Many leaders in professional services need to ensure a certain level of employee retention. This can be particularly challenging in larger organisations, where attrition in junior talent populations is often higher than average.
In this article we share examples of organisations who are successfully retaining talent in their organisations. Their approaches can offer valuable lessons for other companies looking to improve employee retention.
Fast growing management consultancy Baringa Partners has consistently been ranked as 1st in the UK Best Workplaces™ list by Great Place to Work® UK in each of the size categories. It has an employee satisfaction rating of 92% and a turnover of just 8% in 2017.
Its success, according to David Harris, Partner and People Lead at Baringa, lies in the view that there is no silver bullet to creating a great company culture: “Instead, it’s about using thousands of silver pellets every day to maximise our employees potential.”
Having an award-winning culture has had a positive impact on attraction, retention and bottom line performance. Baringa’s average attrition over the last 5 years has been just over 10% – far below the industry average and those leaving Baringa rarely leave for a competitor.
Notably, Baringa continues to innovate around its People agenda, recently they have introduced Baringa’s People Fund which allows each employee to spend £300 on an experience that has a positive effect on their wellbeing. This initiative resonated really well and colleagues have taken language classes, started music tuition, team qualification for as day skippers and so on.
Moorhouse have previously found that employee retention is higher than they had planned for or anticipated. In 2016, attrition was at 8%, while their usual target is 10-15% recognising that some employee churn is healthy.
According to Richard Goold, Partner for Talent, there are three core reasons that people choose to stay at Moorhouse:
Moorhouse have been recognised by the MCA for their professional development initiatives and continue to attract consultants looking for growth, challenge and community.
The Big 4 have also been taking steps to improve employee retention, including using GroHappy to better support career development.
Here are some examples from major professional services firms and their approaches to boost employee engagement and retention.
When faced with a critical attrition problem, coupled with a reluctance amongst students at university recruiting events, PWC had to take action. Young employees were leaving at a previously incomparable rate and weren’t being easily replaced by fresh graduates.
It carried out a survey of 44,000 employees across the globe where it discovered that its younger employees didn’t object to long working hours in themself, it was more about how the work was done. Juniors wanted better connectivity – to use technology to facilitate work and have the opportunity to work remotely. But the study also found that non-Millennials wanted the same thing. Older generations also wanted greater flexibility for life commitments like family dinner, in return for clocking on early or starting work again once the kids were in bed.
As a result, PWC rolled out a new flexibility plan. Now, 90% of PwC employees incorporate some kind of flexibility into their schedules.
PWC also began a retreat specifically for people promoted to Senior Associate. Nearly all attendees of Discover are in their mid-to-late 20s. The event is not just a reward for earning that coveted first promotion to a managerial role, but also a way of training employees in essential skills from the ground up. That includes self-care, to prevent employees from burning out in 5, 10 or 20 years’ time. It also set the expectations of the role and what PWC needed from them.
Discover offers a chance for newly-promoted managers to receive coaching on life and career goals. Of course, this means that some leave the retreat energised by the realisation that they eventually wish to leave professional services and to open a yoga studio – but knowing this allows the company to plan in advance and use these goals to motivate its employees.
It’s better to be forewarned that someone will leave, to work with them to develop their skills, to get the best of them whilst they remain and to have a good exit, than to have an acrimonious and sudden resignation. So far, 12,000 Senior Associates have passed through the retreat.
Deloitte offers a ‘WorkAgility Programme‘ which enables people to work flexibly and offers a scheme where employees can take a month’s unpaid leave for travel or other activities.
Working in a large firm has some huge differences for juniors compared to small professional services companies. All Big 4 firms have been criticised for long working hours and workplace stress. Surveys have complaints of “being worn down” at KPMG, “sacrifices” at EY and “working three weeks straight without a day off” at PwC – for example.
Yet, there are also opportunities. Large firms can move employees ‘sideways’ as well as through the traditional vertical route, meaning that people can move departments to ones more suited to their career goals. There’s more opportunity for stretch assignments and overseas working – another motivator for junior employees. Plus, ambitious Millennials might be willing to work for larger firms to progress their career more quickly – one of the Big 4 is a prestigious name to have on a CV.
That said, the Big 4 and other large firms have a challenge in overcoming perceptions around their old school mentality, bureaucracy and hierarchy. Some have taken steps to address this and engage with younger generations. Others still have a long way to go.
Inspiration may come from other large companies’ efforts to reduce attrition.
Airbus, for example, has to improve innovation in its workforce to achieve it’s future business goals. It’s moving towards drones, using big data and machine learning – which requires attracting talent with some highly specialised skills. To help address this potential skills gap and to retain talent, Airbus actively encourages its workers to grow their skill sets by working across different business units. As a result, Airbus scores highly for its company culture, employee happiness and retention.
Hotel chain Hyatt has, on average, employees remain with the company for 12 years. It prioritises employee training and development, with consistent hiring practices of promoting from within. It’s training programme, “Change the Conversation,” is based on principles from the Stanford School of Design that emphasise listening to employees. Individuals are empowered to solve everyday challenges themselves. As well as its high retention rate, Hyatt also has a high referral rate with its number one source of new hires coming from current employees.
Johnson & Johnson actively develops high potential employees who are nominated by their managers to take part in a 9 month program known as LeAD. Participants receive assessments, coaching and training throughout the 9 months and work on a growth project that will contribute value to their departments. Johnson & Johnson also has an effective diversity and inclusion strategy. It has been named a Leading Organization in the Working Mother Diversity Best Practices Index, with a 100% retention rate within its gender diversity sponsorship programme.
Smaller or growing professional services firms appear to typically have higher employee retention rates than their larger counterparts. Often they offer clear development opportunities, visibly ‘live’ their company values and break down hierarchy between junior employees and the leadership.
Larger organisations might offer career workshops, ‘get-aways’ for certain levels or tailored training for managers to help them perform as a team leader. Mentorship and career coaching programmes are often set up to improve capability across the business. Increasingly, large professional services firms are leveraging technology, like GroHappy, to increase retention of junior employees.