Supervisory Leadership

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How do I improve retention in a professional service firm?

Professional service firms, like other businesses, can best retain their employees by giving them a great working environment. Here are the characteristics of one, and how a professional services firm might create one.

Interesting and meaningful work is a prime characteristic of a great working environment. For professionals that usually means challenging assignments, for others it's more likely to mean understanding why their particular work is important. For both groups training and growth opportunities are important.

Clear and reasonable objectives are important. Be wary of the professional services culture that supports "billable hours macho" unreasonable objectives and over-long hours can affect health and both home and professional life.

Regular and usable feedback helps folks know where they are and where they stand. Let folks know how they're doing in ways that let them do better. Praise the things you want to continue.

A perception of fairness is vital. This is the only place I've found where money enters into the great working environment. If folks feel that they're not making enough and that others (in the same or another firm) are making more, they won't be happy. For professionals, a complicating factor is that income or billable rate is seen as a competitive measure.

Consistency is important, too. The same behavior or performance should yield the same consequences for all players and at all times.

Finally, you want to give folks maximum control possible over work life. In professional firms this is often given to professionals, but not to support staff.


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