How “professional” is your services firm?

Whether the billable workers are architects, CPAs, engineers, lawyers, or management consultants, there is a certain prestige that comes with being a professional services firm. The credentials on the wall, the exam that had to be passed, and the fees that can be charged for hourly work all distinguish these white collar technicians from those who procure their insights and performance of tasks often related to compliance.

In many of these firms, those without the primary certification–even those working at a director level–are misfits, not considered “professional” in their discharge of duties. In fact, the HR, marketing, management accounting, and similar roles are as accomplished in their respective fields as the billable personnel they serve. A healthy mutual respect would likely ensue and firms would benefit from the same array of expertise disciplines as a more general, “non-professional” services organization.

It is not uncommon for training and development, for instance, to be isolated to continuing education focused on technical skills to the exclusion of the softer, intangible skills that make for better managers, business developers, client relationship nurturers, and the like. When professional development includes fostering the “non-professional” competencies within the suite of requisite skills and roles of “professionals,” then services firms will have evolved.

From talent management and succession planning to emotional intelligence and employee engagement, there’s much to be gained from professional HR. Consultative skills, networking nuances, intentional brand building and thought leadership best practices can be modeled by the business development (or marketing) professional. And so on…

The time has come to either staff for these professional roles in house (which the regional and national firms are doing), or outsource the function on a fractional basis to competent providers (which needs to be done by everyone else.) Often,  the internal resource, regardless of firm size, is overtaxed perpetuating a stream of work tasks that existed before (s)he arrived and cannot carve out the time to address internal growth and development needs.

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