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Outsourcing HR Functions Can Help Professional Services Firms Meet Their Human Capital Management Needs

Posted by Tasia Grant, PHR on September 21, 2022

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The professional services industry is still currently facing challenges ranging from financial rebounds and technological transformations to the need for human capital management (HCM) adjustments. Specifically, some of the top HCM trends affecting the professional services industry are:

  • The expectation of mobility - Employees and job seekers are looking for companies that have the structure and technology to accommodate remote work. Also, many companies have redesigned their physical office layouts and performance management plans to account for remote staff.
  • Power shift to employees and applicants - The shortage of viable talent has shifted the supply and demand dynamics where the employees and candidates feel empowered to ask for what they want and have options if those requests are not accommodated. 
  • Struggles to find the right fit for positions due to skills gap issue - Due to the great resignation and the influx of early retirees, there is a gap between those seeking work and those actually qualified for the hiring needs. 
  • Workplace balance is no longer a “buzz” term or trend; it’s a real thing - The pandemic caused most to reflect on their priorities and many changed their mindsets, habits, and lifestyles to cater to the well-being of themselves and their loved ones, even if it involved making employment sacrifices.

What does HR have to do with these trends?

The human resources function is key to effectively addressing these HCM shifts. Organizational leadership is increasingly aware that attention to the needs and wants of their current and potential employees is pivotal to their growth and success. So, they are reevaluating their processes, procedures, incentives, and benefits to account for these trends, and outsourcing HR is a part of that consideration. 

What are the primary essential functions of HR? 

The primary HR functions are Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS), Benefits Administration, Talent Acquisition & Onboarding, Employee Relations, Training & Development, and Compensation (Payroll/Total Rewards). These functions are all critical to addressing these impacting HCM trends. 

What role can these HR functions play in affecting these trends aka challenges? 

The expectation of mobility: 

Having an effective HRIS system to electronically manage and house employee data has become common and necessary to maintain efficient communication, consistency, integrity, and security. This also allows the data to be managed from any location where technology is accessible. 

Power shift to employees and applicants / Struggles to find the right fit for positions due to skills gap issue: 

Development and management of attractive, competitive benefits and compensation plans will impact retention of existing employees and attract top talent. Offering performance management and training & development that supports career development is a sign to current and potential employees that their worth is valued and sends the message to them that being with the company also brings and ROI for them. Employee relations and training & development are being redesigned so that the quality, availability, and frequency of meetings and training are consistent whether in-person or virtual. 

Workplace balance is no longer a “buzz” term or trend; it’s a real thing: 

Efficient benefits administration ensures that providing the best health insurance options, a fair and generous leave policy, a well-structured retirement plan, and additional employee perks are top priorities for a company that invests in the well-being of its greatest asset…its employees. 

“Total rewards” is the combination of benefits, compensation, and rewards that employees receive from their organizations. Where wages and bonuses are still important to employees, intrinsic rewards are equally important. So, recognition, workplace flexibility, and career opportunities provide them with that. 

Having a dedicated, experienced HR professional is a must for all professional services firms 

The HR functions needed to address HCM trends require specific skillsets and knowledge bases, such as: 

  • HRIS – Knowledge of HR software, familiarity with business analysis tools, exposure to technological functions and jargon
  • Benefits Administration – Foundation of most benefit plan designs, knowledge of benefit coverage laws and market trends
  • Talent Acquisition & Onboarding – Negotiation skills, data analytics, experience with recruiting software, social media management, sourcing experience
  • Employee Relations – Excellent communication and people skills, great listening and observation skills, conflict management techniques, knowledge of performance management plans, experience conducting appraisals and grievances
  • Training & Development – Project management skills, coaching skills, knowledge of and experience with training software, presentation skills, organizational skills
  • Compensation – Financial education background, proficient Excel knowledge, payroll experience, total rewards knowledge, ability to conduct salary analysis 

Furthermore, these descriptions just skim the surface of what’s required to perform these HR functions. The extent to which each skill set is needed or required depends on factors like the firm type, size of the firm, and firm goals. Surprisingly, some professional services firms have designated a payroll manager or executive for the task of performing these HR duties in addition to their primary responsibilities. Yet, to be most effective in addressing these HCM trends, these professional services firms need a dedicated, experienced HR professional. 

How can outsourcing HR functions help professional services firms? 

HR outsourcing is the use of an outside service to handle some or all of a firm’s HR tasks. Many firms have designated teams within the HR department to handle the different functions. Often, though, smaller organizations (100 employees or less) don’t have the physical capacity or financial ability to support multiple people performing those duties or even one full-time dedicated HR person to work in a generalist capacity. Moreover, firms that are not necessarily small but are transitioning into larger organizations, and may be assessing their needs, may want to slowly grow their core teams.   

Outsourcing HR functions can provide the necessary resources without requiring the full commitment of new employees. Especially in cases where an executive has been the designated HR professional, outsourcing HR functions will allow that business leader to focus on core business processes. Also, the employees will appreciate having a person who is specialized in employee-related issues and is not a direct decision-maker in their career trajectory. Finally, HR consultants can be an additional resource to professional services firms by providing additional support, guidance, and advice in areas where there may be a skills gap, knowledge gap or even a lack of time and resources. 

Outsourcing HR functions has many pros to help meet HCM needs 

Pros 

  • Access to HR expertise 
  • Saves money because firms don’t have to hire new full-time employees 
  • Opens access to additional benefits 
  • HR connections can lead to lower cost benefits and access to other global resources 
  • Maximizes compliance 
  • Minimizes legal risks 

Cons 

  • Leadership may feel a lack of control 
  • Might feel impersonal to employees 
  • Risks with intellectual property access 
  • Service quality control  

Undoubtedly, every professional services firm requires certain functions that are focused on HR needs/wants and provides a neutral, trusted and knowledgeable resource that supports both the firm’s and the employees’ well-being. To address the shifting Human Capital Management trends in the present and future of the professional services industry, HR professionals are a necessity. For those firms that are not able or do not want to hire a designated HR professional to handle these significant HR functions, outsourced HR is the right choice to meet these changing HCM needs. Click the image below to learn more and see if this is an option for your firm.

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Tips to Address Top HR Challenges from the 43rd Deltek Clarity Study

Posted by Tasia Grant, PHR on August 24, 2022

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Finding, recruiting and retaining top talent affects nearly every part of architecture and engineering (A&E) firms, as evident in the 43rd Deltek Clarity Study. In a previous blog article, we dove into the specific human capital management (HCM) challenges. Today’s focus will be on sharing tips that A&E firms can use to address those challenges.  

 

Acquisition & Retention Connection 

The number one initiative that respondents to the survey were considering taking was improving the opinion of their organization in the marketplace to attract better talent. Firms should be thinking about their brand as a sum total of all of their processes, actions and culture. It’s not just a mission statement on a website. It’s critical to start with the firm’s brand and ensure it’s authentic.  

How well does the firm’s brand display authenticity and empathy, as well as showcase modernization with firm processes and utilizing technology? Also, it’s not enough to just focus on the brand. Firms have to additionally communicate the brand outwardly, and not just by the firm’s employees, but by clients and customers who know other people in the marketplace.  

Another tip is to review the firm’s hiring process. Ensure everybody in the hiring process understands the experience the firm’s trying to create and follows through on. Candidates will drop out of the process and/or won’t accept positions because they weren’t treated well throughout the process. The firm should create an experience specific to the acquisition process. Everyone involved in the firm’s hiring process should understand the critical role that getting the offer accepted depends upon creating a great experience and following through on commitments. Every touchpoint with the candidate is a way to demonstrate the firm’s culture. 

Onboarding talent effectively is another tip to address HCM challenges. According to the Clarity study, it’s taking around four months from when the job is posted to the new hire producing billable work. So, the better the firm is at its onboarding program not only will that new hire be quicker to bill work, but it’s also a key time to keep that person’s retention and engagement high. New hires are already excited about coming onboard, and if there’s a lag in their training and they don’t feel like they’re having an impact on the business, their engagement level can drop quickly.  

Acquisition and retention are connected. If the firm can create a good retention strategy, especially through branding, it will have less need for acquisition and thus fewer acquisition costs. This frees up more budgets to continue with retention and engagement programs which in turn helps increase retention.  

Culture & Communication 

One of the most important things to the modern workforce is relationships, specifically, relationship-focused employment experiences. So how do A&E firms get to that? Here are a few strategies: 

  • Continuous Feedback Discussions – The relationship between employee and manager is pivotal.  Annual performance reviews can be expensive and not many people get a lot out of them. Firms should maybe at least supplement their annual review process with continuous feedback discussions. These are times when people can connect frequently and start to feel value.  
  • Pulse Surveys – Pulse surveys are a way to demonstrate an interest in employees’ perspectives. 
  • Authenticity & Empathy – The modern workforce craves this, and this can be demonstrated through continuous feedback discussions and frequent interactions between employees, project teams, project managers and direct supervisors. People want to work for somebody they connect with, somebody they align with, and it’s never been more important. From a modernized performance management perspective, firms should implement processes that allow for frequent connection and allow opportunities to display authenticity and convey empathy. 
  • News & Information – Employees desire company news and information and want to know how the firm is doing. They also want to know where they stand. In the absence of information, people create their own, and when they don’t know how the firm is doing, they start to think that maybe things aren’t going well. How can the firm create a great culture and engagement by just making sure it’s transparent as possible? Furthermore, how can the firm make sure that information is shared frequently and consistently? 

Modern Performance Management Tools 

Three modern performance management tools include continuous feedback, continuous goal management and recognition. Below is a summary of each. 

  • Continuous Feedback – Good continuous feedback discussions are not just “check-ins” but are opportunities to drive goal discussions, career development discussions, and improve engagement and retention. They can also serve as an opportunity to recognize people in a one-on-one setting. They are very highly desired by the modern workforce and can replace or supplement the appraisal process.  
  • Continuous Goal Management – This approach removes the time box traditionally associated with annual goals which is not how people work. Instead, this approach focuses purely on the alignment of the employee and the firm, driving them both mutually forward.  
  • Recognition – This is key to engagement, retention and boosting productivity, morale and happiness. When employees are recognized for good work, it releases dopamine in their brains and creates feelings of pride and pleasure. This then tells the brain that if they do more things like this, they’ll get more praise and recognition and feel this way again. As a result, the behavior starts to change, but be careful not to just recognize people haphazardly and constantly to a point where it’s meaningless. So, think about what a formal recognition program can do for not only the firm but from a brain chemistry standpoint.  

Learning & Development 

The two top initiatives for managing talent from the study were "create/improve success and career development planning" and "create/improve employee engagement programs." Here are some tips to take action on learning and development. 

  • Organizational Focus – Learning and development has to be a firmwide focus with buy-in from executive leadership. Managers need to promote learning, and time has to be devoted to it.  
  • Career Mobility – Firm leaders have to allow for career mobility. Retaining a great employee, at least in some aspect of the firm, is better than losing them totally.  
  • Development Plans – There should be plans for all levels supporting onboarding, employee growth and gap fills. 
  • Project Focused – There should be project-focused learning and development. Many survey respondents said that PM training is key. Firms should invest in that project management training. 
  • Upskill & Reskill – This strategy supports career mobility, improves employee engagement and retention and improves productivity. Watch this webinar to learn more about how to deploy upskilling and reskilling at your firm. 

Dig Deeper into the 43rd Annual Deltek Clarity Report 

Hopefully, A&E firms will consider all of these useful tips to address their HCM challenges. To get more details on A&E firm HCM trends or other interesting findings, download the full Deltek A&E Clarity report. Click the image below to grab a free copy of the report along with a scorecard to chart the firm’s results. 

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Top A&E Firm Human Capital Management Challenges from the 43rd Annual Deltek Clarity Study

Posted by Tasia Grant, PHR on August 10, 2022

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It’s no surprise that finding and retaining top talent is a challenge facing every architecture and engineering (A&E) firm in North America but what specific human capital management (HCM) challenges are there? How do firms compare to the industry and what do the numbers really tell them? This overview is the first piece in a two-part series that will dig into the HCM specific challenges revealed from the 43rd Annual Deltek Clarity Study.  

Every Department Impacted by Staffing Shortages

Almost every area of the Deltek Clarity Study cited human capital management (HCM) towards the top, if not the number one challenge to growth. Many industries, including A&E, have been affected by the great resignation. Specifically, firms are saying it’s hard for them to win more business because they’re not necessarily certain that they can go ahead and staff projects. Hiring additional staff has become of paramount concern for A&E firms right now.  

The top financial challenges indicated from the Clarity study are finding and retaining qualified staff. This isn’t about a certain number of staff, but really finding qualified people that can handle the type of work and the different projects the firms have. This need is leading to more career development and training initiatives by A&E firms.  

Similar top challenges are cited in the project management area, including staff shortages and inexperienced project managers. So, how do firms develop project managers? How do they get the project managers up and running so they manage projects effectively? Part of the solution is hiring more experienced project managers, but other top initiatives include developing internal project manager best practices and investing in internal project manager training. 

Top Challenges for Human Resources 

The study asked what the top three challenges were for managing human resources. The number one response was retaining employees followed very closely by employee engagement/experience. Firms are realizing that they need to really become proactive in their retention and engagement efforts.  

No longer are firms just competing with companies in their own geographic region. With the rise of remote work, A&E firms are competing with other firms located across the country and talent is being recruited away from other areas. Other top challenges included career development, planning and performance management.  

Top Talent Acquisition Challenge 

The Deltek Clarity Study asked about the top acquisition challenges A&E firms are facing. The top response was the availability of good candidates in the marketplace. Based on this, it might be a good time for firms to step back to look at how they can change their practices or modernize their efforts to support recruiting.  

Specifically, this requires identifying what a good candidate means to the firm. The firm should ask what makes somebody who handles a role in the firm successful at it? Does the firm basically just review previous job descriptions or job profiles and reuse those? Has the firm really looked at what makes people successful in their specific role and in the firm as a whole from a culture perspective? 

After doing this initial analysis, the firm should evaluate what it is doing to diversify. Diversifying the talent pools makes sure that the firm is putting itself in the best position to find candidates that meet the profile developed. Also, the firm should consider what roles can be handled remotely. 

Firms should think about this from both angles – first doing a good job of understanding what makes people successful at the firm and then diversifying the talent pools to widen the marketplace. 

A&E Industry HR Statistics  

To give some idea of how a firm fits within the North American A&E industry, here are some high-level statistics related to human resources from the 43rd Deltek A&E Study: 

  • Employee turnover has increased a little from the previous year and is at 13.6%. 
  • Staff growth overall is up to 3.2% which means that despite a higher turnover rate, firms are still growing.  
  • However, offers accepted decreased and is sitting at 77.4%.  
  • Only about 50% of firms in the survey had more open positions last year, while this year’s survey saw 65% of firms with more open positions.  
  • The time to fill positions is becoming longer and longer, with 50% of firms saying it’s taking 60+ days to fill open positions.  

Gen Y Has Taken Over 

The Deltek Clarity Study looked at both generational composition firm wide and by management level. Firm wide, the Millennials (Gen Y) have taken over the greatest portion of staff making up 39%. It’s important to note that Gen Z is coming right up behind which really starts to play into how firms develop their culture and organization.  

The top-level leadership roles in organizations are currently held by Gen X, nearly 70%, but the study reveals that in the first to lower-level management, the younger generations are beginning to take over a lot of those positions. This is great because firms are starting to see new thoughts, new processes, modernization, and a lot of variety and diversity. A&E firms will continue to see this trend in terms of those generational shifts to the younger generation from a management perspective which will affect recruiting, retention, and talent development.  

Top Tools Used to Develop Talent 

Firms cited coaching and mentoring, external education programs, and leadership development programs as their top three tools used to develop talent. The very top method is coaching and mentoring. Firms should ensure that coaches and mentors are available to make the best impression on employees. Firms should not just rely on who has been at the firm the longest for choosing their mentors and should make sure that these mentors are equipped with the right skills to bring other staff along.  

Engaging Employees Too Late 

The Clarity study showed that 86% of firms conduct exit interviews, but these interviews are often too late. Many times, these type of exit interviews are not as effective for getting honest responses from the employees because they are simply trying to get through the exit process and leave the firm. Unfortunately, many firms are spending a lot of time on this strategy rather than on other strategies such as stay interviews or pulse surveys.  

Only 30% of firms conduct pulse surveys. Pulse surveys are quick hit surveys where the firm can get answers. They can be sent to the recent hires on their onboarding experience, for example. The idea is to gauge the pulse in real time throughout the course of the year.  

Dig Deeper into the 43rd Annual Deltek Clarity Report 

To get more details on A&E firm HCM trends or other interesting findings, download the full Deltek A&E Clarity report. Click the image below to grab a free copy of the report along with a scorecard to chart the firm’s results. Don’t forget to stay tuned for the second installment in this series that will share some ways firms can use this information to improve processes and help meet some of these HCM challenges. 

 

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How AEC Firms Can Stay Ahead of the Talent Game with Reskilling and Upskilling

Posted by Tasia Grant, PHR on June 01, 2022

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IIn life, the good news must always be taken with the bad. In the architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) industry, the good news is that a massive federal infrastructure bill was signed into law that will help keep the industry growing in 2022. The question, though, is whether bad news will outweigh that good news for the AEC industry. Much like the impacts of the 2008 recession, according to an article in Civil Engineering Source, throughout 2021, supply chains, high prices for construction materials and labor shortages were affecting the entire AEC sector. So how can Human Resources departments address some of the trends that are being seen?   

AEC Trends and Tackling the Challenges 

Many leaders in professional services firms are tackling labor-related obstacles by evaluating their retention and talent acquisition programs. With the ongoing retirement of Baby Boomers, the increasingly technical (and digital) nature of work, rising wages and the “Great Resignation” of 2022, many employers at professional services firms are faced with skill gaps, problems attracting and hiring top job candidates and employee engagement retention problems.  

 Let’s take a closer look at each of these challenges:  

  • Feeling the Boom: With the departure of Baby Boomers, replacing the most senior and experienced professionals is an overwhelming challenge facing the industry. Most firms agree they can find new graduates, but their employment doesn’t replace those with 40 years of experience.   
  • Transform or Die: The pandemic required firms to rethink their digital adoption, but much of the AEC industry is still managed on paper including blueprints, design drawings, supply-chain orders, progress reports, punch lists, etc.  
  • Under Pressure: In the past, the main challenge was finding the work. Now one of the main challenges is how to keep the workers. Employers are feeling the pressure to raise wages or be forced with losing key talent. 
  • Gap-o-Rama: Graduates unfortunately don’t learn all of the necessary skills required for real-life work in the AEC industry. Additionally, with the constant change in technology, existing employees require learning new technology skills to stay competitive.  
  • Retaining Talent: During the pandemic, many employees re-evaluated what they wanted in life and from their employers. Many firms learned this lesson the hard way.  

Despite these talent woes, there is a solution for Human Resources professionals that is right up under their noses. Reskilling and upskilling are trending talent management tools that are being explored and implemented to address these challenges and ensure that growth stays consistent and progressive. Let’s take a deeper dive into what reskilling and upskilling are and the benefits each can bring to the professional services industry.   

Reskilling Versus Upskilling 

Reskilling is theprocess of employees learning new skills to move onto new roles within their current company while upskilling is a workplace trend that facilitates continuous learning by providing training programs and development opportunities that expand an employee's abilities and minimize skill gaps. The primary difference is that reskilling prepares an employee for movement into a new role within the company whereas upskilling prepares an employee for movement in their current career track within the company. Reskilling and upskilling are not just trendy or popular remedies. The professional services industry has found benefits for both the employers and employees, so it ultimately is a win/win. 

Benefits to Leaders 

  • Improves retention. Employees stay longer when they see evidence that their company is invested in learning and development. 
  • Keeps up with the industry. Maintaining highly skilled and knowledgeable employees keeps the organization competitive in the industry. 
  • Moderates recruiting costs. With the increasing costs of backfilling positions, reskilling might be a good alternative to letting go of current employees and hiring new ones with a different skill set, if the needs of the organization change.  
  • Attracts desired talent. Offering continuous staff training enhances the company’s reputation and brand image as an employer. 
  • Improves employee engagement. Potential and current employees want professional development and training opportunities in their job, and they will look for opportunities that provide these options. Upskilling satisfies these employee demands. 
  • Optimizes employee productivity. Improving employee engagement will ultimately increase productivity. 
  • Bridges the age gap. While generational differences can sometimes be a source of conflict in the workplace, when managed effectively, they can be a powerful source of innovation and adaptability.  

Benefits to Employees 

  • Feel more valued. When employees believe that the company is investing in them to improve their professional profile or give them new opportunities, it reinforces their loyalty. 
  • Have more opportunities for career advancement. Upskilling focuses on improving current employees' skill sets, usually through training, so they can advance in their jobs and find different roles and opportunities within the company. 
  • Increases their professional confidence. One of the primary benefits to employees is that upskilling can help to boost confidence anddevelop stronger, more capable teams in the business. 
  • Builds better relationships between employees and managers. As managers and employees collaborate on their employees’ career paths and provide leadership and mentoring during the training and development process, knowledge sharing, trust, and respect evolve organically.  

Repurpose Talent 

The bottom line is professional services firms are in the best possible position with continuous technological advancement, growing leadership flexibility, and external financial resources to successfully develop and implement upskilling and reskilling programs. Executives, senior leaders, human resources professionals, talent acquisition professionals, training & development specialists, or even HRIS experts, should join the upcoming webinar “Rebounding and Staying Ahead of the Game:  Attract and Retain Top Talent using Reskilling and Upskilling” on June 9th. During this webinar, find out what the so-called “Great Resignation” of 2022 is, hear case studies about other firms (especially in the AEC industry) who have successfully implemented these programs, and learn steps that organizations can take to develop a program that caters to firms’ talent management needs and goals. 

 

 

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Workplace Trends for the Professional Services Industry for 2022

Posted by Tasia Grant, PHR on February 02, 2022

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It may be a new year, but 2022 comes with a similar vibe as 2021 still dealing with the impact of a pandemic and the shifting workplace as a result. Change begets change, and successful professional services firms have had to go with the times in order to stay competitive with others in their industry. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the workplace trends for professional services firms in 2022.

Work Culture

The pandemic has most professional services firms evaluating their work culture and figuring out how to adjust their practices and policies to accommodate the necessary changes but not compromise the foundation of its culture. As leaders, it’s important to have a clear understanding of what the company culture is and how this culture is perceived by employees. To attract and retain the best employees, the workplace culture needs to be attractive itself. In other words, it should be a win/win for all.

Hybrid and Remote Workplace

It is a fact that technology will be a constant part of the workplace culture going forward with online portals and systems in the cloud. Working remotely, which became a necessity during the pandemic, has become a trend that is likely to continue even when the pandemic is over. The hybrid work environment where time is split between home and office has become a shift in the workplace of today which HR will have to continue to manage.

Autonomy

Flexibility has become one of the most desired attributes of any company considered a “Great Place to Work”. It is not exclusive to the option of working remotely or in the office, but it extends to the workday structure. Set work hours are becoming a thing of the past and quality is valued over quantity. A professional services firm’s success with embracing autonomy boils down to trust with leadership trusting the employees to meet expectations and goals without the rigid structure of the past as well as employees feeling assured that they are worthy of that trust.

Prioritizing Employee Mental and Emotional Health

Leadership empathy is necessary to sustain loyalty throughout a professional services firm, therefore, these organizations are prioritizing employee mental and emotional health needs. With a hybrid and remote workplace, employers are finding creative ways to promote reconnection and engagement among employees. Also, benefit plans, EAP programs and policies on PTO are being evaluated to provide employees with support during these changing and uncertain times.

Multigenerational Workforce

Additionally, in most professional services firms, there is a multigenerational workforce to take into consideration. These different employees are working side by side on the same teams and the culture needs to understand and reflect their unique expectations. The newer generations of workers have different priorities for their workplace and their career. Their expectations are more flexible schedules, more regular feedback on performance from managers and more collaboration on projects. HR and leadership must provide continuous performance management to acknowledge high performance and provide incentives to remain on staff.

Reskilling and Upskilling

With talent shortages being a reality, professional services firms will be focusing on other ways to meet the firm’s organizational needs. Options such as reskilling and upskilling the workforce help firms with filling in the gaps. Reskilling is when new skills are developed from an expiring skill set that is no longer in demand. Upskilling is building upon current skills to enhance or add adjacent ones.

To do so, HR and leadership will be evaluating and revising the firm’s learning and development offerings. “Learning in the flow of work,” a phrase coined by Josh Bersin, Global Industry Analyst, has been gaining attention. Using this method, employees will access small pieces of knowledge to help solve skills-related matters that happen at work. This way, employees can learn as they work at their own pace, and using a turn-key Learning Management System (LMS), they can have access to content on demand.

Outsourcing HR

HR roles have become a lot more complicated over the years with technological advances such as online employee portals and cloud-based management of employee activities. To be more efficient, it has made sense to make the change toward outsourcing the HR functions to specific professionals that have the needed expertise. According to FinancesOnline, research has found that by 2024 the global market for human resource outsourcing is expected to reach $43.8 billion.

Outsourcing certain necessary HR functions will handle the burdensome administrative responsibilities of HR in professional services firms. These firms will not outsource all HR functions though. There still needs to be internal HR departments to manage employee relations issues and the other human elements of the firm.

Diversity

Although not a new goal for professional services firms, there will be renewed HR effort to recruit and retain a diverse workforce including more workers of varying genders, races and nationalities. Bias in the hiring process is a well-known and widespread problem, however, even with the best of intentions, these biases can impact sourcing and recruiting decisions outside of the awareness of the recruiter.

Again, technology provides a solution to the issue of creating more diversity in the workplace. Using Artificial Intelligence (AI), candidates can be sourced and screened objectively. AI recruiting software can even be programmed to ignore demographic information and socioeconomic status. Even more, human recruiters will be able to save time by allowing the AI to do the redundant screening work for them. When the bias is removed from recruiting, a more diverse workforce will prevail in professional services firms.

Diversity awareness is not only addressed with increasing the number of professional services firms’ employees with varying backgrounds and beliefs. Also pertinent to this awareness is the implementation of training, programs, practices and policies which encourage knowledge, education, recognition, effective communication, sensitivity and accountability in a diverse workplace.

Differentiation & Branding

Being evident about what the corporate culture is and what the company goals are is from what a professional services firm’s branding is structured. It helps to identify the professional services firm’s differentiators from the competition and the type of talent the firm is seeking. HR plays a key role in the reinforcement of the branding of a firm

Talent acquisition practices should always incorporate branding because it’s the first impression a professional services firm makes for prospective employees and has the charge of selling the firm's greatest qualities. Communicating that the professional services firm is aware of and keeping up with workplace trends is a reflection of how it treats its employees and also evidence that the employees’ opinions about the company culture are recognized and considered.

Follow the Trends

These trends have all become standard and are expected for professional services firms to remain competitive in 2022. They may be new to your organization, but many firms that have already started implementation are experiencing their rewards. So, stay at the top of the professional services industry by following these workplace trends to succeed.

 

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Deltek 42nd AE Clarity Study Reveals an Evolving AE Workforce

Posted by Ryan Felkel on December 01, 2021

Starting with the obvious, all departments and roles at AE firms were directly impacted by the global pandemic. This is emphasized in each section of the 42nd Deltek AE Clarity Study. However, the Human Capital Management (HCM) segment highlights another challenge firms are facing – a multigenerational workforce.

Today, an AE firm’s workforce can include members of up to four generations. This infusion of differing opinions about professionalism, work-life balance, and overall expectations of an employer has pushed many company leaders to shift their culture to embrace these differences. While some firms have accepted this multigenerational workforce, others have chosen to keep up their traditional methods – until now.

manager demonstrating poor human capital management practices

When the COVID-19 global pandemic struck, expectations of flexible schedules, more casual work environments, and telecommute options were thrust upon everyone without warning. Even those that were steadfastly against the idea of hybrid workers. Now, we are at the crossroads of two seemingly unrelated challenges that have a common solution, and the pros and cons of this evolving workforce dynamic are highlighted in the 42nd Deltek AE Clarity Study.

New Human Capital Management Challenges

Great workforce management requires consistency, which is everything that work, and life hasn’t been since 2020. As a result, this imbalance has created a new leading challenge for AE firms in terms of HCM. According to the 42nd Deltek AE Clarity Study, succession and career development planning jumped to first place from third place in the previous study. Subsequently, performance management and employee engagement fell to second and third place.

On the surface, these challenges are expected in the given circumstances. Taking a deeper dive, learning and development programs ranked fourth overall and was considered a top three challenge for forty-eight percent of survey respondents. Looking below the surface, succession and career development planning, and learning and development programs are closely linked. Therefore, it’s logical that the increase in ranking in both these challenges goes hand in hand.

Employee Turnover and Staffing Levels

Overall, survey respondents reported that employee turnover rate went down over one percent. This may seem like a small change, but it goes against trends documented in past surveys. In previous years, AE firms reported increases in employee turnover rates. Likely because of the strong economy. Since 2020, it has been likely that employees preferred to stay with their existing employer for stability instead of taking a leap of faith with a new company during uncertain times.

In terms of personnel growth over the previous year, firm respondents stated that they had an increase of 0.5% which is nearly 3% less than reported in the 41st Deltek Clarity Study. This is likely the result of hiring freezes during uncertain times. Additionally, thirty-three percent of firms reported having more open positions at the time of the survey and fifty percent had fewer open positions. Encouraging is the fact that forty-eight percent of respondents state the reason for open positions is solely because of firm growth.

Talent Acquisition Challenges

One of the least surprising findings of the 42nd Deltek AE Clarity Study is that the availability of good candidates in the marketplace once again ranked number one in terms of top talent acquisition challenges. The simple cause and effect assumption is to connect this finding to the decrease in employee turnover rates and other factors like uncertainty about the future economy. But what impact will the pandemic and a new hybrid workforce has on talent acquisition challenges.

For years, firms have competed for talent within their local geographies. However, the global pandemic has allowed firms to embrace their evolving workforce, and employee can be an effective member of the team whether they are at the office or at their home. When taking into consideration the changes created by the pandemic, the challenges of the past, such as matching qualified candidates to open positions and offering competitive compensation will likely become minute in comparison to the other challenges listed in the Clarity Study.

Focusing on Managing and Retaining Talent

Providing a clear career path with training goals and milestones helps keep employees engaged and ultimately retain talent. For AE firms, this strategy helps them plan for the future to make sure the firm can remain successful. Apparently, this is no secret. Respondents to the 42nd Deltek AE Clarity Study overwhelmingly ranked create or improve succession and career development planning as a top initiative. Closely followed by developing more formal career development programs. Being leading areas of opportunity for improvement, these initiatives and the others that are highlighted in the 42nd Deltek AE Clarity Study are things firms should evaluate closely.

Clarity for the Future

Reflecting back, it’s impossible to avoid including the impacts of the global pandemic on businesses. For human resource professionals and AE firm leaders, they sure got the “short end of the stick” with having to adapt and quickly create policies to ensure business can continue as normal and employees are aware of the new expectations. Fortunately, the world is getting back to some sense of normality and those tasked with overseeing their firm’s HCM strategy can get back focusing on hiring and retaining talent, and developing training and succession plans.

Link to download the 42nd Deltek A&E Clarity Report

Skills Improvement Versus Corrective Action: Getting to the Root of Things

Posted by Tasia Grant, PHR on October 13, 2021

Professional services firm leaders are often inclined to immediately use discipline or use corrective action to address an ongoing performance issue. However, that would be like medicating based on symptoms, without getting to the root cause of the illness. Instead, slowing down and thoroughly evaluating the situation can shed light on possible solutions that are likely more beneficial to the employee and for the firm as a whole.

Employee meeting with supervisor

When to Use a Skills Improvement Plan

Behavioral concerns and non-compliance issues can usually be directly impacted by progressive discipline. On the contrary, skill deficiencies or job performance concerns are usually best addressed with skills improvement plans and that includes more than just the technical skills required to perform the functions of the position. They can also incorporate the other skills essential and critical to the overall scope of the job.

For example, a manager may be a high performer based on their knowledge level and ability to perform the job duties. Yet, they may struggle in the areas of interpersonal communication or may not have had prior management experience and may need to work on developing their leadership skills. Which are areas not related to behavioral or compliance concerns.

Therefore, these skills would be best addressed with coaching, guidance, and setting clear goals and expectations. Coaching can include suggested training, an outlined strategy for change, developed by both the manager and their director, as well as mediation between the manager and their reports. If there is a desire to thrive in the position the manager should be open to the plan laid out to help them improve. Usually, employees do accept and appreciate the assistance if they feel that the plan being presented is sincere and demonstrates that the company wants them to be successful.

When to Use a Corrective Action Plan

Sometimes firms have an employee that excels in their position but is also an employee that is consistently late to their shift, breaking company policy, or their behavior is causing disruption to the team or clients. In this case, a more targeted and direct approach needs to be applied for more immediate results. Cases like these are when corrective action needs to be taken using a progressive discipline plan. This technique provides the employee an opportunity to make improvements or adjustments while allowing the employer to implement corrective actions if there is no improvement.

Corrective actions can vary in severity and can include a verbal warning or a written warning as lighter punishments. Whereas suspending an employee or terminating them can be more severe. Furthermore, corrective action primarily addresses critical problems, recurring issues, and/or problems that endanger health or safety of others.

Employees are Investments

Remember that with both a skills improvement plan and a corrective action plan, the primary goal should be to identify the cause of the change and a solution that leads to positive results. Additionally, firm leaders and managers need to consider that an employee may have greatness in them and are an asset to the firm, but are apprehensive to reveal it for fear that it will set higher expectations of them that they aren’t confident they can achieve. These processes will reveal that and encourage them to embrace it and display it.

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Effective Employee Feedback to Coach a Winning Team

Posted by Tasia Grant, PHR on July 28, 2021

Imagine being the head coach of a promising basketball team that with the right guidance can be league champions year after year. However, that is a rather ambiguous statement. What is the right guidance? Who is the coach? Even more, what does basketball have to do with professional services firms? Wow, those are some great questions.

Satisfaction face illustrations on chalkboard

For a coach of a team, it is his or her job to guide the players and instruct them on how to make the best use of each individuals talents to win each game. Similarly, a manager at a professional services firm is the leader of the team of employees that contribute to successfully completing a project. And as a coach or manager, recognizing underperforming players, improved or exceptional players, and how often recognition is needed can be difficult. Most importantly, the coach or manager of the team is ultimately responsible for wins and losses. Therefore, to be a great team leader, understanding how to effectively use feedback is critical to the success of the team.

Three Points for Negative Feedback

 

Ignoring shortcomings or less than desired performance and failing to address these concerns with employees is a common problem with managers. It is human nature to want to avoid potentially negative situations. But, is it okay to ignore that number 6 keeps missing three pointers? If so, this mindset and practice are contributing factors to why low performers continue to make errors, fail to meet expectations, and show a lack of improvement.

 

Managers avoid these conversations throughout the year because of the misconception that negative feedback is not as purposeful or as acceptable as positive feedback. Both managers and their reports can dread these conversations, and as a result, the managers defer to the annual performance review to address any grievances or concerns, assuming that the employee will expect it all at that time anyways. As a result, managers are doing their low-performing employees a disservice with this practice which does not foster a culture and environment to help their employees to win. Which is essentially like waiting till the end of the game before telling number 6 to give up on the three pointers.

 

Slam Dunk for Positive Feedback

 

Higher performers who anticipate annual raises and promotions often look forward to annual performance reviews. This confidence is not always instinctive or due to self-evaluation. In reality, it is because high performers often experience random, spontaneous praises and recognition for both small and large accomplishments, which creates positive affirmation. Similar to LeBron James, the crowd cheers we he sinks hoops, roars when he slam dunks, and celebrates his championships.

 

Unlike negative situations, it’s in peoples’ nature to seek out opportunities to praise others for their successes like fans in the stands cheering and screaming for every big play. Therefore, informal and formal recognitions of achievements tend to happen more often and spontaneously which provides continuous affirmation to high performers. But, not every team has a LeBron James, and even King James himself needs feedback from his coach to be a better team player.

 

Using Quarters and Timeouts for Effective Feedback

 

In basketball, imagine if, throughout a game, a coach witnessed one of their players missing passes, missing shots, failing to intercept…and not just failing to perform at his or her highest potential but in fact, performing below standard…not even meeting expectations. Would it be fair to the player or the team for the coach to wait until the end of the game to give the player feedback, pointing out all the player’s deficiencies? By then, it would adversely affect them, make them defensive or hyper focused on every misstep, ultimately leaving them feeling that losing the game was their fault.   

 

On the contrary, imagine if the coach addressed the player’s performance obstacles when they first noticed them and brought it to the player’s attention to ensure they were aware and determine if outside factors were contributing to the change in performance. Then, strategized with the player providing them with the guidance and knowledge to succeed. This sends the message to the player that they are valued, that the coach believes in them, and most importantly that they are still in the game, giving them the incentive to try harder to win!

 

Well, why wait till the end of the year or the end of the project to address areas of improvement or to recognize their achievements? Like a basketball game, managers need to find more frequent intervals to have formal one-on-one employee feedback sessions than the typical yearly review. Additionally, managers need to know when to call a timeout to address an employee’s shortcomings or celebrate an employee’s or the entire team’s achievements. Just as important, make sure to soften the blow negative feedback can have by sandwiching it between positive feedback.

Link to performance management webinar

Searching for Unicorns with Deltek Talent Management

Posted by Joel Slater on May 05, 2021

Imagine this scenario, it is Monday morning, and you’ve just been notified that your business development team has secured a major high dollar construction project due to start in three weeks. While a core project team has been assigned, certain significant positions crucial to this project are not yet filled. You’ve been asked to find these key players immediately to round out the project team, and you can tell that the needs are quite specific maybe even unicorns. You take a deep breath, process everything for a minute, and think I got this. Why? Well, you’ve got the power of resume searches in Deltek Talent Management.

 

unicorn resume

The Hunt Begins

Deltek Talent Acquisition, a part of Deltek Talent, offers a resume search which allows you to check out your entire database of resumes using whatever criteria you need. You can choose a key word, specific skill certification or license and just filter the information as you need. When looking for those unicorns, having the option to easily find them is important and a real time saver.

Unicorns Don’t Stay Out in the Wild for Long

Once you’ve identified the unicorns you are seeking, finding them requires quick action so having immediate access to certain resumes is a priority. The Deltek Talent main dashboard can be configured with a search resumes widget which allows you to quickly search for your desired resumes. Once you find your unicorns, you must be able to track them down and catch them as soon as possible.

Newly Discovered Species

At times, your tracked population of unicorns is missing in your current database, but other species do exist. So being able to be notified when another unicorn meeting the specific needs appears is a nice feature to have. Resume Search Agents let you save a specific search, and you can choose the frequency of the emails coming in when certain applicants match your criteria.

Additionally, in the case of an immediate need, you have access to other databases such as Monster and Career Builder from directly within Deltek Talent Acquisition. You can import resumes from other sources right into your database. These options give you a great chance of finding a new species of unicorn.

Tag the Unicorns in Your Research

Surprisingly, you’ve been able to find and capture the unicorns you were seeking. However, you may have discovered that you didn’t need all of them at once. Since they are rare and special, you want to make sure you can find them again. In Deltek Talent Management, resume pools can be created to tag candidates that are great choices for future openings. Your Resume Search Agents can automatically populate these pools for you, keeping a list of those with the skills you are desiring.

Don’t Forget to Feed the Unicorns

Fortunately, you’ve been able to find the unicorns you needed with the power of resume searches in Deltek Talent. Your project team is now ready to go, and you can breathe a sigh of relief. However, don’t forget to feed the unicorns and keep them happy, including the ones on your team, since they are a valuable resource. As for the candidates that you tagged for future openings, using Deltek Talent Relationship Management, you can keep in touch so hopefully they will come when you call them. Maybe have some sugar cubes ready?

Deltek Talent Candidate Engagement link to demo

Setting the Tone for the Candidate Interview Process

Posted by Tasia Grant, PHR on April 14, 2021

After the countless interviews I have done over the last twenty years, one of the greatest compliments I’ve received from a hiring manager was, “You bring an energy that makes candidates feel comfortable enough to be themselves.” With every interview opportunity comes the ability to explore a match for a candidate with the position and firm. When candidates are prepared and at ease during an interview, much can be learned about their personalities and potential to fill open positions. As the interviewer, you want to know with confidence that you’ve taken the time to make the whole process positive and done your due diligence when selecting the “right fit,” not just on paper. 

 

Employee Interview

 

Initiate Attraction

The job description for an open position is a very significant piece of the pre-interview process, and if written well, it transitions nicely into the actual interview. Oftentimes, job descriptions get recycled over and over while the job itself has gone through many evolutions. Many factors can impact the scope of a position like change in the size of the team or leadership, new technology, and change in the needs and goals of the company. In the AEC industry, particularly, industry standards and regulations can impact the requirements for certain job titles.

So, in preparation for interviewing for a specific position, the job description must be clearly written to reflect the qualifications expected of top talent. Candidates should then be able to see exactly what is required by the job description in advance and come to the interview able to prove how they match the needs and fit in the overall organizational plan. Interviewers having previously provided what they are looking for in a clear job description will receive candidates that are ready to showcase what they bring to the table and make the interview process flow easily and successfully.

Make a Good First Impression

If candidates are able to come into the office, they should feel not only welcomed but excited about sharing their qualifications with you. Greetings and initial contact in person should be done with polite professionalism such as acknowledging their interview time and offering water or a place to sit and wait for their time slot. The interviewer should come out and walk candidates back to the pre-set-up room and inquire as to any needs they have before the interview begins. For a Zoom or phone call, candidates should still be greeted on time with a positive attitude and made to feel that their time is valuable.

Break the Ice and Establish the Mood

As the interview begins, candidates should be encouraged to relax with some comforting initial conversational questions. Afterwards, they should be reminded to take their time and think through their answers asking for clarity if a question isn’t understood. With most interviews these days being conducted virtually, you want to create an environment that removes the technical barrier and gives the same energy you would if you were in-person. For the interview questions, minimize the predictable, classic, broad questions like “Tell me your strengths and weaknesses,” or “Do you work well with others?”

Remember the goal is to find out who the person is, not just what they think you want to hear. You should ask Behavioral Questions that allow candidates to talk about their past work experiences. Behavioral-based interview questions focus on how they previously handled various work situations such as “Tell me a situation which was challenging and how you handled it?” Especially for highly technical and labor-based industries, like AEC, ensure that the questions are specific to the position and structured to reveal the candidates’ skills, abilities, and thought processes.

Candidates, having reviewed your job description in advance and feeling at ease with the interviewer, should be able to relate to the needs of the open position and provide some good examples of their past experiences. As mentioned before, a well written job description pre-interview should provide top talent the chance to come to the interview prepared for identifying their skills. You should wrap up the interview by allowing the candidates to ask any other questions and give them an overview of the remaining steps in the candidate selection process including the approximate date you have targeted to have the position filled.

Carefully Choose Your Match

When possible, conduct post-interview discussions immediately after the interviews or within a few days so that impressions and thoughts about the candidates are still fresh in the mind. Many companies use a rating system to rank the candidates’ interview performances. Using the ranking system can work in conjunction with post-interview discussions, and it provides measurable data to support the final decision.

After all interviews have been completed, make the selection of your candidate a priority. Efforts to determine who will move to the next step or to choose the final selection should be made within a week to increase the probability that your top choices are still available when you are ready to extend an offer. Every interview that is completed requires a follow-up indicating the status in the selection process or thanking candidates for their time if not chosen.

Keep in mind that those candidates that are not picked for current positions might be good matches for future positions, so it is important to have open communications all the way through to the end. Also, maintaining these connections will ensure good public relations going forward. You never know when a position will open up again so setting the right tone for the entire candidate interview process is a must in order to attract and find the best fit for your firm.

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