Tapping your firm’s talent

In a market with a skills shortage developing and retaining the skilled staff that help our digital consultancies succeed is critical, says Ben Hart

Demand can be a wonderful thing, and there’s plenty of that to go around in digital media right now where the skills to deliver creatively inspired and rigorously realised experiences are harder and harder to come by. An increase in demand for those that consistently do great work is an opportunity for growth and development when turned to consultancy advantage, and a threat to stability and success if it is ignored.

There has been much talk given over to the talent shortage in the digital sector. No one in the space can afford to be reticent towards how important the people are who make the things that our clients want.

A great consultancy is a great place to work, a place where talent can thrive and creativity flourish. Achieving this while growing at the same time is certainly challenging. Consultancies must do the very best by their teams, ensuring that they have room to move, are appreciated for their contributions and smile as they walk in the door every morning.

Get this right and it serves to help compete for the available talent on the market. If we’re on the right track when people are looking at their options, our consultancies are perceived as favourably as possible, as attractive and desirable places to work. However, in a skills-short sector it doesn’t mean that we can always easily find the right kind of enthusiastic and experienced talent that mixes well with our cultural melting pot.

We’ve been lucky enough to work with leading innovators in the graduate recruitment sector, helping them harness the digital opportunity to attract into their organisations the best and brightest graduate talent, learning a few tricks ourselves along the way.

Working with leading professional services brands such as Allen and Overy (a magic circle law firm) and Hewitt Associates (focusing on HR outsourcing and consultancy) to engage the cream of the milk round, we’ve helped to build employer brands and further understood the competitive market for talent.

Late last year we went in search of our very own sparky young things to nurture and follow through the ranks. Candidates came forward and we were lucky enough to meet some real stars before bringing a select few in to learn the ropes. Choosing our timing carefully, we felt that our senior management needed to have time to share – we needed to be in a place to nurture and reward.

Our first intake has been involved in everything from crewing shoots, to composing the music for our new showreel and helping us increase our on-line share of voice across our corporate Web and product portfolio. Moving your first forays into a structured programme that funnels energetic learners towards experienced practitioners is highly recommended. Offering training and professional development brings out the best in people. By encouraging the sharing of skills and knowledge throughout the consultancy you increase not only the value of your people to your business, but also their wider market value. The next trick will be to retain the talent and the associated benefit of your investment.

We have learned that we must not only invest in our people’s growth and development, but in their everyday life. Our culture simply has to be vibrant and inviting, the work interesting and challenging, the machine working in a well-oiled way so that the parts don’t wear out prematurely and we all thrive.

Our consultancy is changing, so our senior people are not just billable commodities, they also need to be mentors and coaches, and, of course, to be always learning and developing themselves.

In a market with a skills shortage, talented people will inevitably be targeted by headhunters and recruitment agencies. To some extent, being in demand is as much a reflection of the success of your group’s skills and training programme, as it is of your employees’ personal development.

When everyone is looking for people it’s important to keep your house in order.

Ben Hart is chief executive of Glass

Making the most of your staff

• Encourage the sharing of skills and knowledge throughout your consultancy
• Don’t underestimate the value of your people
• Offer training and professional development to bring out the best in people
• Retaining talented staff is the key to success
• Senior staff should be mentors but also need to develop themselves
• Make sure your team feel appreciated for their contributions

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