Culture is a foundational part of any business — and investing in making it better benefits firms on multiple fronts. Happier employees deliver better client experiences, are more likely to stick around, and are eager to learn new skills and collaborate on innovative solutions.
For professional services firms, culture is especially critical when it comes to long-term success (and survival). Remember, this is an industry full of knowledge workers who, many times, sell their expertise by the hour or by the project.
The point is, that, because the people are the product, it only follows that culture is everything — the only true differentiator in an environment where you’re competing on relationships and expertise.
Here, we’ll explore some of the ways real companies are using technology to foster deeper connections with colleagues, streamline business processes, and better support their customers.
Why Culture is a Competitive Advantage for Professional Services Firms
According to a recent FT report, savvier firms are getting better at quantifying intangibles like client relationships, sentiment, the health of their internal culture and embracing a more scientific approach to client satisfaction.New processes and technologies obviously play a critical role in not only improving company culture, but turning it into a tangible asset — with measurable, real-world value.
As Microsoft’s Futurist CFO Guide explains, activating customer data helps organizations embrace their humanity and deliver more thoughtful insights and valuable solutions to clients.
It allows them to develop new solutions and business models quickly and respond to changing needs in near-real-time.
As an example, insurance and advisory firm, Willis Towers Watson (WTW) wanted to get more strategic value from its client data — which, at the time, was spread across 45k employees in 140 countries. The first step was replacing their on-prem CRM solution with D365 Sales and Microsoft Relationship Sales to centralize all sales data and processes in one unified, cloud-based platform.
Upon launch, only about 24% of WTW employees adopted the new tools, but that number jumped to nearly 90% within a few months as workers began to see the value in creating a collaborative, global sales culture. The firm also used Power BI to unify sales and financial data — allowing sellers to understand customers on a deeper level and present them with the right solutions. As a result, WTW was able to streamline the sales process, and attract a larger volume of high-quality leads.
Now it’s also important to understand that these types of “transformations” can only happen when employees feel valued, challenged, and supported.
Emotional well-being is a big deal – particularly post-COVID, as people might have a lot more on their plate than they did a couple years ago – grieving or caring for loved ones, navigating issues with remote learning or childcare, and so on.
LifeWorks, a company that develops personalized well-being services to its clients, sought to do something similar to support its newly remote workforce after COVID forced them to go fully-remote.
The company used Microsoft Teams and Viva to provide frictionless access to support resources for physical, mental, financial, and social health within the flow of daily work. Built-in AI recommends content informing employees of available resources, while Teams offered a more fluid, engaging, and productive version of remote work than their previous solution – collaborating via Skype.
Finally, it’s important to consider how culture might be used to insulate your firm against the so-called “great resignation.” This is a problem across every industry, but the stakes are higher for service-based firms because of their reliance on deep expertise – when someone leaves, you lose institutional knowledge but also valuable IP.
Work Institute’s 2021 retention report found that the most common reason people leave their jobs is because there aren’t enough opportunities for career development. Firms must respond by providing adequate training to ensure employees have the skills they need to support clients and effectively do their jobs.
According to MIT Sloan, creating a healthy work environment requires business leaders to eliminate fear – whether that’s related to toxic managers, unethical behavior, or worries about being replaced by a bot. People need to feel comfortable sharing ideas, connecting with colleagues, and learning new skills in front of others.
Then, you might focus on developing training programs that teach experts to use low-code tools to create innovative solutions or embrace new ways of working. You might develop a data literacy program that teaches employees how to use data from multiple sources and surface unique insights that help clients understand their situation in context.
Consider also how hybrid intelligence solutions might further empower experts or allow less experienced employees to deliver more value to clients.
Without a strong culture in place, digital transformation, innovation, and the ability to keep up with more agile competitors can’t happen. And eventually, the business will fail.
Culture and technology are locked in this symbiotic relationship. Investing in technologies that enable employees to deliver better client outcomes is crucial, but those investments will only deliver those outcomes if you’ve already mastered culture on the “human side,” developing the policies, programs, and supportive environment teams need to thrive.
Velosio’s industry-specific solutions help firms navigate the challenges that have always defined this space — think – maximizing billable hours and managing complex projects, along with new ones like navigating cloud migrations and the challenges of remote work.
Set up a consultation to find out more about our process, services, and how we help our clients build a better company culture.