How to Utilize Alumni to Grow Your Professional Service FirmJanuary 24, 2020
Professional service firms have become an essential piece of the puzzle for many successful businesses around the world. Organizations have found that it is easier and more cost effective to utilize the unique services that your firm provides. Outsourcing specific projects allows them to preserve employees time to focus on their core tasks.
The Future of Professional Service Firms
It’s no surprise that as organizations have continued to utilize professional service firms, the industry has seen significant growth. This growth is seen in the value of professional services, with a 7.4% increase over the last 5 years. This growth has aided the industry in reaching a value of $5.7 billion.
The value of professional services is expected to grow to nearly $8.1 billion by 2022, but that growth won’t come without challenges. If you are planning to be a part of the industry growth, these are the challenges that you can expect.
· Growing Client Expectations have become an expected challenge for every professional service firm. In addition to client’s expecting a higher value and quality of work, they also look for you to deliver a wider variety of professional services. In fact, 89% of service executives have stated that they have expanded service offerings to keep clients.
· Increased Competition has been more evident the last year, with service executives seeing a 62% increase in competition in recent years. This competition includes need service firms being created and alternative business structures being used. With more competition, firms are looking for new ways to differentiate themselves for new clients and new talent.
· Lack of Resources is a significant challenge as it hinders the firm’s ability to obtain new business. In fact, 65% of service executives stated their firm has turned down work due to not having the resources to complete it. These resources include employees, knowledge, and technology.
We know that professional service firms are not naïve to the fact that they will face these challenges as they continue to grow. How they address them will determine the level of growth they are able to achieve. With that in mind, your firm should have a growth strategy in place and that strategy should include an alumni network.
The Benefits of Utilizing an Alumni Network to Facilitate Growth
This industry is not a stranger to the power of alumni networks. In fact, some of the larger firms have paved the way for other industries to connect with their alumni. These firms include “The Big Four” of professional services, Ernst & Young (EY), Deloitte, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Through their network model, these global organizations, have realized how building a lifelong relationship with employees helps to grow their firm.
Increase Knowledge Retention Through Alumni Connections
Your firms is unique in that the “products” you sell are expertise and knowledge. While we know you would prefer to retain employees, you must be realistic about the fact that at some point most everyone leaves. Studies have found that most professional service employees leave a firm after only 4.5 years, taking their knowledge and expertise with them.
An alumni network gives you the ability to utilize an expert’s knowledge when employee retention isn’t an option. Maintaining a lifelong relationship with your alumni allows you to recruit their services when their expertise fits your needs.
This is invaluable when combatting the challenge of meeting your client’s very high expectations. For some of the larger firms, like EY, their network gives them a large talent pool to recruit from. With EY's alumni network of 942,000 people, they are able to access past and present employees when filling a client need.
Gain a Competitive Advantage for Recruiting
In addition to increased revenue, you should expect to see the number of industry jobs increasing. 300,000 industry jobs were created last year and it is expected the industry will reach 20 million employees by 2026.
As more jobs become available and competition increases, you may struggle to hire the unique talent you need. As we mentioned, not just anyone can fill the available positions at your firm. Having an alumni network gives you an advantage in recruiting unique candidates in 2 ways:
· Gain talent referrals from alumni. Each of your alumni has a network of colleagues within the professional service industry. Through your alumni network, they will have access to job opportunities within your firm. They can then recommend candidates to fill the position.
· Rehire alumni as boomerang employees. Just because an employee leaves your firm, does not mean they will never come back. Alumni Networks increase the ease of recruiting by providing a platform to rehire your alumni as boomerang employees.
Obtain New Business with Alumni Resources
As we mentioned earlier, professional service firms have turned down a substantial amount of work due to a lack of resources. This is hindering the growth of the firm and leading to client dissatisfaction. By utilizing your network to attract talent and retain knowledge, your firm will increase the amount of business that it can take on.
Your alumni network is also a great source for business referrals. Many employees that leave a professional service firm find employment with a private organization. There are times during their new role when they will utilize a firm’s services to manage a daunting task. Because you are maintaining a relationship through your alumni network, you will likely be at the top of their list for recommendations.
Successfully Manage Your Alumni Network for Optimal Growth
Alumni networks have proven to be an incredible asset for professional service firms, but simply having one does not guarantee success. If you do not have a plan in place to manage your network, you will not see any potential growth.
· Identify a Dedicated Program Leader to manage your alumni network. This person will be responsible for ensuring the success of your network. It’s important that this person understands your program objectives and has access to the right tools measure success.
· Invest in Tools you need to effectively manage your network. Many successful organizations have turned to alumni software as the preferred tool to manage their network. Implementing an alumni software solution gives your organization the ability to gather the data needed to measure your network’s success. This data is also helpful in determining how to effectively engage your alumni when you need to access their knowledge.
· Engage Your Alumni through continuous communication. To effectively manage your network, you have to keep them engaged. Communicate with them regularly to keep them informed about their fellow alumni, new developments in your firm and job opportunities. This is another area where alumni software would benefit your network, as many solutions have an automated messaging tool.
At Insala, our more than 20 years of experience has enabled us to design and develop alumni software that meets the direct needs of our professional service clients. Your firm’s unique objectives will be implemented in a way that your goals can be achieved. Insala’s alumni software, coupled with 20 years of experience in delivering alumni advice to professional service firms, helps you to design and implement a successful network for you alumni.