Paul sat down to discuss what the future looks like for consultants in the Now of Work—what RGP calls the new landscape of the changing workforce and workplace.
We’ve heard a lot about how RGP believes in the importance of agility and radical flexibility in the workplace and workforce. What does this look like for consultants given the client demand for top talent in this rapidly changing marketplace?
In a way, we’ve already had radical flexibility for some time now. RGP’s model is giving consultants not only W-2 benefits, but the chance to build a portfolio of experiences working on different teams and with different beloved brands. In essence, it’s the freedom to curate the journey of one’s own career. As a result of the pandemic, I think the rest of the industry may actually be catching up to our model.
It’s clear agile alone can’t always deliver as a one-off result, so we created a model with different types of consultants making up our teams. Of course, we have the traditional consultant path. But we also blend our teams with experts who sometimes weren’t originally consultants — many held the job title of the client they’re working with now. That’s a huge plus in terms of industry and functional knowledge combined with deeply understood empathy for the rigors of the job.
Think of it this way: The team that wins the Super Bowl already had a core group from prior seasons. But the addition of new or specialized players can give them a tremendous edge as well. In our case, it’s especially important to have the right depth of knowledge and expertise as we’re fulfilling a critical need helping clients with revenue generation, expense reduction, regulatory adherence, executing transactions, business transformations and more.
This is a key advantage: We’re able to take non-traditional consultants and introduce them at senior levels into the world of high-end consulting with some of the world’s largest companies. It’s not always easy making a sideways entrance like that, but our model allows for support and mentoring so everyone on our team can make an impact from Day One.
What’s the biggest challenge among consultants these days? And what do you think are the biggest advantages for them coming out of the last year-and-a-half?
I think our switch to virtual delivery instead of an over-reliance on travel was critical for us. While many competitors did the same, many will probably migrate back to more pre-pandemic “road warrior” status.
For us, however, we’ll continue to service clients in blended ways that includes the road warriors and also includes the borderless talent of individuals and teams working remotely. It’s not about where you are, it’s about the expertise we can bring to the project no matter where it’s needed. That’s the “Now of Work.”
We were ahead of the curve on this with ensuring agile flexibility, and we’ll remain there. Hybrid’s always been our model and it’s critically important to balance on-site and off-site for teams and individuals, while understanding how to provide the flexibility that make a proper work-life blend possible for consultants.
What are some of the best practices you’re seeing when it comes to building cohesive consultant teams? We’ve heard that teams sometimes meet early in a project to bond in-person and then complete tasks doing work-from home? Are there other hybrid techniques?
Building intentional aspects for people to collaborate in-person on a project, before, during and after, is key and fast becoming a mandatory component. I think some level of togetherness that’s more intentional will become increasingly important in the consulting industry.
It’s no longer just showing up at an office because you’re filling the time allotted. I think those days are numbered. It’s more about intentionally using the “together” time you’ve got with greater purpose, planning and forethought, so you’re not just focused on the client for the short term.
It’s about being focused on the human side of the business—reinforcing the company’s culture for the long-term. Intent is so critical because you don’t always get those culture-building moments from work-from-home arrangements alone.
At the same time, we need to make sure those digital platform and collaboration tools we use—such as Mural, Zoom and Teams—are used in ways that reinforce togetherness and build culture.
While it’s true they’re no substitute for in-person, it doesn’t have to be alienating, either. If you look at consultant experiences holistically, you start to see opportunities for widening and deepening ties, whether they’re in-person or online. Either way, start with “human first,” and you’re already on the right path.
It’s been said the average shelf life for skills is five years—and falling. What are consultants doing to keep their skill sets relevant and up to date? For example, are you seeing consultants getting advanced degrees or certifications?
We’re seeing a number of areas where skills are in great demand and where consultants are benefitting from improving those skills. Business agility expertise is probably at the top of the list given the pace of change with many clients.
But I’d shift the conversation a bit. Beyond raw skills alone, understanding the human aspect of one’s work also plays a big role. For example, having a good appreciation for change management and how you influence people to move and adopt new ideas, coupled with highly technical skills.
Putting an emphasis on interaction, communication, and persuasiveness is especially important in a world where there’s less in-person connection than ever. You have to make up for it somehow.
IQ can get you in the business. But EQ—empathy—will make you an industry stand-out. Especially these days. You need both to be fully present and effective.