THE McKINSEY MYSTIQUE
A brand is perhaps a company’s biggest asset. It creates a lore, images and storylines that establish a set of expectations. Just play word association with McKinsey & Company. Chances are, words like “prestige” and “power” would come to the fore. Secretive and selective, McKinsey has partnered with Fortune 100 royalty, serving as the finishing school for household name alumni like Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Founded in 1926, the firm also carries a certain mystique – the hidden hand that pulls the strings in business and politics.
In reality, McKinsey is hardly all-over and all-knowing. Alongside expertise, McKinsey boasts scale: an “enormous depth, breadth, and opportunity,” says Warren Teichner, a senior partner, in a 2019 interview with P&Q. The firm maintains 120 offices in 60 countries that cover two dozen practice areas. This wide-ranging exposure has helped McKinsey rank #1 in the Vault Consulting 50 Prestige ranking since 2007. Of course, consultants outside the firm set the firm’s Prestige score. Fair or not, Prestige gives McKinsey a built-in advantage over peers from the beginning. In the same vein, it also translates into greater opportunities for consultants, observes Kerry Casey.
“The scope and scale of McKinsey is unequaled, whether measured by industries, functions or countries. Our candidate research showed people want to make a difference through their work be it the difference in what they learn and how they grow or the difference they make in their client’s life, in their community, or in the world. In this ranking, we see the type of work and clients is at the top of reasons candidates join and that is something we consistently offer.”
A DOWN YEAR?
This year’s survey respondents echo these sentiments. Published anonymously, these McKinsey consultants touted the firm’s “incredible resources,” “unrivaled impact,” and “diverse set of experiences.” “I couldn’t think of a better place to launch a successful career,” writes one survey-taker. “This place teaches you everything, from how to interact with senior executives to structuring problems at any level of granularity.”
Not surprisingly, McKinsey ranked as the top firm for Exit Opportunities, a benefit that makes a rotation invaluable regardless of career aspirations. “I feel like I can go to any company in the U.S. looking for a job and be able to credibly say I can do the work they’ll ask me to do, and they’ll believe it,” adds another McKinsey respondent. “There’s tremendous opportunity to shape your own path through the firm. You can focus quickly or seek diversity in the engagements you take. Even if I don’t get promoted, I feel like I’ll be better prepared for what comes next than if I went directly into industry.”
Aside from Exit Opportunities, McKinsey remained entrenched as the best firm for Diversity, International Opportunities, Supervisor Relationships, and Selectivity. That said, McKinsey’s 2020 scores come with some ominous underpinnings. For one, the firm’s Prestige score dropped by .10 of a point. To put that into context, McKinsey was just one of three Top 20 firms to produce a lower Prestige score in 2020. A bigger worry involves Quality of Life and Work scores. Last year, McKinsey ranked #1 in 12 of 22 categories. This year, that total slipped to 5 of 21 categories (as Vacation Policies was removed in 2020). Notably, McKinsey lost the top spot in the Ability to Challenge, Benefits, Firm Leadership, Innovation, Internal Mobility, Firm Outlook, and Promotion Policies. Overall, McKinsey posted lower scores in 16 of 21 categories, including Compensation (-.271), Travel Requirements (-.242), and Ability to Challenge (-.237).
TRAINING IS PAYING OFF
Travel Requirements, however, is one area where McKinsey has been making steady strides, notes Kerry Casey. “One area we are focused on that has gotten a lot of positive feedback from our people is Mindful Travel – rethinking how we work with clients, how often teams are side-by-side with them, and what makes sense in terms of travel for client impact and our colleagues’ quality of life. We know our people enjoy flexibility in travel and have found that so do many of our clients.”
Training, both formal and informal, are two areas where McKinsey showed improvements for 2020 say survey respondents. The firm socks over $200 million dollars a year into training – and the investment is yielding results writes one survey respondent.
“McKinsey’s training is worth joining the firm. The faculty has been excellent and willing to serve as mentors to me. Informally, mentoring is in the DNA of the firm. I’ve never experienced a group of people who are so willing to support, teach, and encourage their colleagues—and accept help and advice from even new joiners. I doubt I could learn as much anywhere else.”
THE PEOPLE AND THE FLEXIBILITY
McKinsey’s highest score comes in Selectivity, the quality of people onboarded and retained at the firm. Here, the firm averaged a near-perfect 9.927 score – up .06 of a point. It also covers the area – people and culture –that excite new hires and long-time consultants the most, writes Casey.
“We want the best talent in the world and those talented people want to work with other exceptional people. We constantly try to give candidates a good glimpse into what our teams and overall culture are like so they can be confident of our supportive, interesting, welcoming and diverse culture. The people you get to work with here – colleagues and clients – are extraordinary and this is a main ingredient in McKinsey being at the top of the list so often.”
The firm’s flexibility doesn’t hurt either, adds another survey respondent. “No other firm allows you to select what you would like to work on, where you would like to work, and with whom you would like to work. You can truly do anything you would like if you push for it.”
Go to next page to see why the Boston Consulting Group moved up in the 2020 Vault Consulting 50.