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Case Studies

Professional Services Firm with a Declining Reputation

Posted by Mitch Corlett on June 10, 2015

The Situation

Our client is a professional services firm in a niche market. Many of the employees working in their field know the reputations of the major employers. In fact, it's not uncommon for employees to work for several different firms during their career, or even to transition back and forth between roles as clients and vendors.

Our client was an early innovator in their field, bringing a new level of professionalism to what had formerly been a “mom & pop” kind of business. Our client was justifiably proud of their high standards, and their clients were thrilled. But when they contacted us, our client's recruiting efforts had come to a virtual standstill. They were unclear why their recruiting efforts had become so difficult.

The situation was so dire that our client was forced to stop selling new work.

Our Analysis

In our interviews with the executive team and with former employees, we discovered that our client's hiring practices had not kept pace with their business practices. As a result, many people they hired from their industry simply did not “fit in” to their culture, which led to disappointment and high employee turnover.

Our clients outdated hiring practices were creating far more disgruntled former employees than happy new employees. As a result, the narrative being told in the close-knit industry about our client was not about their innovation, high standards or employee training. The story being told was dominated by misfit former employees…and most of them were unfairly calling our client a “sweatshop.” The collective weight of so many former employees badmouthing them explained why our clients recruiting efforts were failing, but they had no way of knowing this was occurring. Our client thought they were competitive in the market, and they assumed they still had a reputation for being a highly desirable firm.

When we closely examined the causes of employee turnover, we found that our client's hiring process was prioritizing the wrong things. Our client's hiring managers were quite stringent about what kinds of work experience they would consider, mistakenly preferring resumes with a long track record of success. What the managers failed to consider was the stark difference in work environment — success in a “mom & pop” organization was a very poor predictor of success in their professionally run organization.  In our methodical analysis of employee turnover, we found that a handful of competencies and cultural fit factors were far more likely to predict success on the job than any history of success in a less structured work environment.

The Result Of Our Work

We collaborated with our client to develop an integrated hiring and new hire training process that identified people with the right competencies and cultural fit factors. Rather than wasting time trying to retrain people who had been successful elsewhere, we focused on hiring people who were most likely to succeed with the proper training.

We also interviewed people across the entire organization to find ways to make the positions more appealing, such as adding a telecommuting option. Ultimately, we reworked our client's recruiting messages and job advertising to reflect a self-deprecating understanding that they were actively working on a turnaround. This message resonated with candidates and resulted in a dramatic upswing of interest among people who previously were uninterested.

Within a few months of engaging Staffing Advisors, our client was able to staff dozens of key positions, and is now fully staffed to support their growth. The turnover rate among new hires in the first 6 months was once 67%, and is now zero. As a result, their reputation has also dramatically improved. Our client is now receiving more employee referrals than ever before, reducing their recruiting costs while maintaining a full staffing level.