Best Consulting Firms To Work For In 2017

BCG consultant conducting a training session

BCG consultant conducting a training session


However, in the quality of the workplace arena, McKinsey slipped somewhat in Vault’s 2017 rankings, producing lower scores in 14 out of 21 quality of work categories (with diversity being added in 2017 and green initiatives and philanthropy being removed). In the past year, McKinsey consultants have grown increasingly restless, submitting slightly lower scores over the previous year in such notable areas as firm leadership (9.722 in 2016 vs. 9.668 in 2017), firm culture (9.527 vs. 9.349), hours in the office (8.58 vs. 8.201), travel requirements (8.96 vs. unranked…with the lowest score in the top 25 being 8.773), work-life balance (8.942 vs. 8.67), and overall satisfaction (9.292 vs. 9.052).

In other words, McKinsey consultants are feeling more overworked and less confident in their firm’s values and leadership. Such sentiments were the reason why McKinsey dropped from its perch —and it is a trend to watch in coming years. That’s particularly true considering McKinsey’s prestige score — which accounts for nearly a third of its ranking and was produced by consultants outside the firm —is what actually kept the firm within reach of BCG and Bain.

Vault’s Stott sees McKinsey’s fall in the 2017 rankings in a similar light. “The data shows that, while external prestige went up, the firm’s consultants were slightly less positive about those quality of life factors than in recent years,” he tells Poets&Quants. “Looking through the data, one thing that jumps out is hours: the industry as a whole has been extremely busy over the last couple of years and, as the leading firm in the industry, McKinsey seems to have been busier than most. That’s great from a business perspective, but for individual consultants it typically leads to longer hours with less down-time between assignments. That in turn tends to affect other factors like overall satisfaction, happiness with firm culture, work-life balance, etc., which is what I think led to the dip this year.”

Bain & Company Plaque.


In contrast, the Boston Consulting Group was easily the year’s biggest winner. It produced score increases in 18 of 21 quality of work categories (with the firm remaining unranked in two of those categories: travel requirements and hours in the office). Most notably, BCG made strides in the areas of compensation (9.432 in 2017 vs. 8.955 in 2016), firm culture (9.553 vs. 9.327), formal training (9.461 vs. 9.268), informal training (9.566 vs. 9.381), innovation (9.514 vs.9.252 ), internal mobility (9.013 vs. 8.719), promotion policies (9.408 vs.9.198), satisfaction (9.145 vs. 8.865), and vacation policies (9.474 vs. 9.154).

BCG consultants themselves have noticed a difference.  In recent Vault reviews, they have touted the firm’s “rewarding experiences,” “fast, transparent, merit-based promotions,” and “supportive culture.” Such sentiments are the fruit of an intensive effort at BCG to woo, retain and reward consultants, says Stott. “BCG has been doing a lot of work on its internal Quality of Life initiatives, something that Bain and McKinsey have been a little stronger on in recent years — and that came through in the scores the firm received from its consultants this year.”

Does this mean that BCG is here to stay? Stott notes that the firm has consistently been in the top three, which he considers a tremendous achievement. That said, he is bullish on BCG’s prospects. “The firm does seem to have been focusing more on its consultants’ quality of life — it’s doing some really interesting things around outplacement, for example — and I think that was reflected this year. There’s no reason that can’t continue next year too, but the overall position on the ranking is ultimately less important than the knowledge that, to get anywhere near the top of the Consulting 50, a firm has to be recognized by its employees as being a great place to work.”


Improving “quality of life” has become a mission at many top consulting firms, as they cast an eye towards a growing industry that is becoming increasingly hungry and competitive for talent. Few firms execute quality of life as well as Bain & Company, this year’s top consulting firm. In Vault’s 2017 survey, Bain topped all firms in eight categories: culture, leadership, formal and informal training, supervisor relationships, business outlook, selectivity, and employee satisfaction. “Bain is incredibly flexible on travel, and Bain strives to create a sustainable experience for all members of the team,” one Bain consultant shared with Vault. “Additionally, I feel that I have time to pursue my interests outside of work and those activities are encouraged. I find an hour every day to work out and I don’t feel like I’m constantly plugged in.”

Although Bain & Company claimed the top spot, their survey results were decidedly mixed, with the firm showing improvement in just 9 of 21 quality of work categories. In particular, the firm lost ground in benefits (9.535 in 2017 vs. 9.602 in 2016) and firm culture (9.773 vs. 9.869). That said, Bain also enjoyed substantive improvements in vacation policies (9.474 vs. 8.933). Overall, the differences between 2016 and 2017 averages were nominal. By virtue of their steadiness, Bain was able to fend off a surging BCG and overcome a waning McKinsey.

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