Behavioural and Cognitive Professional Development Report 2016
Survey into the current state of behavioural and cognitive professional development in the professional services industry
Part 1 of our Behavioural and Cognitive Professional Development Report 2016 presents the key research findings from our survey into the current state of behavioural and cognitive development in the professional services industry.
In Part 2 of the report, PSfPS have determined the key trends that will affect the professional services industry in 2016 and beyond and the possible implications for firms with regards to learning and development strategy, managing client relationships and behavioural change.
Introduction to the report
In 2015, hundreds of participants from some of the world’s top and best-known professional services firms attended PSfPS behavioural and cognitive development programmes.
The top professional services firms remain dedicated to improving the knowledge, experience and capabilities of their people and understand that investing in on-going professional development is fundamental to initiating behaviour change and to the future growth of their firm.
Following every PSfPS programme we ask participants a set of questions about how they plan to embed the learning at their firms and what difficulties they anticipate in applying what they have learned.
Having analysed over a thousand participant responses to these questions over the past year, we have been able to gain a snapshot of the key issues facing the top professional services firms in the world today with regards to professional development and behaviour change. Please note that the analysis gives equal weight to each respondent, whatever the size of the firm and is essentially a sentimental survey, with all the strengths and weaknesses of such an approach.
Our research suggests the fundamental skills and behaviours required of those working in professional services are not intuitive and still need to be codified, learned, practiced and refined, especially in relation to critical thinking, communication, presenting with impact and business development.
Using critical thinking as an example, our findings suggest that despite the clear benefits, before attending a formal training event, individuals do not regularly use a structured analytical thinking process in their everyday work. Individuals that do have prior knowledge of the required process and skills, frequently find an inability to apply the theory in everyday activities often due to a scarcity of time (even though the use of the process saves time!) and senior management support.
With regards to instilling behaviour change and embedding the learning, participant data shows that culture and prevailing mindsets in professional services firms still create barriers.
There continues to be a disparity in some firms between the new behaviours and processes that employees learn, which should be to the benefit of their firms and how their performance is actually measured and rewarded once they are back in the workplace. Similarly, Senior
Managers often do not embody the behaviours or know the same processes that they are asking their more junior employees to utilise.
Participants’ responses suggest that behaviour change in professional services is not being effectively achieved because:
i. The act of sharing best practice and learning is not widely encouraged and mechanisms for sharing are rarely in place. Hence, employees simply go “back to the way we have always worked”;
ii. The prevailing culture in many professional services firms (short-term, metric-focused, ‘activity-driven’) means behavioural change is not always supported.