If you had to choose some of the more significant trends in the professional services industry, what would they be? You could certainly make a case for cyber security. Compensation is always an important topic. There is a heavy focus these days on workplace environment and work/life balance. Another hot topic that is a focus of industry-wide conversation is the outplacing of “toxic employees” – those disengaged-but-more-seasoned employees who are at higher pay levels and absorb greater amounts of budgeted benefit resources.

However, by and large, these are subtopics that fall into bigger categories of trends. Here are the six overarching trends that we see in professional services today:

  1. Strategy and Internal Communications – This entails transparency regarding a firm’s vision and direction, and its plan to achieve that vision. With the pace of business and the economy moving more rapidly, your strategy should no longer be a once-a-year offering. Rather, it should be a dynamic and working “document” with input from all team members.
  2. Engagement and Culture – A firm’s culture and values are no longer a force-fed, top-down approach designed to drag the team into a set operational mode. Today’s professionals desire an environment that challenges them, allows them to achieve, and provides flexibility for them to take responsibility for both their own and the company’s growth.
  3. Greater Cross-Discipline Interactions – To encourage broader interchange, firms have to be willing to consider moving away from strict role definitions and bean counting accountability and profitability, and break down barriers to firm-wide business success. This entails more interactive conversations and a cross-service line approach to problem-solving.
  4. Enhanced Skills Development – A key to client service and retention is building strong skills among a cross section of team members to enable a firm to develop long-term client relationships based on trust, quality of advice, and service.
  5. Succession and Leadership – From inside and out, team members and clients must view those in leadership positions as deserving of the post, rather than having just “paid their dues” and ascending based on tenure.
  6. Performance Reviews – There has been a great deal reported about the transition from a formal once- or twice-a-year performance review that may have resulted in a team-ranking process to a more dynamic, fluid, real-time performance review and informal counseling process. This approach works particularly well in professional service firms, where a team member’s performance can be evaluated in terms of accomplishment of individual and firm-wide goals.

The days of SALY (Same as Last Year) are well behind us. Those who choose careers with professional service firms are savvy about their desired work environment and what will lead to job satisfaction. And clients can ascertain whether their service providers are dynamic firms that are up on current trends. It’s worth assessing your firm to see how you score.

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