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8 22 2011
»The 2011 Best Firms to Work For: 1) Bain & Company

What’s left to be said about Bain & Company’s utter dominance on Consulting’s annual Best Firms to Work For survey? For the ninth consecutive year, Bain & Company walked away with the No. 1 ranking. But to fully appreciate the accomplishment, one has to look a little deeper inside the survey numbers.

In 2011, Bain finished tops in five of the six categories the survey measures: Culture, Client Engagement, Firm Leadership, Career Development and Compensation & Benefits. (Last year, Bain finished first in four of the six.) In the only category it didn’t win, Work/Life Balance, Bain finished behind three much smaller firms. In fact, those three firms combined wouldn’t top the total number of consultants at Bain & Company.

To try to get a better understanding of what makes Bain & Company such a special place to work, Consulting sat down with three Bain executives—Steve Ellis, Worldwide Managing Director; Russ Hagey, Chief Talent Officer; and Paul Meehan, Regional Managing Director, Asia Pacific—to share their insights into how the firm manages to stay on top year after year.

Steve Ellis on Being The Best Firm to Work For
“Our ranking as the ‘Best Firm to Work For’ is a source of great pride for our global team. The fact that this ranking is based solely on employee feedback across all the firms in our industry makes this recognition all the more relevant and rewarding. In our view this is the most credible benchmark in our industry. Our people and our culture are our primary source of differentiation in a very competitive market. Based on our rigorous client feedback process we know this is what sets us apart from our competition. It’s also the primary message our clients use when recommending Bain to their colleagues and friends. So any external validation reinforces what our team and our clients experience in our day-to-day work together.

“We also use this recognition as motivation. We’ve been able to sustain this track record by never resting on our laurels or being complacent. As with our clients’ businesses, we are not satisfied with the status quo, instead challenging ourselves and empowering our teams around the globe to constantly refine and adapt the way we work to meet the evolving needs of our clients and people. We’re compelled to constantly raise the bar, and we dig a little deeper into the ‘Best Firm to Work For’ results to understand where we scored well and where we could have scored higher and how. This commitment to continuous improvement is an essential part of our formula for success.”

Russ HageyRuss Hagey on Culture and Career Development
“It is hard to put a singular label on the Bain culture so we tend to use three—an incredible combination of people, passion and results. Our staff are the engine that drives our culture and all of its innovations. You can see and feel our culture whether working on a client growth strategy, helping a colleague five time zones away, mentoring local school children, transforming a non profit organization’s local impact, competing in Bain’s World Cup or simply playing (or singing!) in the Bain Band. These all make up threads of Bain’s culture and display our spark for fun and impact that continues to make this place special.
“We continue to see the great deal of excitement in our Bain Cares (community and social sector) activities as another manifestation of our culture of people/passion/results. From our heritage of local pro bono efforts to innovating and launching The Bridgespan Group (today’s leading consulting firm to the non-profit sector) to our globally coordinated Bain Cares efforts in delivering community and NGO impact, we see another vast tapestry for impact in a unique Bain way. This too forms a special bond and reinforces our culture of impact regardless of how one measures that impact.

“And what better testament to the state of culture at Bain than being awarded the “Best Firm to Work For” recognition in the entire consulting industry—an award based solely on employee feedback—for the 9th year in a row. Part of the high morale at Bain can probably be attributed to the fact that our business is doing quite well—in fact, our revenues are up this year over a record 2010. Several sectors particularly are on very strong trajectories, like oil and gas, where revenues have been growing around 30 percent per year over the past several years. The bottom-line: Our people are energized by the continued growth and momentum we’re experiencing, as well as the exciting work that we’re performing for clients around the globe. It’s motivating to be part of a winning team.

“[In terms of career development], Bain provides the best practical experience in our industry given our focus on results. We are striving and delivering on our commitment to provide the best-integrated business experience—that of a CEO’s perspective. Bain consultants are known for solving the toughest business problems, acting decisively to deliver change and making a personal impact. We maintain a differentiated investment in training with each member of our team in a global training program every 12 to 18 months, trained by our best managers and partners in small team-based settings.

A further pledge to local training and apprenticeship forms the core of our commitment. Our people value interactive staffing, which allows them to communicate their interests and prioritize their professional and personal development goals. Finally, our people have the opportunity to augment their client work to maximize their career learning. Our people tailor their professional development goals by rotating into our market-leading private equity group, transferring to one of our global offices, spending time applying our results-focused principles in a non profit or other organization via an externship, or taking on a meaningful internal leadership role to positively influence the future of our firm. It is this full and diverse spectrum of learning opportunities at Bain that makes it the best career development platform in the industry.”

Steve Ellis and Paul MeehanPaul Meehan on Driving Results
“Results are our heritage, part of our organization and culture. We develop insights our clients act on: strategic decisions and practical actions, tailored to their situation. But we don’t stop there. We help energize client teams—engaging their people, who in turn embrace the experience of working with Bain. This helps our clients create demand for change up and down the organization. We’ve experienced the patterns of deployment and implementation, so we can predict and avoid what might go wrong. And we strengthen our clients’ capabilities, leaving them stronger than when we started working together and making the changes last longer. Our use of tied economics, our extraordinary private equity track record, and our results delivery capability are raising the bar for the entire industry.

“The firm as a whole is very excited about the evolution of our results delivery capabilities. The world is not standing still. The definition of business success is changing and ‘results’ mean different things to different companies/cases. Success is more multifaceted than ever—building capabilities, enduring results, recruitment, employee well-being, environment, community, and the list goes on. CEOs are feeling increasingly isolated and pressured. They crave true partnership to help shape their focus, approach and deliverables. Speed plus quality of delivery are becoming increasingly important, as is both the sustainability of results and capabilities in their organization —as well as personal success.”

Steve Ellis on What’s Next
“Our number one priority is taking our results delivery capability to the next level. We’ve been the industry leader on this dimension since our founding almost 40 years ago, and while we’re very proud of our track record we’re compelled to raise the bar for ourselves and the entire industry. We’ve been working for the last three years on a new suite of capabilities to effect change more quickly and systemically in our clients’ organizations.

“We’ve made phenomenal progress—in areas like tied economics and applying loyalty and customer satisfaction results to ourselves—but in many respects we’ve only just scratched the surface of what’s really possible. We continue to set the pace in the consulting industry on delivering results. We’re very excited about what this means for our clients, our people and for Bain.”

—Joseph Kornik
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