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Success recipe: top-performing PSOs embrace technology and focus on employment brand

Posted by  Bas van Woudenberg

The top 5 percent of the survey’s professional services organizations (PSOs) are embracing technology and investing in their employees to create a more transparent, collaborative and continuous learning culture, says a new benchmarking report.

The 11th annual Professional Services Maturity Benchmark report (PSMB) says 2017 was the “best year ever” for global PS industry, which is “poised for another record year” in 2018.

The 2018 report – which compares service execution metrics between The Best (the top 5 percent) and The Rest – finds that the top-performers are investing more in their people (with benefits, training and pay) but they're doing it by embracing technology.

“This year’s benchmark illustrates the complexities of this ever-changing industry,” says the report by Service Performance Insight (SPI), a third-party research firm. “In 2017, the perennial issue of talent management topped the list, closely followed by the on-going challenge of achieving revenue and margin targets. To remain competitive, PSOs must intensely focus on creating a continuous learning environment with meaningful work.”

“SPI Research sees a new millennial workforce, nursed on technology and instant global communication, take charge.”

Focus on employment brand

The 2018 PSMB report says that, in an increasingly competitive talent market, the top 5 percent are becoming “laser-focused on their employment brand,” adding that they are embracing technology to “help reinvent the workplace” with knowledge-sharing, team-building, transparency and collaboration at the core of their “continuous learning cultures”.

According to SPI, it appears to be working.

Comparing The Best with The Rest shows that more employees would recommend their firm as a great place to work; they receive higher levels of training investment and are more likely to understand and take advantage of career advancement opportunities.

“One of the characteristics that differentiate this year’s top performers is the emphasis they place on building unique, employee-centered cultures,” says the report, with “an open and ethical work environment.” It’s a place where teamwork and continuous growth are prized and benefits include parental leave for all staff and providing employee ownership or career opportunities regardless of gender.

“Their emphasis on building an open and ethical work environment manifests in low levels of attrition and high levels of employee satisfaction and referrals.”

On a scale of 1-5, more staff at The Best firms would recommend their company to friends and family than The Rest (4.81 versus 4.36). The Best organizations provide more guaranteed training days per employee (10.4 versus 7.6). They have a shorter time lag for new employees to become productive (48 days versus 53) and higher employee billable utilization (78 percent versus 71 percent).

Part of the secret to the success of these star performers, says the study, is a reliance on professional services automation (PSA) software.

“They credit their PSA with improving resource, project management, time and expense capture and billing, leading to higher levels of billable utilization and on-time project completion. Because every leader relies on a PSA application they can build and reinforce project delivery standards which result in precision execution and high levels of quality, productivity and profitability.”

Learn from The Best and compare with The Rest

PSMB 2018 allows you to gauge your own organization's process ‘maturity’ against the top-performing firms as well as against similar organizations in terms of vertical market, size, business type and geographical location.

Read the report overview, or summaries of the other service performance pillars: client relationships, service execution, and finance & operations.

Download the PSMB 2018 report for free.

Bas van Woudenberg

Bas van Woudenberg is a professional services sector veteran, aiming to support organizations to improve utilization rates, customer satisfaction, and financial results. Bas is also the director of the Unit4 PSO Center of Excellence.