According to Philip Stott, the consulting industry editor at Vault, Bain’s secret is paying attention to all aspects of the employee experience. “Bain makes a great effort with everything from onboarding new hires, to training, career development and, of course, compensation. One of the areas where they’ve had most success is in their efforts to mitigate work-life balance issues – that’s something that comes across really strongly in the ratings and comments we see from employees.”
In particular, Bain employees cited the firm’s esprit de corps and leadership as its biggest selling points. “Embedded in the DNA of every person at Bain is a sense of collaboration and relationship building,” wrote one respondent. “Working with people who all want to help me out massively makes the job more enjoyable.” Another lists management’s deep empathy as a major advantage. “What we do is inherently difficult and stressful…Having said that, Bain leaders all have lives and understand that we do, too. They work hard to make sure that we stay balanced, sometimes going so far as pushing teams NOT to work on weekends… It’s gratifying to be part of a culture as balanced as Bain’s.”
This grounded mindset also explains why Bain ranked #1 in 16 survey categories, including firm leadership, training, internal mobility, relationship with supervisors, and overall satisfaction. It also earned the highest marks in five of six diversity categories, including minorities, women, disabled, and the LGBT community.
MCKINSEY REIGNS AS THE “MOST PRESTIGIOUS” FIRM
The runner-up, McKinsey, also focuses heavily on quality of life according to survey respondents. “This [job] takes hard work and sometimes long hours,” says one respondent. “The best thing [about McKinsey], in my opinion, is the respect for boundaries. There are certain things I won’t do to compromise my life balance, and I have had Partners take the load to protect that.” Another employer lauded McKinsey’s programs to create greater flexibility in employees’ lives. “McKinsey makes available many individual opportunities to balance work with personal life/goals, such as part-time, take-time, and sabbatical programs. [These programs]…do actually improve quality of life in a demanding career of a McKinsey consultant.”
For the 13th consecutive year, McKinsey held the crown as the industry’s “Most Prestigious” firm. In the survey, peers described the firm as “innovative,” “thought leaders,” “the “gold standard,” and “strategy consulting at its best.” Along with this honor, McKinsey also ranked #1 in consulting sectors like energy, economics, healthcare, management, retail, and strategy.
So what inevitably turned the overall rankings in Bain’s favor? While McKinsey dominated the prestige metric, Bain eked it out on quality on life, Stott says. “This year, Bain’s quality of life really came through strongly, which made all the difference for them. Again, there was a slight dip in McKinsey’s QOL scores this year, but it may be attributable to the strong demand for consulting services we’ve been seeing.”
MERGER COULD CREATE WAVES
In April, Booz & Company completed its merger with PwC to form Strategy&, combining this year’s #4 and #6 firms. And this could shake up the industry going forward, explains Stott. “The big question in the industry is how Strategy& will fare now that it is “part of the PwC network.” That’s the firm that I’ll be looking for in next year’s survey responses – do we finally have the firm that is going to challenge the big strategy shops (McKinsey, Bain and BCG)? How has the scale of PwC affected things like outlook and culture for employees? How are the two outfits integrating? And, of course, the prestige question: how will the new firm fare with an unfamiliar name?”
Stott is also curious to see how Deloitte evolves over the next year. “It’s the other one of the Big Four professional services firms that is trying to make a bigger play in the consulting market, he observes.” In the 2015 rankings, Deloitte jumped two spots to #5. What’s more, it is beefing up its efforts to better the work lives of its consultants, says one survey respondent. “We are a consulting firm in transition on how we manage quality of life. Career flexibility has always been created for individuals because of the culture of the firm, but initiatives such as “Go Flex” and others have formalized our commitment to innovate the model for aligning our work to the individual needs of each of our practitioners.”
Overall, the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) scored the #3 ranking behind Bain and McKinsey, followed by Strategy& (formerly Booz & Company), Deloitte Consulting, and PwC. The biggest surprise could be A.T. Kearney, which slipped eight spots to #17. However, this could be partially based on similarly-ranked firms raising their scores across the categories according to Stott. Similarly, the Analysis Group and Charles River Associates plunged twelve and thirteen spots respectively (to #23 and #26).
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