2
The People Case for
Collaboration
T
oday’s knowledge-based firms are increasingly fighting a
war not only for clients and profitsas detailed in the pre-
vious chapterbut also for talent.
Senior partners everywhere recognize that this war has multiple
origins. In many places, increased partner mobility has fostered
the emergence of a free-agent mentality. Encouraged by growing
legions of headhunters, knowledge workers today have a keen sense
of their value in the marketplace, and face far fewer cultural taboos
about jumping ship for a more lucrative offer. In some of the hot-
test markets, it is not unusual for professionals with an in-demand
specialty to receive three or more calls every week from recruiters
or competitors.
In many professional fieldsincluding law, accounting, engi-
neering, and consultingthe entrance of international firms
into previously domestic markets has fueled competition for
top-end partners. For example, when US firms began their push
into London, stories abounded of City lawyers doubling or even
Chapter_02.indd 43 05/10/16 11:38 pm
44SMART COLLABORATION
tripling their income by joining the first wave of partners to sign
up with those newcomers. But despite spending huge sums of
money and vast amounts of partners’ time and energy recruiting
these stars, many firms struggle to properly integrate their lateral
hires. My research helps to explain how this failure stems in large
part from collaboration problemsand also points to some clear
remedies.
But even firms that are not yet facing these kinds of interna-
tional incursions may experience another kind of pressure that
arises strictly from within the organization. Leaders have to be
constantly vigilant about their firm’s health—broadly defined, to
include both financial health and high moraleor risk losing their
hottest talent to spin-offs.
Of course, it’s partly about recruiting the right people. But just
as important, it’s about helping them be productive and engaged
in their positions. David Maister, the preeminent professional ser-
vices guru of the last quarter-century or so, observed a number of
years ago that there is a “close connection between morale, com-
mitment, and productivity in professional service firms.
1
Research
in the intervening decadesmuch of it focusing on the psycholog-
ical forces that tend to predominate in the workplacehas con-
rmed that observation.
Today we have a pretty robust understanding of the complex
relationships between collaboration, partners’ motivation and atti-
tudes toward their firms, and, ultimately, their retention levels. My
own research and survey work, based on a wide range of firms
around the world, builds on and extends these findings. As we did
with the financial benefits covered in chapter 1, here we look at a
complementary data set—hard evidence that makes it clear that
collaboration can make an important and unique contribution to
building the people resource at knowledge-based firms.
This chapter lays out the case for collaboration as a winning
strategy for integrating laterally hired experienced talent and mak-
ing them more productive, attracting and retaining the best talent
(especially millennials), keeping your talent motivated and engaged
while they’re with you, and even maintaining them as “friends of
the firm” when they leave.
Chapter_02.indd 44 05/10/16 11:38 pm

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