The Key to Employee Retention for Professional Services

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Employee Attrition Is On the Rise

Are you familiar with the employee attrition definition? If you do, skip the following frame.

Employee attrition refers to the employees that “voluntary” leave their jobs (moving, retirement, family focus…) and are not immediately replaced. Thereby, employee attrition reduces the workforce of an organization.

This concept differs from employee turnover as the latest is about the employees that leave the organization (voluntary or not) and are replaced immediately.

Now, according to a TSIA survey, on average 29% of their members say their attrition rate is rising. But what’s interesting here is that the situation seems to be more critical in the PS sector, where 53% of the members claim their attrition is rising.

Almost the double. Why?


The first reason is the current situation of the job market. Jobs openings are rising, especially amongst tech companies, and there are lots of options for employees.

Also, the fact that unemployment fell to its lowest level in 50 years (US data) may be a good sign for the economy, but this also brings a talent war. Organizations are fighting to find the perfect match to roles with specific set of skills.

Moreover, companies are losing employees as fast as they are hiring, and having only one unemployed person available for every new job opening is not helping to find a skilled replacement.

The last factor affecting employee attrition is how Millennials approach their working life. Let’s not forget that they are now the largest generation in the labor force (US data). And according to a survey from “Multiple Generations @ Work”, 91% of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than 3 years. Which means they are ready to have 15 to 20 different jobs over the course of their working life.

Photo by Hian Oliveira on Unsplash

What Does it Mean for Your Organization?

Training and employee retention strategies that used to work with previous generations of workers, such as Baby Boomers, are now outdated and way less effective with Millennials.

Now what matters is what your organization is doing with that information.

How are you working on your employee retention plan for young workers?

Surprisingly (or not), only 38% of surveyed TSIA members said they have updated their training and employee retention programs to meet the needs of younger workers. Which means more than half the organizations (62%) may be losing talents, hence competitive advantage, to organizations with up-to-date engagement programs.

Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

Don’t let your organization be part of these 62%.

Now, you may be wondering what is a good employee retention rate. According to stats from LinkedIn, the average retention rate across industries is around 89.1%.

Yet again, even though the situation seems to be the worst for tech companies (86.8% retention rate), the professional services industry still remains below average with a retention rate of 88.6%.

How to beat these numbers? Here are a few ideas…

How to Increase Employee Engagement & Retention in Professional Services

There are many ways to improve retention of employees, but as with most technical things in life, first you will need to rock the basics before giving way to more creativity.

And to do so, we can always learn from the best: the 38% agile and more aggressive organizations that are leading the way in developing successful innovative employee retention strategies.

So let’s have a look at what these organizations have to offer in terms of employee engagement best practices for professional services.

Ensuring Cultural Fit

Before hiring any new consultant, the hiring process should go through a series of adaptive stages that evaluate the candidate based on his background, skills, understanding of the industry and potential.

But more importantly, the process should allow the recruiter to make sure that the candidate is a good match in terms of team and cultural fit.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

That way, the organization knows that when a consultant is confronted to difficult situations on the field, he is comfortable knowing the rest of the team has his back.

Fundamental Principles of Consultant Management

Once you got new consultants, it’s important to manage them well, with the aim to drive employee engagement and facilitate their development within the organization.

This can be achieved by following 3 fundamental principles:

  • Defining clear expectations and objectives
  • Providing continuous support to meet these expectations
  • Bringing frequent constructive feedback

And these principles should cover the different stages of an employee lifecycle.

Thereby, a fresh recruit needs a clear job definition, with clear objectives, right at the beginning. And he needs the proper training, with regular feedback, to reach these objectives.

Once this recruit starts achieving good results, you should think about giving him new business developing objectives. But again, this has to be done providing clear requirements, assistance and review periods.

Finally, when he has been there for a while, achieving great results and being hungry for more development, it’s time to consider sharing more important goals with him. But this time, support leaves room for more freedom towards achieving these goals. And feedback will be done through a platform at a wider level than just the direct manager.

Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

We can see that freedom increases over time and the goal is clearly to hire the right people and ultimately let them define the job role and processes themselves.

Good Visibility on Resources Availability

When organizations are growing, the amount of projects and resources (people and their skills) is growing too. And it’s important to keep a good visibility on the availability and utilization of these resources. Too often, due to a lack of visibility on who’s available or not, managers allocate people to projects by guesswork rather than availability.

This means some employees may be overworked or allocated to projects that don’t match their skills when someone with matching skills may actually be available.

And well, overworked people and wasted talents is obviously not good to keep employees engaged.

Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

Good news is that a better visibility on these metrics is easy to reach with the right resource planning tool (such as Teambook).

Building a Strong Relationship

The last cornerstone of employee engagement and retention lies in developing a solid relationship with our employees during the whole employee lifecycle.

And that relationship should start strong, right at the beginning.

This means being present as a manager on the first day of a new recruit, having his equipment ready and giving him a plan for the first weeks.

This is also the right moment to have a talk and give him the ground rules, such as honesty and trust.

It’s all  about starting on the right foot ang giving the recruit a feeling of confidence and support.

Photo by from Pexels

Next step is to be there during the development of the employee, but also to develop with him.

To do so, it’s important to develop an environment of honesty, letting him know that he can talk to his manager about his development expectations. Fail on this point and he may start looking for development elsewhere.

In fact, seeing how important development is for Millennials, development discussions should start as early as during the hiring process.

You also have to carry on working on the trust you started to build with him on the first days. Show that you support him even if something goes wrong with a task you initially trusted him with.

Also, many outputs from consulting tasks are not really tangible. It’s always rewarding to show him the positive impact he has on the organization (in terms of revenue for example).  

Photo by from Pexels

Finally, a manager shouldn’t be selfish, trying to keep his employees to himself.

Again, employees (and Millennials especially) want to improve and develop. Trying to keep an employee under your management without giving him a chance to develop in another department is actually putting your organization at risk of losing him.

If an employee feels trapped in his position, he will probably start looking externally for a development opportunity. Instead, you should help him develop and try to get him a promotion within your organization.

Last but not least, an employee moving internally or even externally doesn’t mean your relationship with him has to end. You never know what can still come out of it.

How Do You Maintain Employee Retention: Checklist

Here is a short summary of this post. Print it and stick it to the office’s fridge, because these 7 bullet points are the key to employee retention.

  • Make sure of the cultural/team fit of a candidate during the hiring process
  • Define clear job roles and objectives during the different stages of the employee lifecycle
  • Ensure good visibility of resources availability and utilization
  • Develop a culture of learning and provide support and freedom
  • Provide constant honest and constructive feedback
  • Develop strong relationship with employees
  • Help your employees to develop

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