Best Consulting Firms To Work For In 2018

Shanghai, from the McKinsey & Company offices – Ethan Baron photo

In Vault’s Quality of Work and Life measurement, McKinsey produced higher scores from employees in 17 of the 22 categories. It also ranked among the top three consulting firms in 15 categories, sporting the highest scores in six categories: Diversity, Exit Opportunities, Interaction with Clients, Internal Mobility, International Opportunities, and Promotion Policies. What’s more, McKinsey finished in the Top 10 in every category except Travel Requirements — a miss that it shared with Bain and BCG.

McKinsey’s biggest improvements stem from work requirements and culture.  After finishing outside the Top 10 in both Hours in the Office and Work-Life Balance in 2017, McKinsey crept up to 10th in both categories. At the same time, McKinsey’s scores rose significantly in both Diversity (9.382 to 9.619) and Culture (9.349 to 9.540). Beyond fostering a softer and gentler workplace, McKinsey also shelled out big bucks over the past year, as evidenced by the compensation average jumping from 8.919 to 9.3326 — its biggest improvement in any category. Not surprisingly, Employee Satisfaction climbed from 9.052 to 9.350. Overall, McKinsey’s best performance came in Exit Opportunities (9.920), Business Outlook (9.868), Selectivity (9.839), Benefits (9.837), and International Opportunities (9.817).


Brian Rolfes, a McKinsey partner and global lead of recruiting

Brian Rolfes, a McKinsey partner and head of global recruiting, was pleased with McKinsey’s first place finish, attributing it to an array of cultural norms and strategic initiatives. “Our people and our candidates tell us that what they value is being able to do the best work with the best teams and generally be encouraged to be at their best so I am very encouraged by these positive rankings,” he writes to Poets&Quants. “I am especially pleased to see high ratings in areas such as Satisfaction, Firm Culture, Internal Mobility, Work-Life Balance and Overall Diversity. Whether it is increased maternity and paternity leave, our Take Time program, which gives consultants 5-10 weeks off between engagements, or our world class health benefits, we are focused on helping our people live full lives and be at their best. In my 20+ years at McKinsey, this is an exceptionally exciting time to be at the firm.”

Indeed, 2018 McKinsey survey respondents described the firm as a “leadership factory” with a “strong meritocracy.” For those willing to put in the work, the opportunities are endless says one McKinsey HR consultant. “I am surprised how many people plan to be here for 2 years yet stay 10. It is an amazing place to get great exposure to amazing products and then move on to an exciting role if it gets to be too much. The amount of interest you get having McKinsey on your resume is unreal. I have worked for firms that would rather hire people that can’t make it at McKinsey than top performers at Big 4 firms.”

McKinsey’s turnaround is even more impressive when its Quality of Work and Life scores are compared with its rivals. For example, against BCG, McKinsey notched higher scores by a 13-to-8 margin. McKinsey did trail BCG by .15 of a point or more in the Ability to Challenge, Culture, and Work-Life Balance categories. However, McKinsey made up any lost ground by besting BCG in Innovation, Internal Mobility, and Vacation Policy. Similarly, McKinsey beat out Bain by a 13-to-7 margin (with the firms tying in Selectivity). Here, Bain held the advantage in the Ability to Challenge and Compensation categories. As a whole, Bain finished .15 of a point or more behind McKinsey in Benefits, Diversity, Innovation, and Vacation Policy.


That’s not to say that runner-up BCG did anything wrong in the 2018 rankings. Long ranked among the most employee-friendly companies and a prolific developer of intellectual capital, BGC’s overall score actually rose from 9.171 to 9.218 over the past year. What’s more, BCG employees gave the firm higher scores in 14 Quality of Work and Life categories, with its biggest improvements coming in Relationships with Supervisors (+.327), Work-Life Balance (+.286), Selectivity (+.199), Employee Satisfaction (+.16), Culture (+.155), and Formal Training (+.125). At the same time, BCG produced the highest scores overall in three categories: Ability to Challenge, Benefits, and Selectivity.

Jason Guggenheim of BCG

So what went wrong? Like McKinsey, BCG’s prestige score — which is derived from consultants outside the firm —fell substantially…by .05 of a point to 8.623. In other words, due to evaluations based on outside opinions over internal experiences, BCG was unable to close the gap with McKinsey and remained lodged in 2nd place. Despite the disappointment, BCG remains committed to its fundamentals, comforted in the knowledge that the firm’s planning and progress will eventually win out.

“Over the past few years, we’ve enhanced the quality of life for consultants by focusing on several areas,” writes Jason Guggenheim, an Atlanta-based partner who leads BCG Recruiting in North America, in a statement to Poets&Quants. “First, we’ve offered greater flexibility around ‘approach to work’ in order to better accommodate personal life and passions. For example, we have a program called “Time for You” that allows consultants to take an eight-week unpaid leave of absence while keeping most of their benefits. Our staff has used the opportunity to climb mountains, race in regattas, do creative writing, and visit family in distant countries.”

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