Consultants fear that WFH affects soft skills in new hires

Sujjan Talwar, co-founder and partner at Mumbai-based law firm Economic Laws Practice, recalls his days as an intern in 1995. He and his fellow newcomers had to mingle with customers at a wine and cheese event held by a London-based mason firm. (now Pinsent Freemasons). A group of 20 trainee lawyers, including Talwar, were required to “work the room”. The next day, the trainee lawyers were tasked with writing specific messages to clients about the interaction, and the senior partners judged them on the responses they received.

Fast forward to today, and Talwar worries that some of the younger lawyers at the firm may be missing out on important networking skills, interpersonal training and the “polish” that senior partners pass on to new hires after work. home policy implemented after the pandemic.

“Some of the soft skills young lawyers learn just by observing senior partners, such as being mindful of cultural nuances when talking to clients, having difficult conversations with them, or putting down the pen when they want more time to think of an answer. leaders are active,” said Talwar.

From chatting to ordering wine to breaking the ice with clients, top consultancies and law firms are increasingly realizing that young executives miss the personal attention from senior executives that helps develop them as leaders.

Many firms are now asking young people to get used to virtual meetings to meet with clients if they don’t come to the office, or they’re providing additional training to make sure firms have a well-rounded pipeline of leads.

“When you interact with your clients in person, you basically build a relationship that goes beyond work and that relationship is more symbiotic than just connecting virtually with your client for meetings,” said Sanjeev Krishan, Chairman, PwC India.

Consulting, professional services and law firms develop talent through an apprenticeship and mentorship model. After the coronavirus hit, firms had to develop hybrid solutions to get up and running quickly. “In the last two years, 40% of the people at the firm are new, so mergers have been an issue for some time,” said Janmejaya Sinha, chairman, BCG India. “We have systems in place to ensure that new hires receive the necessary guidance and mentoring. I tell my consultants not to travel for the experience, but to build relationships. Face-to-face meetings are critical to building trust with customers and internal stakeholders.” Senior executives told ET that all consultancies focus on culture and values, which are best imbibed when new hires see seniors living these values ​​in their daily interactions with clients and colleagues.

Top firms say that while WFH works in certain situations, developing softer skills requires human interaction. “For a firm like ours with a strong values-based organizational culture, it is imperative that senior lawyers ‘pay it forward’ by imparting values ​​and best practices. This helps us maintain a competitive edge,” said Padmini Rathore, CEO of DSK Legal. “In consulting businesses, it’s critical that mentors provide guidance and help young employees make difficult decisions and explore growth opportunities.”


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