Author: Simon Forshaw, CEO
When I co-founded Polar Cape consulting in 2010, I had been a consultant since graduation. I had worked in large and small organisations, in three countries, and for multiple clients. I had seen great examples of what makes consultants motivated and loyal, and I had also seen the opposite. The opposite in this case displayed itself in the form of high staff turnover, and it’s knock-on effect was unhappy clients. Why? Because of lack of continuity. Because every time a consultant left, the client would feel the effects of lost knowledge and experience, and of a relationship that needed to be rebuilt.
When we first sat down to talk about what kind of company Polar Cape would be, then it quickly emerged that technology, competence areas, and industry expertise while important, would not distinguish us from the range of consulting firms in Sweden at the time. It wouldn’t satisfy our ‘why’ either. We wanted something more, and also something simpler to explain. In the beginning we called that Pride. If we could create a consulting company that our colleagues were truly proud of, then they would stay longer and stay motivated – and that would make for happier clients.
While the above is still true, I now know that this seed of an idea has given us so much more. To create a consulting company we could be truly proud of, we needed to create a great place to work, as well as delivering great solutions and services. That vision of a great workplace has become more and more central as we have realised along the way the host of other benefits it brings to our colleagues and the company, before, during, and after their time at Polar Cape.
Now more than ever it’s more than just a feel-good factor – it makes solid business sense. Especially for an IT consulting company in the hyper-competitive market right now. The best candidates have hundreds of options. If you can’t inspire them, motivate them to stay, and help them and the company to build a great network, then they will find somewhere else that will.
So what benefits am I talking about?
Firstly, recruitment. The experience of working at an IT consultancy can be very much centered on the assignment. Get a good one, then great. Get a not-so-good one and you need to have a plan from day one. That plan could be about helping consultants to make the most of it and make it better, finding other ways to help the client, or developing other competencies along the way. Or it may become about finding another assignment. If you can explain clearly to candidates what your vision is, what your priorities are, and what your workplace culture can offer them besides an assignment (which they can get elsewhere) then you are much more likely to land that recruitment. The more sought-after the candidates, the more important this is.
Secondly, loyalty. Once a consultant starts at the company, then you have to start delivering on your promises. Walking the talk and getting them involved in the company, so they can start living the workplace culture as well. A genuine dialogue about the assignments, competence development, and general well-being is key. People want to be seen, heard, and to make real human connections. The idea of intrapreneurship lives and dies on people feeling it is really their company too.
Thirdly, creating ambassadors. If your colleagues truly think that they are at a great workplace – they won’t keep it to themselves. They will spread the word. This is great for more recruitment, but also for sales. Clients want to work with companies where the employees are motivated, engaged, and positive. The best sales come from genuine and believable recommendations.
Finally, your network. While your squad of ambassadors will help your company while they are there, they can also help you immensely once they have left. If they have had a great experience from start to finish, then even when the time comes that they feel they must move on, they won’t forget that. Your network is not just about who is there now, but who has ever been there.
So yes, a great workplace makes you feel good about going to work and makes people motivated to do their best, but it can bring much more than that before, during, and after.