How Your Consulting Agency Can Retain Top Talent: 6 Solid Steps

28-Oct 2021

Nearly every industry is being touched by the labor shortage in the United States, but top consulting businesses of all kinds are already familiar with the challenges involved in retaining top talent.

After all, the salary, benefits, and workplace culture needed to hire a high performer may not be enough to keep them engaged and happy for decades. The ideal workplace evolves over time, so pleasing top talent is always a work in progress.

If you're realizing that your current team is doing an amazing job and you want to find ways to keep them for the long term, there are a few items that really move the needle for top performers. 

While pay rate is a factor, it's far from the only thing that matters. When it comes to how to retain talent for your consulting agency, you need a comprehensive plan for making the workplace positive and effective.

1. Create a Culture of Trust Where Results Matter

There are two factors that can make a high performer miserable in your workplace: feeling micromanaged unjustly and realizing they get the same pay/praise/benefits as someone who is achieving much less.

Micromanaging is usually seen as a bad thing, but intensive coaching is sometimes necessary when someone is in danger of losing their job. 

The opposite is true of high performers. As they prove themselves, you want to let them have more and more autonomy to do the job the way that works for them. 

At the same time, high performers don't want to see their high-value results always rolled into a blanket appreciative statement that includes much lower-achieving teammates. 

The solution isn't to constantly lavish praise publicly on one or two team members but to occasionally—especially one on one—thank them specifically for their contributions and keep those contributions in mind when new opportunities arise.

2. Listen to Top Talent and Implement Their Suggestions

When people say, "I just don't have a voice," or, "They just don't listen," they're referring to two important tactics for retaining talent: listening carefully to the concerns of top talent and then putting into practice a solution that takes that feedback into account.

It takes both. Yes, being a good listener is excellent as a member of a leadership team, but if nothing changes, your top talent could seek the validation of a new company where they may have more power to effect change. 

You don't have to do exactly what they suggest, but addressing whatever the agreed-upon root problem could be is essential. 

3. Provide Opportunities for Growth and Variety

If you're constantly referring to a great employee as "dependable" or "my rock"—or some other way of saying they do everything exactly as you want them to—it might be good to consider whether you're offering them growth and variety.

There are indeed employees who really want to do the same thing every day for years on end. If you know this to be your person, that's great. But a lot of team members eventually want some new responsibilities or the chance to learn a different skill or try another task.

When you organize your schedule and look ahead using a strong scheduling tool, you can note whether your team members are sticking with just one aspect of their expertise.

Then you can offer them variety and depth in new projects, boosting their interest in staying with the company and continuing to grow there. 

4. Keep Pay and Benefits Competitive

It bears repeating that if you last considered market rates 10 years ago, your team might appreciate a calibration raise or a renegotiated benefits package. Especially if you've heard rumors that top performers are looking to leave, it could be the right time to show them that you value their input.

You don’t have to start with a pay raise, though: many team members appreciate smaller perks like a small stipend specifically for things like a gym membership or travel reimbursement if there’s a substantial commute involved. You can also give free benefits like the ability to work from home or to flex hours around appointments and other mid-day engagements.

That being said, you also can counteroffer for the right talent if they tell you that they are considering an offer elsewhere. It’s rarely a bad value proposition, given that estimates of how much it costs to advertise for, hire, and train a new employee can be as much as 33% of the yearly salary associated with the position.

An important conversation to have, however, is a discussion of what made them start looking for work elsewhere. If you can't address/change the root cause of their job search, you might not want to present a big counteroffer only to have them leave anyway in a year.

Knowing your team’s profitability margins as expressed in the utilization data in Accelo can help you determine how much you can offer to pay to be a competitive, above-market-rate employer.

5. Establish Clear Expectations and Allow Flexible Schedules

Chaotic work environments exist in many companies that don't actually do 24/7, on-call work. Yes, some consulting employees need to be as available as firefighters and EMTs, but most could ignore their work email all weekend without dire consequences.

Top talent will appreciate the ability to unplug from work due to a high level of organization and firmly protected work-life balance at your office. If they see that it is frowned upon to email at midnight or on the weekends, they'll be empowered to really recharge on their time off.

Similarly, if team members have proven the ability to work well on their own, consulting firms are in a good position to be more flexible with work hours and location than some other businesses. 

There are high performers who, rather than wanting to max their pay scale, want the ability to work in a few multi-hour bursts around their children's schedule or around a long-term hobby. They may want to be able to work from the road rather than always coming into the office.

This usually requires access to cloud-based platforms that are consistently up to date, allowing people to work from anywhere or even on the go. Even if the project data is being updated in Accelo in real-time in-office, team members anywhere in the world can check a status and participate in the project.

If you can offer these options without losing productivity, you stand to become the best deal for a top performer, even without offering them a wildly high salary. 

6. Offer the Perks of Productivity and Organization

You'd be amazed how much having all the key details and priorities front and center will help your top talent truly reach their potential, boosting your employee retention over time.

Consultants who work with client projects especially need tools that are tailored to organize all details and priorities easily and effectively.

Accelo's collaborative project management software cuts through the confusion by organizing all the important details of every project, timeline, and team member schedule. 

Organization is helpful for retaining individual contributors, but it also helps you and other leaders in your consulting firm. You can project availability and profitability for months in the future, helping you prospect precisely for new work. 

Even better, this platform frees up your time in a leadership role, allowing you to provide strong feedback and other initiatives that boost retention. 

Want to see how a comprehensive system can make work satisfying for your highest-value employees? Start a free trial of Accelo today!

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