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Is it just me or is this 2006/7 all over again?

graph that tells a story of 1.1m UK job vacancies in September, up 25% on pre-pandemic levels.

This picture tells a story of 1.1m UK job vacancies in September, up 25% on pre-pandemic levels.

And a disproportionate share of those vacancies is in professional services – but not just due to booming levels of work: people are also leaving in numbers. Why?

Some of the reasons are becoming apparent in my parallel universe running Quintillion, where we are rolling out our myTeamRadar wellbeing platform. It enables firms to measure the condition, effectiveness and resultant risk profiles of their fee earner and support teams and, crucially, then gives those teams the tools to help themselves. Because what matters most to people is what happens to them day-to-day, locally on the ground in their team. And some of the data we are seeing paints a worrying picture of peculiarly unhealthy teams.

Some people will vote with their feet as a result – and some will become ill, make mistakes, lose productivity and disappoint clients.

For 30 years I’ve been hearing that ‘the war for talent’ is the singular challenge in professional services, and yet it is telling that the go-to response in the white heat of today’s recruitment and retention crisis seemingly remains throwing money and benefits at the problem, even though money and benefits are rarely the problem.

And let’s not forget that we last saw conditions like this and responses like this in 2006/7, but within two years the market had swung violently the other way.

On my consulting travels I consistently witness three tangible differences in the firms, teams and even individual partners who aren’t simply floating on this abnormally high tide, but have a certain va va voom about them, are clearly going places and finding life easier than the rest.

First, they don’t just manage well but they also lead well – so they are peculiarly capable of actually implementing strategy, especially around people.

Second, they treat their people (partners included) not as resources but as their most important clients – they have higher quality relationships with their people because they are peculiarly good at understanding and delivering on the intrinsic motivators that really make them tick, like purpose, opportunity, trust and empowerment to do their best work.

Third, they punch above their weight in recruitment and retention because they are peculiarly good at packaging and promoting the above two differentiators in an inspiring narrative, internally and externally.

None of this is new, or rocket science or even that difficult. It’s common sense that anyone whose business is people must have exceptional people skills at the beating heart of their strategy.

These firms, teams and individuals are a magnet for talent, and so they enjoy a competitive advantage which is second to none – at any time in the cycle, but especially in a market like this. They are the ones to watch.


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