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E194 | The Evolution of the Professional Services Sector with Ray D’Cruz

If you’re in the legal, accounting or professional services sector and you’re looking to harness the intelligence and creativity of your partners and employees through performance management, don’t miss Ray D’Cruz, CEO of Performance Leader, a consulting and software for professional services firms, on Mind Your F**king Business Podcast. 

In this episode, Ray shares why firms should consider moving away from the annual performance review for partners and employees, to a more 360 review, incorporating client feedback and behavioural and project based feedback.

He discusses why prioritising leadership is vital in remote or hybrid organisations, why purpose is more important than ever before, and how nudge tools can benefit everyone. 

So, if you’re wondering how to leverage performance and feedback software in your professional services firm, download and listen today.

On today’s podcast:

  • The problem with a traditional performance review 
  • The benefit of continual performance management
  • Using nudge tech for hybrid working 
  • The growing interest in purpose


Transforming professional services firms with performance and feedback software with Ray D’Cruz

Ray D’Cruz is the CEO of Performance Leader, a market leading consulting and software business that helps professional services firms build a high performance firm. He does that by harnessing the creativity and intelligence of each firm’s partners and employees, enabling them to build a culture that engages, develops and rewards their people.

“I support the evolution of the professional services sector by trying to break down some of the barriers that exist within these places, and help them move into becoming much more progressive and engaging in diverse organisations.”

Why performance software and why professional services firms? 

Having worked in and with leading professional services firms as a lawyer, HR leader and now consultant, Ray understands the nuances of partnership structures and professional services firms.

“When I was looking at the application of HR software into the sector, I saw a real gap there. As for why performance and feedback, I guess we felt that amongst all of the HR technology suite, that’s probably the most strategic place to be.”

Generating results for clients

Almost every sector over the last few years has or is going through a digital transformation, whereas the professional services sector is only just at the beginning of the journey, which is where Ray and his team come in. They help professional services clients evolve, and Performance Leader’s technology and platform is intrinsic in this transformation. 

“You can’t have a true evolution of culture if you don’t have a performance and feedback culture. And with that performance and feedback culture, you get change enablement, but you get it at an organic or human level, as opposed to an imposed external level.”

So just what change are Ray and his team trying to bring about?

Well, says Ray, the challenges revolve around three things:

  1. Trying to become more collaborative in the way that these firms work together with their clients to solve complex problems. A lot of law and accounting firms don’t have a history of being collaborative, they’ve got a history of people working in silos. 
  2. Technology is becoming ubiquitous, says Ray. Automation is there. It’s not necessarily replacing roles, but it’s augmenting them. And so firms are having to become a lot more tech savvy, and a lot more innovative in the way they deliver their services.
  3. Helping the people who work in professional services become more collaborative and more innovative.

Creating a feedback framework

In traditional performance management the feedback typically comes from the manager. But as firms become more democratised and people work less in silos and more in project teams, feedback can come from a wider range of people from different groups. 

The feedback that is then generated is much more diverse and more project based because it’s real time feedback, as opposed to feedback in an annual appraisal, says Ray. 

“We’re moving away from the idea of a standalone annual review to an idea of formal check-ins, but augmented by constant feedback based on the job, [and] on projects from all sorts of people who they might work with, including clients.”

The issue with the traditional annual appraisal

There are good performance reviews, says Ray, and there are bad ones. That’s not to say that all annual appraisals should be scrapped, he caveats, they can be useful if they form part of a well constructed conversation. 

The problem with them is that managers tend to rely solely on them for performance management, no other inputs are considered. And as a result, recent memory syndrome and other biases have a tendency to creep in because managers haven’t been checking in regularly with their direct reports. 

“A big part of our role is not just trying to broaden out the feedback process to be more year round. But it’s to sit with that formal review process and the people that own it, and really delve into how it can be fixed, how we can reduce the pain points, how we can make sure people are better prepared, and how we can get people to the other end of it so that they actually say it was a valuable exercise.”

The benefits of continual performance management 

What impact does individual performance management have on the company’s overall performance? 

It helps draw out general themes around where the company could do better, says Ray, for example: employees not having enough clarity on their role, not having goals, not getting feedback, not getting recognition. 

In fact, says Ray, recognition is huge at the moment – with so many people working to a hybrid model meaning they’re out of sight and out of mind. 

Things like nudge tools are helping hybrid teams connect, encouraging managers who maybe haven’t seen direct reports all week to check in with them and have a catch-up. 

“The one thing I would say is that those firms that were well led before remote working, are generally the ones that have handled remote working better anyway. The ones that had struggled before are struggling even more now.”

The importance of purpose 

Purpose is an area that Ray sees an increasing interest in. More and more people want to know that what they’re doing is making a difference, that their work has a purpose beyond simply making money for the firm’s partners. 

“So much of what we do is built around structured processes, the best firms are taking a step back from those processes and looking at these things constantly. [They look ] at the data that’s coming out in a holistic way to try and see what patterns are emerging. And that’s a whole new strategic level of HR.”

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