Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the 2018 Vault 50 rankings was that Quality of Work and Life scores rose at most consulting firms. That’s no accident, as firms are increasingly recognizing that they are no longer just competing against each other. Instead, they are battling for talent against everyone from Wall Street barons and Silicon Valley scions to thriving middle markets and accelerator-bred startups. As such, culture and work-life balance are increasingly eclipsing pay as differentiators for prospective employers says Vault’s Stott. “To me, there’s been a confluence of a couple of things: the rise of the millennial generation into these positions (because that’s an attitude they’ve been espousing for years), and also a sign that the economy is stable and we’re in an employee’s market. People are more likely to consider beyond the paycheck when they have the luxury of choice, and benefits tend to become a bit more lavish to attract top talent as a result.”
As scores have shown, the Big Three have embraced this new reality, which has intensified the pressure on their niche counterparts. “What’s really interesting is that this year we saw the bigger firms start to close the gap on boutiques in terms of work-life balance and other quality of life issues — areas that are typically much better at boutiques,” Stott adds. “The industry seems like it can’t keep up with demand for services; a lot of the boutiques are growing fast, which tends to lead to longer hours and more stress for employees as there’s typically less slack in smaller organizations that can be deployed at crunch times.”
In some ways, this is a positive development. After reading 9,000 survey responses, Stott has taken note that demand for consulting services is indeed growing. This demand — and its impact on nonmonetary compensation — is something that Stott will be monitoring closely in the coming year.
“If the employee’s market continues (and, barring a downturn in the economic cycle, there’s no reason it shouldn’t), companies are going to find themselves facing even more pressure to offer flexible hours, work-from-home arrangements, reduced travel schedules and the like,” Stott adds. “So I’d expect to see a lot more of that in the medium-term future, along with a continuation in the trend towards trying to retain consultants beyond the traditional 2-3 year stint–that’s partially why firms have been upping their game around things like parental leave, which are crucial if you want to keep people around for the long haul.”
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