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8 23 2010
»The Best Firms to Work For, 2010

The Best Firms To Work For 2010

This is a year of transition, as firms shift their focus from cost cutting to growth. And this pivot can also be illustrated in consultants’ renewed satisfaction in their firms, according to Consulting’s 2010 Best Firms to Work For survey.

The Best Firms to Work For 2010
1. Bain & Company 9. Accenture
2. The Boston Consulting Group 10. Slalom Consulting
3. North Highland 11. Milliman
4. Point B 12. Booz & Company
5. McKinsey & Company 13. A.T. Kearney
6. Deloitte Consulting 14. Capco
7. Booz Allen Hamilton 15. PRTM
8. PricewaterhouseCoopers  
The Best Small Firms to Work For 2010
1. Stroud Consulting 9. Alpha Financial Markets Consulting
2. Impact Advisors 10. Plus Consulting
3. SkillStorm 11. IBB Consulting
4. Infinitive 12. Jabian Consulting
5. Agility Solutions 13. West Monroe Partners
6. Cumberland Consulting 14. Acquis Consulting Group
7. The Marshall-Teichert Group 15. Fitzgerald Analytics
8. Centric Consulting  

The Best Firms By Service Line 2010
  1. PricewaterhouseCoopers
  2. Alvarez & Marsal
  3. Ernst & Young
  4. KPMG
  5. FTI
Definition of the Consulting Service Lines Used in the Best Firms to Work For Survey
  • Strategy
    Consulting services intended to improve the long-term growth prospects of a company and the capabilities to enable that growth.
  • Operations Management
    Consulting services that improve the effectiveness of the client’s value chain, including each of the major processes in client operations.
  • Human Resources
    Consulting services aimed at managing the employee "lifecycle," consulting around the people component of change management.
  • IT Consulting and Implementation
    Consulting services aimed at improving business performance through leveraging technology in processes and decision making.
  • Business Advisory Services
    Financial and risk advisory services that reduce risk exposure for clients through assuring and justifying business decisions, assuring regulatory compliance and supporting the identification, reduction and management of business risk.
  • Multi-Service
    Consulting services that blend one or more of the above service lines.
Human Resources
  1. Milliman
  2. Aon Consulting
Information Technology
  1. Capgemini
  2. Avanade
  3. Wipro
  4. Tata Consulting Services
  1. Deloitte Consulting
  2. Accenture
  3. Capco
  4. KEMA
  5. Diamond Management and Technology Consultants
  6. IBM Global Services
  1. Point B
  2. A.T. Kearney
  3. PRTM
  4. Oliver Wyman Group
  5. Kurt Salmon Associates
  1. Bain & Company
  2. Boston Consulting Group
  3. North Highland
  4. McKinsey and Company
  5. Booz Allen Hamilton

The Top Ten Firms In...
The Job
  1. Bain & Company
  2. Point B
  3. North Highland
  4. Booz & Company
  5. The Boston Consulting Group
  6. PRTM
  7. Oliver Wyman Group
  8. A.T. Kearney
  9. Capco
  10. Kurt Salmon Associates
Career Development
  1. Bain & Company
  2. The Boston Consulting Group
  3. North Highland
  4. McKinsey & Company
  5. Avanade
  6. Deloitte Consulting
  7. PricewaterhouseCoopers
  8. Accenture
  9. Oliver Wyman Group
  10. Capgemini
What Makes a 'Best Firm'?
To be named a Best Firm to Work For, consultancies were ranked in six categories. Each measures a different aspect of a Best Firm, and each poses its own challenges in today’s market environment. The following describes the issues at play within each category.

The Job
This category reflects the quality of work consultants perceive their firm is doing. It is not a measure of the actual work being done, but the more valuable a firm’s consultants perceives their work to be, the more engaged they tend to be in their client’s—and firm’s—success.

Firm culture reflects the shared values, standards, ethics, and goals of a firm. Gone are the days when firms would hire a generation of future partners from a leading campus and hone their skills and ethos over the course of a career. Today’s firms are comprised of talent that has spent years at other firms, and in other industries. Building and sustaining a strong culture, despite the lack of homogony in background and life experiences, becomes all the more difficult.

Economic uncertainty tests leadership in big ways. The layoffs of 2009 tested their decision-making and internal communication skills. In 2010, leadership had to chart a new course and generate confidence in the firm’s direction. The more confidence the rank and file consultants have in their leaders, the more apt they are to be happy at their firm. But the opposite is also true.

Career Development
The campus pipeline is just starting to be refilled this year, which will force some promotions up through the higher staffing levels. However, setting and communicating those goals is a challenge. Handling it well can make consultants want to stay with your firm longer; doing it poorly can encourage defections.

Work/Life Balance
This category reflects how well consultants perceive their firm as enabling them to balance their life outside of their day job. Given the heavy work and travel regiment required, this is a difficult task. But understanding which firms handle this challenge can go a long way to identifying true employers of choice.

Compensation & Benefits
This category reflects consultants’ satisfaction with their compensation and non-cash benefits and does not necessarily reflect which firms pay the most. The happier consultants are with their job, the more they’re willing to settle for making less. Such is the case with consultants from smaller firms who continue to report higher satisfaction despite smaller paychecks. But when consultants are unhappy, this category tends to be the easy scapegoat for their frustrations.
  1. McKinsey & Compnay
  2. Bain & Company
  3. Point B
  4. The Boston Consulting Group
  5. North Highland
  6. Capco
  7. Deloitte Consulting
  8. PricewaterhouseCoopers
  9. Kema
  10. Booz Allen Hamilton
Work/Life Balance
  1. Bain & Company
  2. Point B
  3. The Boston Consulting Group
  4. North Highland
  5. Booz Allen Hamilton
  6. Booz & Company
  7. Deloitte Consulting
  8. PricewaterhouseCoopers
  9. Accenture
  10. Kema
  1. Point B
  2. Bain & Company
  3. The Boston Consulting Group
  4. North Highland
  5. McKinsey & Compnay
  6. Capco
  7. Slalom Consulting
  8. Milliman
  9. PRTM
  10. Deloitte Consulting
Compensation/Benefits Satisfaction
  1. The Boston Consulting Group
  2. Bain & Company
  3. North Highland
  4. Milliman
  5. Slalom Consulting
  6. Point B
  7. Booz Allen Hamilton
  8. Diamond Management and Technology Consultants
  9. Accenture
  10. Capgemini
Which Categories Are Firms Making The Most/Least Improvements

Morale Rebounds to 2007 Levels

Based on a sample of nearly 8,000 professionals, consultants report they are at least marginally happier than they were a year ago. The improvements are small, but real. And after a couple of years of declining satisfaction levels, this year’s survey results suggest that firms are starting to do a better job of refocusing on their most valuable assets: their consultants.

Based on an index scale of 1 to 5, the overall satisfaction levels of this year’s survey participants rose slightly from 4.21 to 4.27. This uptick should not be seen as a sign that all staff retention issues have been resolved — indeed, there is still significant frustration among many consultants. However, the good news is that the profession’s largest firms appear to be heading in the right direction again.

Utilization Rates Slipping, But Remain HighCompared to a similar survey Consulting conducted in the summer of 2009, the biggest improvements were made in the areas of firm culture and work/life balance. But there were some areas where the profession took another step backward, especially around the areas of job performance and firm leadership.

This mixed bag of results is reflected in a couple of key indicators. First, consultants — at every staff level — report working fewer hours than they did in 2009. While the average consultant stilled punched in almost 53 hours per week, it’s still more than an hour less per week than they reported in 2009. However, there’s not much down time; average utilization rates remain above 80 percent for those below the director/manager level. While it’s a bit of a let up compared to last year, the workload is still heavy.

The average consultant is also traveling less than they did just a few years ago; down 11 percent since 2008. However, travel is still a major part of the job, requiring the average consultant to sleep an average of 88 nights a year away from home. There are also fewer road warriors; only about 15 percent of the profession now travels at least 150 days per year, down from 25 percent in 2009 and 33 percent in 2008. A dramatic drop, by any measure. This decline can, in part, be attributed to cost cutting efforts. But it’s likely even more attributable to a slowdown in demand.

Annual Number of Training Hours Falls 19 Percent in Two YearsWhile working and traveling a little less can help relieve burnout pressures, those two trends only service to further exacerbate profitability challenges. As we saw last year, as bottom line pressures mount, firms continue to reduce their internal spending.

Specifically, respondents reported a continued decline in their firm’s staff training. The average consultant reported receiving approximately 38 hours of professional training in 2010, down 19 percent from 2008 levels. Firms also continue to shift their training budget toward online efforts and away from live, off-site training sessions.

And these and other cutbacks are not lost on consultants.

Despite the progress firms are making across various job satisfaction categories, there are still deep-seeded frustrations. Here’s a sampling of feedback from the survey.

  • Leadership
    You have to manage your career with little help from management. Here’s the rope, climb the mountain or hang yourself...
  • Career Development
    My firm has only a vague career track with no clear compensation model.
  • Compensation/Benefits Satisfaction
    Your work will double, but salary may not.
  • Firm Culture
    The company cares little about individual employees. Supervisors and managers do not recognize achievements or successes, but focus on the negatives when they arise.

    I’d warn prospective consultants about my firm’s lack of career progression, inadequate compensation (almost always below market), poor people management, top-heavy organization, internal politics (every man for himself vs. team orientation), and unresponsive HR.
  • Work/Life Balance
    The concept of a work life balance is talked about, but only as an afterthought.

Which Large Firms Have the Highest Morale?

Where Are the Best Places to Start a Career
The perspective of those at the bottom of a consulting firm is quite different from those at the top, according to Consulting’s 2010 Best Firms to Work For survey. In general, junior consultants feel they have less input and control into: firm strategy, their own career paths, and client projects. As a result, they tend to report far lower job satisfaction than those at the top. Surprising? Not really. But here’s why you should care: Due to the lack of engagement, those at the Consultant/Recent MBA level and below report that they plan to spend no more than 3.5 years, on average, at their current firm.

Given that most firms already cleared their payrolls of underperforming consultants during the downturn, the remaining high performing consultants are the ones the firms
can least afford to lose. But without significant changes, many of those you’ve carried through the downturn and are counting on to help grow the firm are looking to defect as soon as opportunities arise elsewhere.

To make the necessary changes requires partners to change the cultural and compensation models that have rewarded their behavior. “Almost all partners say they work for a great firm. And it’s their ‘culture’ that defines their firm’s greatness. But when the attitudes of the rank and file staff don’t reflect it, the words ring hollow,” says Tom Rodenhauser, Managing Director, Kennedy Consulting Search Group.

Even if partners accept that significant change is needed to retain their top junior talent, transformation doesn’t come easy. “What is the incentive for partners to change their culture — especially when they say they’re satisfied and feel valued by the culture they’ve helped to build?,” Rodenhauser says. Where do these changes need to be made? According to Consulting’s survey, the biggest gaps between junior and senior perspectives are in issues related to work/life balance and compensation/benefits satisfaction.
Specifically, junior consultants voiced frustration over the lack of interesting assignments.

So, where's the Best Place to Start a Career?
  1. Bain & Company
  2. The Boston Consulting Group
  3. Deloitte Consulting
  4. McKinsey & Company
  5. A.T. Kearney
  6. KPMG
  7. North Highland
  8. Alvarez & Marsal
  9. Stroud Consulting
  10. PRTM
To determine which firms have the most satisfied junior consultants, we analyzed the results of approximately 1,750 consultants at the entry level/analyst and the consultant/recent MBA levels. Their results were weighed within the same six categories used to rank the overall Best Firms to Work For: job performance, leadership, work/life balance, culture, career development, and compensation/ benefits satisfaction.

Consultants Across All Staff Levels Are Working, Billing Fewer Hours
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