Helping Professional Services Become Best-Run Businesses With Total Workforce Management

Stephen Hollier

Used effectively, modern technology has the power to bring us – virtually – closer together. Most of us have seen first-hand how technology can help us cross physical boundaries and facilitate communication at speed. As such, the strategic benefits of adopting a total workforce management approach have never been clearer, or more abundant – especially for professional services firms.

However, this doesn’t happen by accident – businesses need strategies for ensuring the benefits of technology are reaped. As workforces everywhere undergo a huge transformation, it’s up to HR functions and business leaders to make sure they’re helping staff to thrive and providing a strong employee experience. Not least because employee engagement and productivity, linked as they are to revenue and profit, directly correlate with the success of a firm as a whole. According to one MIT report, firms with higher levels of employee engagement report 10-15% higher profit growth than firms with low engagement.

It has long been recognized that a highly engaged workforce leads to an increase in innovation, productivity, and bottom-line performance. Today there are tools – and even a whole industry – aimed at quantifying that engagement and its effects on business performance.

But making good engagement with the workforce happen isn’t necessarily straightforward.

From attracting and retaining talent and harnessing the power of real-time workforce visibility, to matching skillsets to a role, managing contingent workers, and reaping the rewards of improved employee satisfaction – the value of investing in total workforce management is just waiting to be realized.

Winning the ‘war for talent’

Despite technological advances, people are still largely considered to be a professional services firm’s greatest asset. In this context, the “war for talent” makes sense. But it’s because businesses are using technology to get savvier in how they bag the best talent that competition is ramping up – and why those businesses that have no choice but to join the race.

The ability to offer an outstanding candidate experience is vital in professional services. Millennials and Gen Zers entering the workplace will be quick to make a judgment call on whether or not it seems like the kind of place they want to work. To compete for the best talent, businesses need to come across as slick and organized during the recruitment process – all things technology can help with. And as well as helping businesses get ahead in the war for talent, using machine learning and AI to automate parts of the recruitment process has the knock-on effect of removing human bias and potentially increasing diversity within the organization.

Scalability and repeatability are key to getting this part of the process right. For professional services firms in particular, the need to recruit talent in a targeted way is increasingly required to meet the ever-changing needs of their clients. Ensuring firms have the best talent can make the difference between winning and losing a bid – or between delivering on or falling short of client needs. As The Telegraph puts it, “the ‘intersection of tech and people’ is where professional services firms should be looking to unlock value in the sector.”

Managing the contingent workforce

It’s not just early talent that needs thinking about – the rise of the contingent workforce is adding a new dimension to the battle. Driving an efficient talent supply chain is essential at all levels of the business.

Increasingly, a reliance on contingent workers – whether temporary or agency workers, freelancers, consultants, or independent contractors – is key to professional services firms staying competitive. It’s the way of the industry these days that to access the best talent, they simply must have a quota of contingent workers on the books; in fact, accountancy firm Deloitte claims it’s fast approaching a 50% contingent workforce. In the future, we expect that more firms will rely on intermittent or consultant staff more frequently.

To ensure the optimal performance of contingent workers, though, you need systems in place to manage them in the same way that you manage permanent employees. This applies to everything from onboarding to off-boarding, including the processing of timesheets and invoices and ensuring they’re paid correctly and on time. On top of that, getting the most out of contingent workers depends on them being aligned with the company’s business strategy. This is something that can often be missed – which brings us neatly to the need for overarching workforce visibility.

The need for real-time workforce visibility

It’s so simple – but it’s amazing how many businesses don’t have coherent oversight of their entire workforce. This ranges from basics such as how many employees they have and their total cost (or, for global companies, the labor spend in one region of the world compared to another region),  up to having an organized, searchable overview of which employee or team is assigned to which project or client.

This kind of visibility can be achieved with total workforce management, which helps businesses break down silos and maximize the engagement, collaboration, and productivity of their total workforce – wherever they are in the world. Crucially, this kind of solution also provides the oversight needed to align resources with business strategy. It also means being able to support permanent or contingent employees in the right way while they’re with you. Tracking their learning, training, skills, and knowledge not only helps individuals and improves the employee experience, it also makes the business a lot more agile.

Ultimately, it’s about helping the world run better and improving people’s lives – which is exactly what total workforce management supports.

Learn more in our Total Workforce Management webcast.

Stephen Hollier

About Stephen Hollier

Stephen Hollier is the Industry Lead for Professional Services Industry at SAP UK & Ireland. He is responsible for driving SAP’s overall strategy for this sector and advising customers on digital transformation, value management and becoming the Next Generation Intelligent Enterprise.