Like most sectors, consulting firms have faced various levels of disruption as a result of the pandemic. This post outlines 5 ways to get back on track in 2021.
Over the course of this year the mainstream news media has given us a clear understanding of the impact of the pandemic on consumer businesses. But understanding the impact on the consulting sector is a bit more nuanced. And, like many things in the world of consulting the answer to how the pandemic has impacted the sector is, “it depends.” Research and anecdotal evidence varies.
How the Pandemic Has Affected Firm Revenues The fact of the matter is that for the majority of firms, 52% of them in fact, 2020 will be a year of revenue decline. While a good portion (~30%) will stay revenue neutral, we estimate only 4% of firms will experience substantial growth this year (growth in excess of 30% or more). In short, if your firm has unlocked meaningful revenue growth this year, you’re not quite a unicorn but your experience is definitely far from the norm.
How Firms Have Responded to the Challenge While that’s all interesting, it doesn’t really help you very much. The real question is how did firms respond when faced with adversity? What did firms actually do to counteract the challenges 2020 threw at them? And, eventually, what does it mean for the road ahead – will some of these adjustments be “keepers” to maintain for the long term, and which adjustments should simply be “lessons learned”?
In our research, we looked at this on two levels. First, we wanted to understand if firms made moderate or significant changes to their business strategy. We classified this as developing new service offerings, creating new channel relationships, entering new markets or opening new geographies. As it turns out, 75% of firms did one or more of these things. And, as you might expect, firms were more likely to invest in new delivery methods (more digital ways to service their existing clients) than they were to say, enter entirely new vertical markets.
Second, we wanted to understand how firms adjusted at a tactical marketing and business development level. We considered this to be things like investing in new digital selling tools (i.e. LinkedIn Sales Navigator), investing in paid digital media or SEO services, or launching a virtual event series. Similarly, 78% of firms modified their marketing and business development tactics in one of these ways.
As you might expect, firms were more likely to invest new marketing resources into things that had the most promise in directly connecting them with clients in a “virtual conversation.” But we also know from other research that the volume of thought leadership coming from consulting firms during the pandemic drastically increased. In fact, in July I spoke with the editorial leaders of 3 of the largest global IT services firms and they all told me the same thing, “We published more in the last 3 months than we did in the last 3 years.” So, we do know this — clients are flooded, now more than ever, with objective opinions on what they should be doing going forward.
So, What’s Working? And What Should You Do in 2021? Obviously, every firm is different. Your response is directly commensurate with the nature of your firm – its ability to adapt, its hunger for change, its contractual obligations, its budget, its buy-in for marketing, and more. A business strategy firm that predominantly works with retailers obviously faces a much different go-forward model than an operations consulting firm working in the manufacturing sector or an IT services firm working with healthcare organizations.
Based on what we’ve seen in our research and in our client base, I go into a lot more detail on these Top 5 strategies for the year ahead in this webinar. They include:
Isolate Growth Opportunities Going Forward– All of your marketing and business development energy needs to operate within a narrow intersection of needs and wants.
Industry Alignment Opportunity– Economic crises tend to accelerate trends already in motion. We’ll talk about the one sector that continues to shine bright, and why you should align your firm with it somehow.
Raise the Quality of Your Thought Leadership Content– Clients don’t need more voices. But they do need better ones. Use 2021 as an opportunity to bring quality forward, not repeat the same stories everyone else is telling.
Enable Your Salespeople to Be Thought Leaders – Most consulting firms rely heavily on thought leadership to start conversations with potential clients. But few do a very good job of helping sales continue the story.
Double-Down a Portion of MarketingInvestments – Conferences and in-person interactions will re-emerge sometime in 2021. But that doesn’t mean client executives are going to rush back to the table. We’ll discuss the best ways to connect with potential clients in 2021.
Effectively managing talent is critical for project-focused companies who rely on their people to provide value to the business. Leverage these ten tips to ensure your people are working at peak productivity, delivering exceptional projects to delight clients, and driving organizational growth. Each of these tips will help you manage and retain more top talent while consistently contributing to the overall business strategy.
Keep Communicating – Make a conscious effort to listen and talk to your employees about their frustrations and aspirations within the company. Take time to really listen; remind them how much you appreciate their work and value their contribution to the firm. Keep the lines of communication open by leveraging continuous feedback sessions and implementing project-based appraisals.
The Stars Are Aligned – Keep your top performers in tune with the current corporate strategy. This creates a culture of reciprocity and mutual understanding for both the company and its employees. You will start to see personal goals align with the overall organization’s goals.
Emphasize Strengths – Use development plans to address the weaknesses and problems of your employees while honing in on their talent potential. Consider strategically assigning employees to projects that will help them strengthen new skills. Utilize development plans, career paths, and learning opportunities to help employees recognize their strengths while closing competency gaps.
Think Like a Headhunter – When it comes to your top talent you must know who they are, what skills they possess, and their potential within your firm before someone else does. There are few things worse than losing an important project leader or an individual contributor at a critical juncture in a project delivery cycle. Think like a recruiter and cultivate your existing talent by including them in succession plans. Employees are more likely to stay with you longer if they understand their path within your organization.
Be More Inclusive – Research shows that 75% of diverse organizations are more likely to see their innovative ideas brought to life. This statistic stems from leaders embracing diversity and encouraging their employees to speak up about their opinions. Creating a diverse and inclusive environment allows employees and managers to embrace innovation.
Know What Success Looks Like – Define success by creating competency models. The ability to measure your employees’ performance allows you to determine their success within the construct of your company. Best-in-class companies don’t rely on subjective thoughts to determine their talent performance, but rather, they create competency models throughout their organization to build a model of sustainable success.
Who’s Ready to Move Up? – Identifying potential leaders is one step towards filling vacant leadership roles. The second step is to have a clear path to identify and develop their skills. Most companies identify but forget to develop leadership skills. Take the time to identify, develop, and refine your potential leaders.
Plan, Plan, Plan – The best thing you can do to face the competition for talent is to plan. Creating and building a robust and comprehensive talent management solution strategy is a big feat. Take the time to plan and build your talent management solution strategy for effective and sustainable success that flows from within.
Embrace Data – Big Data seems overwhelming, but with the help of a unified technology solution, it can be a manageable and powerful tool to fuel the success of your company. Having a unified HR technology solution can help you handle talent-related data and provide straightforward and powerful analytics utilized in all stages of the talent management strategy.
Reduce Turnover, But Do It Right – Low turnover sounds great, but make sure that the small number of people leaving are not your best people. Turnover is expensive, but no matter the size, make sure that the attrition of your best talent stays low. Top performers are difficult to replace and can have a material impact on your project delivery
It’s easy to get wrapped up in negativity. Let’s face it, we’ve all let it get the best of us a time or two. As leaders, how we interact with our teams during a time of crisis can have a huge impact on employee engagement. Our teams look to us to feel connected, positive and good about their careers and providing all of those things will define whether our organizations sink or swim at any time, let alone during times of turmoil. As we seek to partner with the companies in the industries we serve, we are reminded that we are all human and navigating a very difficult historical event. We want to share encouragement because we are all in this together and there are things we can do and behaviors we can adopt that will help us support our teams.
In a recent article written by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, we are reminded of how one company handled the global crisis of 2008/2009. Leadership used the crisis as an opportunity to spread hope and positivity by leading with gratitude and expressing frequent, sincere appreciation for employees. By keeping morale high and focusing on the right behaviors, in 2010 this company reported its best financial year in its 57 year history. Just by leading with gratitude and giving frequent feedback they were able to inspire and build momentum for the future even during an exceptionally difficult period!
Giving frequent feedback has a number of benefits:
Think about that for a moment. By giving frequent, meaningful feedback we are providing exactly what our teams are looking for from us! They want to feel connected, positive and good about their careers. This is something every single one of us has some control over unlike many of the other things that are affecting our lives, both personally and professionally. It doesn’t matter whether you hold a position of senior leadership, project management, or are an individual contributor or project team member. We all have a responsibility to look out for one another by showing empathy and compassion.
At Deltek, we have been focused on reminding one another that we are in this together no matter what our roles are, how we are impacted, or where we are located in the world. We have found more opportunities to connect socially since our whole company adapted to remote working. We’ve turned on the video in our calls and practiced what we preach about staying connected and leveraging technology to help us do our jobs better. The result? I think most would agree that we have all become closer somehow, more focused, more dedicated, and even more engaged.
As leaders during a time of crises we must celebrate the small stuff, be optimistic, and share as much as we are able to with our employees. We must engage with them, touch base frequently, and exhibit integrity. This is the time for good leadership to shine and help their organizations come out of this swimming even stronger and faster than they were before. You have a choice. Are you going to let your organizations sink or swim?
We are somewhere in the middle of an unparalleled event that will likely change the way with think about how we work forever. This ‘new normal’ we are living may not last forever, but it is likely that more of the workforce will expect different working options in the future. The demands of the workforce will continue to evolve, which will impact everything from how employees are managed to how new hires are recruited.
Candidates are experiencing challenges like never before. Some companies have placed a freeze on hiring and positions that are actively being recruited for are attracting massive amounts of applicants. Other companies may be faced with remote hiring in order to accommodate new projects resulting from stimulus dollars being injected into the certain parts of the economy. Now more than ever, companies must ensure they have an attractive brand and excellent candidate experience. And as we all know, once we start returning back to normal, even some of our own furloughed employees may choose to look elsewhere.
The many of us tend to overlook the ‘experience’, that is, what our candidates are going through when trying to find and apply to jobs. After they apply, what is the impression they get while wondering if their resume has been reviewed, considered, and when or if they will hear back from anyone? This lack of transparency and follow up can lead to a poor candidate experience. As Talent professionals, we need to challenge ourselves on changes we need to make to improve their experience if we stand a chance to win over the best and brightest for our business.
The goal here is to provide you with some quick and easy wins that will help you get the advantage and fill project positions faster than ever before. But first, let’s look at a few stats that will support the best practices we will cover.
Gallup report indicated that 60% of candidates say that better communication throughout and after the application process would make the most positive impact.
Glassdoor reported very closely to the same with 58% of candidates citing that the most important factor to a positive experience included clear and regular communication.
Glassdoor also reported that making an online job application even 10% easier to complete can cause a 2.3% increase in job applications from mobile users and a 1.5% increase from desktop users.
Consider what a poor or negative candidate experience can do to your business. After a Rallyfwd conference, the attendee poll summarized that 73% of companies say they have been impacted by a negative candidate experience. This could mean reduction in referrals, poor reviews on social media sites, and an overall decline in candidate applications. Another stat that ties into this as well is 50% of candidates say they wouldn’t work for a company with a bad reputation – even for a pay increase.
So, the question is “what can you do now to ensure your positions are viewed, applications flood in, and you have overall project success?”
Company Brand – Your Image
Think about the last time you reviewed your company’s website content. Have you provided any new videos about company culture, what benefits or perks are offered, as well as career growth opportunities with your company? Does your website stand out from your competition? As a rule of thumb, you should review your career site at least every two to three years but once a year doesn’t hurt. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to change things but keep in mind, the internet is constantly changing, software changes, and the world definitely continues to evolve. As we navigate our new normal, what candidates are looking for in a company will definitely change and we need to make sure we are keeping with the pace of our competition to keep candidates interested.
When designing and configuring your candidate application process or workflow, be sure you are only capturing what is absolutely necessary up front. To throw another stat at you, 60% of job seekers have quit an application due to its length or complexity (Lever.co/blog). If your application is too lengthy and takes too long for candidates to complete, where they have to save and come back to it later, that may create angst and discourage the candidate from completing the process or they may forget altogether. If you’re not seeing the application completion numbers you’d like, review your workflow. When applications are simple, quick and easy not only does it increase your application completion rates, but it gives recruiters an opportunity to follow-up with candidates and start developing a relationship.
Additionally, are you:
Leveraging social apply methods? Are your candidates able to apply using existing social profiles eliminating the need to create and maintain additional accounts?
Screening candidates based on required skills, experience or certifications the job req requires? Be sure your screen-in and screen-out messages are clear on what the candidate’s next steps are. Even if they are screened-out, provide a message that is encouraging leaving a positive impression as the candidate may be a good fit for future project positions.
Keeping candidates informed by using Talent’s Candidate Status Transparency System Setting? This provides an update to your candidates on where they are with their application process without the recruiter or the candidate having to reach out.
Reviewing your general reply emails? What does your automated “Thank you for applying email” say about you and your company? Do not leave the candidate hanging with a simple thank you. Encourage them to check other positions they may be a good fit for, provide links to your company’s social pages like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, etc. where candidates can stay informed on your company. Use this opportunity to tout on all the great things your company has to offer.
Taking the time to walk through your application process, start to finish, including reviewing your messaging so that you can see first-hand what your candidates have to experience? I encourage you to do this and adjust your processes as needed to improve the candidate experience.
Leverage Talent Pools and Talent Relationship Management (TRM) Campaigns
You’ve probably heard me or one of my colleagues say that Top Candidates are gone within 10 days. This stat should resonate with anyone in the project based business world knowing how critical it is to start projects on time.
Talent Pools help you build pipelines of your runner-up candidates that are specific to your business. You’re able to categorize and group candidates so that you can easily locate them later. This is one of the best proactive methods you can use in your recruiting strategy.
We’ve talked about Talent Relationship Management (TRM) in the past and have several resources available to you around TRM campaigns which you can find on our company website. TRM is designed to help you develop lasting relationships and build trust with your candidates. Adding drip campaigns as part of your recruiting processes will give you the upper hand when needing to fill future project positions.
Candidates are Customers too
Keep in mind, these best practices are just a few examples of ways to improve the candidate experience. I encourage you to make it a habit to continuously review your processes and identify what is working and what isn’t. We know candidates and recruiting is an ebb and flow and we have to be flexible enough to shift and adjust as needed.
To be successful, we all need to deliver a meaningful candidate experience that keeps them coming back again and again. Without our candidates, we cannot run our business or our projects. Our candidates are our customers!
50% of candidates say they wouldn’t work for a company with a bad reputation – even for a pay increase. (Betterteam Blog 2017)
Rocketmat’s AI algorithms helped in the selection and hiring of 150 health professionals to quickly increase the workforce at world-renown healthcare provider, Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein. Leveraging rocketmat’s AI technology, the hospital has taken their typical 30-day hiring cycles down to less than 5 days.
São Paulo, April 13, 2020.
With the outbreak of COVID-19, Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, one of the top 50 healthcare providers globally, approached rocketmat, an Artificial Intelligence company focused on talent selection and management, with a critical challenge: hiring healthcare professionals in record time. That meant building a methodology in just a few days that could analyze thousands of candidates simultaneously with high accuracy. NewsWeek as one of the 50 best hospitals in the world.
According to the startup’s CEO and co-founder Paulo Nascimento “understanding this was not an ordinary project, and its operational efficiency impact on a process that was completely manual until a few weeks ago, were fundamental to Einstein’s strategy selecting and hiring a large number of candidates in a very short time ”.
Nascimento says that the project kicked off when rocketmat received the first dataset on Friday, March 6th. “With agility and assertiveness – the hallmarks of our work – we could address the hospital’s increased hiring needs”. Rocketmat’s approach was to divide the work teams into system engineering and architecture, data science and developers who could act in synchronized layers of activities in order to start the screening of the first two groups of candidates: nurses and doctors. In less than 30 hours of uninterrupted work, rocketmat released the first test link. Before midnight on Saturday, March 7th, the first candidates were already interacting with a fully digital selection process.
With the algorithms running, the next step was to scale and screen over six thousand applicants already registered for several job openings. The results were processed almost in real-time, so that pre-screened, qualified candidates could move forward to the next stage in the selection process: interviews, also held remotely.
In less than three days, 150 doctors, nurses and healthcare support staff were hired thanks to the speed and accuracy that rocketmat provided to Albert Einstein’s HR department, allowing recruiters to work nonstop. Nascimento also reports the feedback received from Einstein’s management: “this was undoubtedly the quickest process of mass hiring that we ever conducted, a joint effort of our teams with the invaluable support of rocketmat’s technology. We were able to carry out a process that on average took 30 days down to less than five, a total success”.
The work will continue to fill another 1,426 openings such as nurse technicians, registered nurses, physiotherapists and doctors in Albert Einstein’s own network, as well as other healthcare facilities managed or supported by the hospital.
Intelligence that builds trust
Paulo Nascimento says that “the challenge given by Albert Einstein reveals confidence in the work of Rocketmat and in the positive impact that Artificial Intelligence has brought to our daily lives”. Paulo also comments that rocketmat’s AI solution can help many organizations in the health industry, at a time when speed and accuracy in selection processes are fundamental. “We have already implemented our AI solutions at Unimed Belo Horizonte and at Sura Seguros in Colombia, which confirms the credibility of our services and algorithms”.
The challenges never before experienced due to the Covid-19 pandemic, require a country’s health system to take rapid action. One of the main initiatives is the maintenance and expansion of large-scale service in healthcare providers. “It was no different in one of the largest hospitals in Brazil that moved quickly to care for the population that uses the services of Hospital Albert Einstein in São Paulo. From the startup’s point of view, our goal is to contribute, through excellent work, so that families are assisted in their need for a well-advised health service ” says Nascimento.
Rocketmat is a robotic process automation startup offering solutions for Human Resources. It was founded in 2017, with its headquarters in Dallas, Texas, and R&D operations in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The company’s focus is recruitment, selection and talent management through Artificial Intelligence developed entirely in-house.
For those of us used to going to the office every day, making the transition to a remote work environment might not be the easiest task. Here are a few tips that can help you get used to a home office.
Keep a consistent routine. It might sound appealing to work in your pajamas all day, but in reality, making your bed, getting dressed and going to a designated workspace is going to help tremendously for your productivity. If you normally eat breakfast before work, keep that habit up. If you typically do a workout at the start of your day, keep that up as much as possible. The more you can remain consistent with a routine, the more productive you will feel when it’s time to work.
Assign a designated workspace. Working from home allows for serious distractions. If you position your laptop in front of the television or take a work call in the driveway, it can be hard to stay focused. A designated home office will help you define limits and increase your productivity. If you don’t have an office space and your dining room table is now your desk, keep that space clean and free of distractions while you are focused on your 9-5. After work, put away the laptop and “clock out” mentally to let your mind relax.
Go easy on yourself.Again, a lot of us have never worked from home, and we are all going through this crisis for the first time together. It’s OK if you’re not perfect at remote work at first. Try taking short breaks to help ease stress and promote concentration.
Take time to do things you love when the work is done.Whether that’s picking up a hobby you didn’t have time for because of your commute, or going through old photos with your kids, cherish the extra time at home and find a way to see the silver lining. It will help your mindset for work, and for your personal life.
Make a list of goals you want to accomplish through this quarantine.Lists can be great at revving up your creative engine. Write down 3-5 goals for work, personal, and family that you would like to have completed during your time at home. Maybe you have a project idea at work you want to pitch when you’re back in the office, or a closet that needs organizing. Align yourself with attainable tasks and revel at checking off small accomplishments week by week.
We hope some of these tips will help as you navigate the new “normal”. At Brilliant HR, we are here to help in whatever way we can, please do not hesitate to reach out to us with questions or comments. We are all in this together!