Talent management should be at the heart of any growth strategy

12 April 2016 Consultancy.uk

It’s a well-known saying in a human capital intensive industry such as management consulting: talent, with their skills and expertise, stand at the heart of a firm’s success. However, despite the market showing strong signs of growth there is still an industry-wide talent shortage which means holding onto talent is becoming an increasing concern for partners. For consultancies that feel they are losing the battle when it comes to staff retention, scrutinising talent management strategy and execution is key, says Neil Davidson, Vice President Enterprise at Deltek. 

So what exactly can firms do to combat this worrying trend? Davidson provides some simple tips on how to strengthen their talent strategy and secure the competitive advantage.

Approach talent management from the right angle
One reason talent management often fails in people-based business is that the responsibility of it gets assigned solely to the HR department. Consequently staff career progression is cut adrift from the firm’s operational processes such as resource planning and project management. In reality, what needs to happen is that a firm’s talent strategy should be aligned with the broader business operations ensuring the right people work on the right projects to allow business growth.

Synergise talent management with operational matters
Once consultancies have a handle on where talent management sits in the business, it is then according to Davidson important to weave it into the day-to-day running of the business. Taking this approach will mean firms are in a position to create talent-focused development strategies that resonate with key objectives for profitability and growth.

For example, it will mean that it is not only possible to establish just how serious the staff turnover rate is but also why people are leaving in the first place. This valuable insight gives decision makers the opportunity to act rather than sit by passively and question attrition rates.

Tallying talent with your KPIs
So how do you go about building a more meaningful talent management programme that better connects with the heart of the business? According to Davidson, it is best to refer to a company’s key performance indicators (KPIs) before forming any policies. “Take your company outgoings as an example. Perhaps your business data tells you you've overspent and believe recruitment costs have a part to play in this. Then, let's say you spot a notable trend whereby most resignations occur right after the successful completion of a project – maybe because they are being head-hunted at that time, you assume.”

With this in place, consultancies are in a position to do something about it. “You respond by creating a policy that'll see managers meeting with staff to discuss career development around this critical period. This turns out to be a step in the right direction – there is a distinct reduction in resignations as a result.”

Through the implementation of a data-led talent management programme, firms can, in Davidson’s eyes, successfully save money on recruitment and cut back on their expenditure as a result.

Implement a talent management system
Technology should play a central role when it comes to talent and a good talent management system will support the business at all levels of integration. However, at the same time, 60% of organisations don’t have a talent management system in place that is able to provide a deeper, more meaningful view of talent management. “With firms battling over consulting talent, it's a worrying trend that can have devastating consequences on growth”, comments Davidson.

He concludes by saying “If you want to do more to hold onto your staff and avoid the disruption and expense of hiring new people, perhaps reviewing your talent management approach and systems is a move you need to make.”

For more information about Deltek’s view on Talent Management download the guide ‘Retention and Development Strategies’.


Accenture's push into the creative sector is an identity crisis

18 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

In its latest push into the creative sector, Accenture Interactive acquired New York and London-based ad agency Droga5 earlier this month, adding illustrious clients such as HBO, Amazon and The New York Times to its roster of clients. With the latest in a long line of similar purchases, Accenture Interactive further demonstrated its ambition of becoming the globe’s leading trusted advisor to chief marketing officers. Yet according to Ben Langdon, Chairman of Class35, Accenture’s strategy may be heading in the wrong direction.

A press release on Accenture’s website announcing the acquisition sits next to a quote stating that “brands aren’t built through advertising” – a huge contradiction from a consultancy firm hell-bent on becoming the ‘CMO agency of choice’. It’s not alone of course. The entire consulting industry wants a piece of the creative pie right now. In addition to Accenture Interactive, recent acquisitions by PwC Digital, IBM iX, and Deloitte Digital meant that in 2017, for the first time ever, four of the world’s ten largest creative agencies were consultancies.

So just what it is that Accenture wants to achieve from this? For one thing, it’s clearly trying to be a digital transformation business. A one-stop creative shop rivalling more traditional models, it wants to lure CMOs in with the promise of lower ad spend and a “more impactful customer experience”. At the same time, though, it’s still in thrall to those same slinky, shiny branding and advertising agencies it’s attempting to disrupt. The Droga5 acquisition and that of Karmarama a few years before are both testament to this.

There’s a fundamental problem with this, though. Digital transformation businesses don’t sell to CMOs. These people have enough on their plates trying to transform their own marketing skills in order to keep up with an ever-changing market – they just don’t have the time or the energy to concern themselves with digitally transforming a whole business. If Accenture’s purpose is digital transformation, then going after creative agencies is barking up the wrong tree.Is Accenture's push into the creative sector an identity crisis?

Worlds apart

Perhaps more importantly, these two industries are worlds apart in terms of the way they think. Creative agencies are all about ideas, campaigns and consumers. Digital businesses, on the other hand, are customer-driven – they think in terms such as lifetime value, measurement, and efficiency. Customer-led thinking is an entirely different beast to consumer-led thinking.

The reality is that the arrival of digital and an all-encompassing obsession with technology, measurement and social has led to the death of agencies in a reductive, zero-sum, efficiency-focused battle with brands. Indeed, agencies have become so obsessed with the latest tech fads, they’re beginning to forget how brands work. Worse still, they’re beginning to forget how brands are built. And, by forgetting, they’re destroying their own values.

Killing creativity

All things considered, it really feels to me as though Accenture is a chip leader in a game it doesn’t understand. Expensive acquisitions like these show that they’ve got the big money, but they don’t appear to have any idea what they’re doing with it. Take talent, for example. The best talent in the creative industry right now is out in the market; it’s not tied to any one agency. Both agencies might well be at the top of their game, but why would a consulting firm waste so much money on buying them when they could hire high-quality creative talent on a contingent basis instead?

As their presence in the top 10 creative agencies shows, there is a growing trend in which Accenture, like many of the other big players, are buying up agencies as if they were nothing more than keywords. What they’re really buying, though, is a collection of credentials, clients and IP. Unfortunately, the talent that created those credentials aren’t going to stay at the business, the clients that hired the agency in the first place won’t be interested in buying what is basically just another part of Accenture, and the IP never really existed to begin with.

Droga5, for example, was one of the few agencies that did great brand work the old-fashioned way – undoubtedly something that made it attractive to Accenture in the first place. The irony, though, is that by leading it further away from the way of working that made it so special, the consulting giant will kill its creativity.

“Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record…. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.”

If pressed, the recently acquired agency staff at Accenture will tell you just how dysfunctional the new arrangement is. They’re largely unfulfilled. Rarely do they feel their work has any sort of meaning or purpose. What’s more, the different disciplines have found little or no common ground, and find it hard to work together as a cohesive whole. It’s not surprising, then, to see talented people leaving in droves.

Beyond the window dressing 

It’s clear, then, that consulting firms and creative agencies are no easy bedfellows. But in his company’s defence, Accenture Interactive’s Senior Managing Director for North America, Glen Hartman, described its culture as being “far, far away from what a stereotypical consulting firm would look like. Our office and studios look a lot like Droga5’s.”

In demonstrating a belief that office design equates to workplace culture, this statement serves as an illustration of how confused Accenture is right now. It wants to justify its new strategy so badly, it’s started dressing like a creative agency. But if you look beyond the window dressing and see that you and your partners are speaking a different language with a different purpose, selling to different people in a different market, there’s no getting away from the fact that you’re different.

Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record, and it wants to dazzle others with its new direction. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.

Related: Space between consulting firms and creative agencies is converging.