Employee Directory Software: The Professional Services Firm's Secret Weapon in a Competitive Market

No doubt about it, the professional services and consulting industry is more competitive now than ever before. In the U.S. alone, there are tens of thousands to millions of firms, depending on the area of expertise, often grappling for the same customers. On top of this, heightened client expectations, like a higher level of transparency and personalization as well as increased quality without increased costs, have resulted in fiercer competition over the past several years. So how does a consulting firm stand out in today’s world? Providing personalization and exceptional quality at a reasonable price comes down to efficiency, or to put it in other words, getting the right people to the right place at the right time. This is exactly what employee directory software is designed to do. 

 

The Right People

When it comes down to it, professional services firms are only as good as their people. In competing for high-stakes projects and clients, leaders know that they must present a winning team. A team whose combined expertise best aligns with the project or client at hand. An all-in-one employee directory software that aggregates data from across a professional services firm’s various platforms (project management systems, CRMs, HRMS…) creates dynamic profiles for every employee. These profiles can showcase highly relevant information such as certifications, previous and current client experience, industry and technical expertise, and even language proficiency. What’s more, these profiles are entirely searchable for everyone across the firm. This allows for the seamless creation of winning teams by project leads. 

Structural's people search function

Structural's People Search function - layering multiple areas of expertise (in this case, Data Science, Digital Marketing, and Spanish)
allows project leaders to find exactly who they need and build a winning team.

 

Employee directory software can also play a major role in helping services firms retain ambitious professionals, a compelling benefit, considering that current attrition rates in professional services range from 10% to 25%. As previously mentioned, with so much competition in the professional services world, it’s vital to keep highly skilled employees engaged, or they will have no trouble finding another firm. 

Engagement primarily centers around learning and development as well as career advancement opportunities. Using a data-rich employee directory software, individuals can easily create their own growth opportunities in a variety of ways, such as reaching out to mentors with specific project experience or forming groups focused around professional development. An employee directory software can also be used to create an internal talent marketplace, mimicking the gig economy where employees can find project, role, and professional development opportunities internally that match their own skills and interests. 

 

The Right Place

For professional services companies, especially those with a global reach, the importance of an employee directory software cannot be understated. Often, firms that do have a global reach tend to employ individuals in the various international markets where their clients do business, whether these are expat or local professionals. Every professional services firm is as good as its people. Just as keeping track of employee skill sets and experience is of importance in selecting teams locally, it becomes absolutely crucial to do so when your people are working across borders. Indeed, companies will likely come across very different project components and regulations internationally, and it’s vital to find the experts that have the right credentials or experience in these instances. 

One other way that teams are becoming more distributed is through the rise of remote work. Since 2007, there has been a 159% increase in remote working within the U.S. Those in the professional services and consulting industry were likely very familiar with remote work before the trend exploded in popularity, as many employees frequently work on-site with clients rather than in one centralized office. 

Tools like Slack, Yammer and Microsoft Teams have made communication for remote teams faster and easier; however, when it comes to finding the right people at the right time, services teams still rely on their limited networks and institutional knowledge. Instead of relying on word of mouth or shooting out an email into the void, employee directory software allows remote workers to use specific search criteria, such as skill sets or utilization, to find exactly who they need at a moment’s notice. This saves a ton of time, allowing services team leaders to staff and surface the right expertise for high priority opportunities faster than ever. 

Pro tip: Make sure your employee directory software integrates with the communication tools your teams are already using. For example, Slack, Yammer, or Microsoft Teams.

The bottom line is, an employee directory software helps geographically distributed teams stay connected, improve efficiency and close more deals. 

 

The Right Time

In the professional services world, time really is money. Most firms will charge hourly or by the project, so keeping track of metrics like utilization (or billable time) for every employee is essential - not only for the firm’s financial management but for the experience of the client as well. It’s also important to maintain real-time insight into the capacity of every professional in order to maximize time spent on project work. Without knowing quickly who is able to take on the next project, forecasting for upcoming work can be a very drawn out and laborious (possibly even taking place on a spreadsheet or whiteboard) and a great opportunity may be lost in the time it takes to pull together the right team. In an employee directory software, these types of metrics could easily be pulled into each professional’s data-rich profile. This would make it seamless for anybody who needs access to this information to search and find exactly what they need, without jumping between a variety of systems or spreadsheets. 

Multi-layer search: current month's capacity and specializationCustomized filters that capture data points like capacity added on top of people searches allow leaders to keep track of
  who is available when, maximizing utilization and overall efficiency.

 

Maximizing Efficiency… and Opportunities 

I’ll say it again: the professional services industry is a competitive one, but firms can more readily compete when they are able to find the right people, in the right place, at the right time. This results in a greater overall experience for the client - a personalized, connected services team that is able to work quickly, maximize value, and keeping costs low. As savvy services organizations know, a happy client is a repeat client.  Moreover, because services teams are able to move faster, capacity opens up and more project work can be sought after and won. All in all, a data-rich employee directory software, like Structural, maximizes efficiency and opportunity for professional services firms.

 

kaitlin

About The Author

Kaitlin Nottestad is a member of the Structural team based in St. Paul, Minnesota. She lives in Minneapolis and loves to explore all that the Twin Cities has to offer, although she will always be a Wisconsinite at heart!

 

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