Professional Services Strategy

Case Study – Global Professional Services Firm

Case Study
Exploring a ‘Sense of Belonging’ at a Leading Professional Services Firm

Situation

Many of the world’s most successful organisations recognise the value of human capital and strive to keep their employees engaged and productive, as well as feeling a sense of belonging to the firm’s purpose. As such, our client conducts a regular Global People Survey (GPS) in order to understand how their people feel about their work, the satisfaction that they derive from it and being a part of the firm’s community. Having reviewed the latest GPS survey the leadership team identified areas to explore in more depth. They wanted to build on the GPS data to develop a deeper understanding of their people’s working experiences and their sense of belonging to the firm in some specific communities.

Inextrinsic were appointed to conduct a series of in-depth interviews with staff representing a range of grades and competency groups. Inextrinsic proposed conducting semi-structured research interviews to provide the space for employees to express their feelings about work within a structure where they would be listened to. This is inductive research where there is not a particular hypothesis to prove or disprove. Instead it is about listening and interpreting to understand meaning, thereby delivering insight behind how the consultants feel about their own lived experience at work.

The Project

Inextrinsic worked with the Partner Talent Lead and Chief of Staff to the Advisory Leadership Team to formalise the research brief, and determine a sample comprising male and female Senior Consultants, Managers, Senior Managers and Directors across three different competency groups. All participants were volunteers and were guaranteed anonymity so that they could talk freely without fear of repercussions.

48 participants were interviewed over the course of 3 weeks, generating over 60 hours of interviews that were digitally recorded. These were analysed independently by Inextrinsic researchers who reflected and interpreted the interviews using Thematic Analysis. This enabled the distillation of the main themes by determining patterns of meaning from the interviews.

Key Findings

The firm is seen as the ‘People Firm’ of the big consulting brands.

Consultants feel that there is a supportive environment. The sample was almost universal in its praise for the people within the firm, both personally and professionally. New recruits are especially vocal given their recent experiences with competitors, and for senior staff this is the chief reason cited for staying with the firm. The quality of the people fosters tremendous loyalty within this group.

I love the people here and working with them - being part of a business that serially 'does the right thing'.

Consultants feel that the promotion process is not meritocratic.

A significant majority feel that the process is not meritocratic. It is about who you know, self-promotion and time served in role. People also reported that it takes too long and is personally exhausting.

The process is subjective not data driven... you need to showcase... and it's not about perceived merits more than actual merit.

People do feel a strong sense of belonging.

People feel that they can be authentic to their personal beliefs and that the firm recognises and values diversity and inclusivity. Many expressed a greater sense of belonging to their market unit, followed by their client, and finally their competency.

In comparison with other companies where I have worked, I have found it much easier to talk about my personal life at EY.

On-the-job feedback could be better

Most said that in-flight feedback is limited and is typically coming through the client engagement. Consultants want constructive feedback in order to develop. For those who have risen through the ranks, the lack of feedback was seen as normal, which contrasted starkly with the views of experienced hires.

It is ‘no news is good news’ here… it should be a constant dialogue, even by messaging, but that’s the bit that’s missing.

The Outcome

These findings were presented at a partnership away-day receiving a very positive response. A selection of the interview quotes were printed on cards and then distributed on the delegate tables in order that the partners could read them out. This produced a powerful response from the participants as these were authentic voices from within the firm, not just one voice, but representative of many and the partners were given time to absorb properly the meaning of the quote and its implications for the firm. These quotes contribute to the evidence that is essential to instigate the required change programmes within the firm. In parallel with this research, our client conducted a focus group study assessing the culture of the firm. In combination, these two studies are driving a broader action plan focused on four key themes: reward & remuneration; career development; leadership; and belonging.

From an individual perspective, many consultants reported that the interview itself was therapeutic, which they had not anticipated. Having the chance to talk freely to someone independent of the organisation prompted self-realisations and helped them to make sense of their own situation.

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Posted in New Case Studies.