs to be factored into plans.

  • Capability loss
    • Loss of knowledge and skills
    • Loss of relationships and connections
  • Project impact
    • Current projects
    • Future projects
    • Potential projects

The cost of replacing a person

Much has been written on the cost of replacing a knowledge worker. That this is a serious problem is shown by all the attention these days to talent acquisition. To the cost of talent acquisition needs to be added the cost of on boarding. In most organizations, it takes three-to-six months for a new knowledge worker to come up to speed and become fully productive.

  • Search costs
    • External (recruiters, systems)
    • Internal (staff time)
  • Training and onboarding
    • New team member
    • Current team members who must take time to train and coach
  • Lost productivity

The total cost of losing a team member is probably higher than you think. For our own company, we have calculated this and estimate it at close to $100,000 per person. The more specialized the work, the higher this number will be.

TeamFit helps to reduce the cost of losing employees in three ways.
1 – Improved consultant engagement makes it less likely people will leave
2 – Insight into the skills and working relationships being lost makes it easier to mitigate the transition
3 – Understanding of the new person’s full range of skills and experience helps with onboarding and finding the most effective way to put the person’s skills to work

These may seem like soft benefits compared to winning more projects and improving utilization rates, but they are important and will drive real returns on your investment in skill and expertise management.