Challenging projects and learning key for motivation of consultants

06 February 2024 Consultancy.com.au 3 min. read
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Consultants are happiest when they’re applying their skills to complex problems according to a survey from professional services platform provider Certinia, but many in the Asia Pacific feel underutilised.

Salesforce offshoot Certinia has put the spotlight on the consulting industry to determine what makes its professionals tick, drawing more than 1,000 responses from advisors across the US, Singapore and Australia.

The survey highlighted a number of regional differences in perception and motivation, with for example 28 percent of consultants in the Asia Pacific feeling as if their talents were being underutilised compared to 17 percent of those in North America.

Challenging projects and learning key for motivation of consultants

In compiling its report, Certinia notes that while product companies have a range of options at their disposal when attempting to boost revenues, such as increases in price or reduction in production costs, professional services organisations trade on two things that are not compressible: time and knowledge.

As such, the optimal deployment of these resources is essential for business performance, but it also has a bearing on talent retention. Understanding motivation is key.

According to the survey, one area of job satisfaction consistent across geographies was the desire to apply skills to tackling complex and interesting problems, cited by more than a third of the consultants in both the US and APAC.

Constantly adding to that skill-set was the second biggest factor for respondents stationed in APAC, at 28 percent, but less for their US counterparts, who placed more value on collaboration with colleagues in adjacent functions.

Yet locally, more than a quarter of the consultants stated underutilisation as the primary cause of job dissatisfaction, while almost a fifth pointed to missing out on opportunities to work on projects of interest or being forced to take on work they weren’t prepared for or skilled in – a figure only marginally lower than those who complained about being overworked or cited the unfair allocation of resources. Compensation didn’t factor in the top five responses.

Challenging projects and learning key for motivation of consultants

The research also found that having a clear career path and developmental opportunities was the most important characteristic of their roles for more than a third of the APAC respondents, while a healthy work culture also featured prominently at 28 percent, double the rate than in the US. Interestingly, both regions agreed that improving resource allocation was the most effective way to accelerate business results, attracting almost half of the responses across geographies.

“These findings underline the importance of aligning consultants with projects that not only match their current expertise but also offer growth opportunities,” states Certinia Vice President Seleen McKinnies, who heads up the firm’s business for the Asia Pacific. “However, it’s not just about keeping consultants busy; it’s about keeping them engaged in the right way. Consultants are seeking a culture where they can grow, and this growth is directly linked to how they are allocated to projects.”

One suggestion from Certinia – which started life as a Salesforce joint venture in 2009 before rebranding from FinancialForce last year after changing hands – to address any such issues of discontent is to provide consultants with a formal way to ‘raise their hands’ for specific projects as an inbuilt part of the resource allocation process, with the professional services industry-focused ERP provider stating that project allocation needs to be transparent, balanced and credible.