Behavioural and Cognitive Professional Development Report 2016
Survey into the current state of behavioural and cognitive professional development in the professional services industry
Part 1 of our Behavioural and Cognitive Professional Development Report 2016 presents the key research findings from our survey into the current state of behavioural and cognitive development in the professional services industry.
In Part 2 of the report, PSfPS have determined the key trends that will affect the professional services industry in 2016 and beyond and the possible implications for firms with regards to learning and development strategy, managing client relationships and behavioural change.
Introduction to the report
In 2015, hundreds of participants from some of the world’s top and best-known professional services firms attended PSfPS behavioural and cognitive development programmes.
The top professional services firms remain dedicated to improving the knowledge, experience and capabilities of their people and understand that investing in on-going professional development is fundamental to initiating behaviour change and to the future growth of their firm.
Following every PSfPS programme we ask participants a set of questions about how they plan to embed the learning at their firms and what difficulties they anticipate in applying what they have learned.
Having analysed over a thousand participant responses to these questions over the past year, we have been able to gain a snapshot of the key issues facing the top professional services firms in the world today with regards to professional development and behaviour change. Please note that the analysis gives equal weight to each respondent, whatever the size of the firm and is essentially a sentimental survey, with all the strengths and weaknesses of such an approach.
Our research suggests the fundamental skills and behaviours required of those working in professional services are not intuitive and still need to be codified, learned, practiced and refined, especially in relation to critical thinking, communication, presenting with impact and business development.
Using critical thinking as an example, our findings suggest that despite the clear benefits, before attending a formal training event, individuals do not regularly use a structured analytical thinking process in their everyday work. Individuals that do have prior knowledge of the required process and skills, frequently find an inability to apply the theory in everyday activities often due to a scarcity of time (even though the use of the process saves time!) and senior management support.
With regards to instilling behaviour change and embedding the learning, participant data shows that culture and prevailing mindsets in professional services firms still create barriers.
There continues to be a disparity in some firms between the new behaviours and processes that employees learn, which should be to the benefit of their firms and how their performance is actually measured and rewarded once they are back in the workplace. Similarly, Senior
Managers often do not embody the behaviours or know the same processes that they are asking their more junior employees to utilise.
Participants’ responses suggest that behaviour change in professional services is not being effectively achieved because:
i. The act of sharing best practice and learning is not widely encouraged and mechanisms for sharing are rarely in place. Hence, employees simply go “back to the way we have always worked”;
ii. The prevailing culture in many professional services firms (short-term, metric-focused, ‘activity-driven’) means behavioural change is not always supported.
Commentators and fans are lauding them for their efforts, and competitors aspire to reach the same levels of success.
Sadly, a large proportion cannot accept that this level of success is possible. Instead they have decided and are happy to decree that Team Sky, and Chris Froome in particular, must be cheating.
In reality, the best firms don’t need to cheat. There is no secret formula. When you look deeper, the reasons for their success are clear.
The best organisations (and sports teams) in the world have a deep-rooted value set that drives all behaviours. Everyone shares the same values and works towards a common objective. Successful firms believe in doing things the right way…
You are a successful professional services organisation and have a proven track record. Why then, would you question your client management?
Maybe your client has started to suffer from ‘consultant fatigue’ having undertaken numerous consultancy projects over the last year and now feels that using more consultants will lead them to be criticised for their management of resources?
Perhaps this scenario sounds familiar to you: Your client has decided to postpone the next phase of a proposal and there are the usual excuses for the postponement – they now plan to go out to tender, next year the budget will not be there, there is no rush. The problem for you is that, if they delay, you know your client will struggle to get continuity of consultants.
What practical steps could you take to stop this standstill and get the best outcome?
PSfPS have created this checklist that you can download to help you benchmark your current practices, processes and procedures of client management against best practice…
The perceived reality in the minds of many clients is that all accountants/lawyers/consultants offer pretty much the same services, in the same markets with the same outputs.
When you see the examples in this article from real proposal documents, it’s easy to see why this view is held.
Importantly, your personal brand also represents the organisation you work for.
These ‘LinkedIn Out Loud” videos put together by production company Joseph & Joseph show a collection of how not to set your personal brand on LinkedIn…
- “I run towards fires”
- “I’m not the boss. There’s only one boss and that’s Mr customer”
- “Welcome to a window into the life of me”
- “I don’t go with the flow – that’s for fish”
- “I’m not racist”
You can watch all the videos here…