A firm’s success falls largely on how tactfully they organize and delegate limited resources. Resource allocation is especially important for professional services firms since their most valuable resources are their people. If talent isn’t being utilized effectively, not only do client services suffer, but workforce issues like disengagement and burnout can emerge, leading to a vicious cycle.
At the same time, the professional services industry faces unique resource allocation challenges. Associates work on numerous projects throughout the year, directed by different managers and partners. This creates a workflow with many moving parts, and a clearly defined resource allocation process is vital for keeping all players coordinated.
In response to these needs, tech solutions are being made available to support the work allocation process from end to end. The right software helps firms establish a consistent workflow while taking care of all three roles — associates, resource managers, and partners. Take a look at this tech-enabled workflow below.
A tech-enabled resource allocation workflow for professional services firms
1. Partner initiates a customized request for associates
The work allocation process usually kicks off with a partner looking for workers for an upcoming project. The partner knows the skill requirements for the job but doesn’t necessarily have the time or the tools to locate the right people.
A request for resources often includes a number of details about the job, such as the project name, the due date, the number of hours needed, the client name, and whether there is travel involved. It can also include desired associate abilities, such as areas of expertise, required experience, or language skills.
Importantly, by targeting specific competencies, the request process forces an objective approach to work allocation. This inhibits unconscious bias, a common occurrence in the professional services industry when partners revert to selecting workers based on familiarity over skill sets.
2. Resource manager assigns ideal associates to the project
Next, the request to staff the project is sent to the next player in the allocation process. Depending on the firm, this role may be occupied by someone with a resource manager title, or it may be assigned to someone in another department like HR or operations.
Clicking the email request takes the manager into the resource allocation platform, where he or she can begin to search for associates to assign the project. Customized search filters support a highly targeted search process, as managers quickly locate workers based on availability, associate level, demographics, and skill sets.
This refined search allows admins to locate candidates who are best suited to the project and who will benefit most from the opportunity. For example, if the job description indicates exciting, client-facing work, the manager can tailor their search toward new hires who will benefit from challenging work and opportunities to meet clients. This is important because a lack of growth opportunities is one of the top reasons employees want to leave their jobs.
When the manager has finalized their staffing choices, they submit them through the platform. An email is instantly sent to the partner and the associates, notifying them of the assignment.
3. Associates receive real-time feedback on their performance
Once an associate has begun working on a project, they are eligible to receive feedback on their performance. The feedback process is optional but is made simple with a customizable feedback form.
At any time, an associate can request feedback from a partner or a partner can decide to leave feedback for an associate. Managers can also ask partners for feedback on associates, for instance, to follow up on a recent hire. In all of these cases, feedback requests are submitted through the system, and users are notified via their email inboxes.
Firms can also choose to incorporate feedback into the workflow by setting time-triggered feedback requests using the software. To illustrate, 30 hours into an assignment, the system can automatically send an email to an associate prompting them to request feedback from a partner. This ensures that feedback is a regular part of the workflow, which seems to be what employees are looking for — surveys suggest that 63% of Gen Z workers desire timely constructive feedback throughout the year, and workers are 2.7x more likely to be engaged when this feedback is weekly instead of annual.
4. Associates update their availability in real-time
An associate has been assigned work, and they can now update their availability in real-time through the resource allocation platform. In just a few clicks, the associate can fill in when and where they are working (e.g., in office, remote, at a client’s location).
The system can also remind employees to update their availability on a weekly basis. For example, every Thursday, associates can be prompted by email to update their availability in the platform before the end of the week. Workers can also fill in their forecasted availability, blocking off the calendar two weeks or four weeks into the future and marking in long-term absences like vacation time.
Firms can choose to have associates update their availability in number of hours or with color-coded options ranging from “not busy” to “extremely busy.” Either way, these workforce insights are highly valuable for capacity planning and resource management. With real-time workload monitoring, managers can identify associates at risk of over- or under-utilization and take steps to correct unmanageable workloads — one of the top causes of burnout.
5. Resource manager uses analytics to course-correct
At any stage of the workflow, a manager can consult key analytics using the work allocation system’s dashboard. This central area showcases an abundance of data, allowing the admin to pinpoint important workforce trends and make smarter resource management decisions.
These analytics include big picture data. For example, a manager can see which offices are the busiest — they can then decide to pull employees from less busy offices and assign them to work remotely for an office that is swamped. The dashboard also includes more specific data, like which employees are billing the most and the least hours.
This data helps managers solve staffing issues before they come up — for example, a manager can easily identify the least busy associates (who may be at risk of leaving for better growth opportunities) and the most busy associates (who may be at risk of leaving due to burnout). They can then proactively adjust their work allocation to keep all employees engaged and supported.
With options to include diversity info, firms can also keep an eye on the equal distribution of work. For example, marginalized workers such as women and people of color are less likely to advance at work, and 25% of women feel underutilized on the job. Dashboard analytics, in addition to customizable reports, provide firms with the necessary data to ensure equal opportunity for all staff.
An end-to-end resource allocation platform
vi by Aderant’s Resource Allocation system is a feature-rich software designed to handle every step of the above workflow.
With robust workflows and a seamless experience for every role, the platform facilitates a resource allocation process that works for all players involved. Partners can request the help they need for upcoming projects, associates can keep track of their assignments, and resource managers can assign work and access the necessary analytics to make the best possible staffing decisions.
Ready to see if viResourceAllocation is right for your firm?