The 2007 Best Firms to Work For: An Overview

In previous years, around 5,000 management consultants shared their opinions of their firms with us. The information was valuable and the competition stiff. But this year, it’s a whole new ball game: We heard from 9,000 professionals representing 190 firms. And each firm has a unique culture and model—as well as its own consultants willing to open up about what’s working and what’s not. With an 80 percent increase in the number of respondents this year over last, what we can glean about those in the industry—and the firms where they work—is all the more valuable. Although the sheer volume of the survey was radically different, the criteria we used for being considered a Best Firm to Work For wasn’t. Consultancies still needed to have at least 200 billable consultants to be considered, and firms with fewer than 25 survey responses were not eligible.

This year we’re thrilled to have newcomer firms to the competition—especially when they win. That’s the case with two of our top firms, North Highland and West Monroe. These consultancies weren’t even listed on our drop-down list on our Web survey based on last year’s participants.

But enough employees at those two companies wrote in to be heard—and it certainly caught our attention. Know that these are two firms to be reckoned with. North Highland ranked highest of all firms in retention, and West Monroe beat every other competitor on the frequency with which the firm meets client needs. North Highland employees also travel the least, which is little surprise given the firm’s travel-optional policy.

So with that many voices in the mix, what did we learn? Well, it came as no shock that Bain topped the list once again, despite the added competition this year. In fact, the firm came in first in every division. And to little surprise, The Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey round out the Top 3, but what industry insiders might find especially interesting about the latter firm is that McKinsey does more training than any other firm in the competition. We’ve outlined those figures as well as other key findings from the survey.

The charts you’ll see on this page and the next are based on both individual questions and composite scores in a variety of categories. Some interesting revelations: One of the keys to a great firm, by consultants’ results, is working a lot: Only two of the top 10 rate on the fewest hours in a workweek category. And always meeting client needs is a tall order that most consultants are realistic about. Most of the top-ranked firms only reported consistently meeting this goal about 60 percent of the time.

But numbers never tell the whole story. And while it’s neat and clean to rank firms objectively with hard figures, the more interesting nuances of a firm come to light in the area of the survey where consultants told us what they liked best—and what they would be most likely to warn someone else about—at their firm. And the honesty with which consultants treated the evaluation was compelling. One consultant said of his firm, “If you need rigid structure or lack the willingness to ‘do what it takes,’ no matter how tedious, then this is not the place for you.” Another said, “Can be an extremely conservative firm at times.” But the answers weren’t all foreboding; some consultants are unabashed cheerleaders for their firms, saying things like, “It’s a great place to work at!” “The people are amazing,” and “We have a lot of say in our work, and we have fun!”

So read on to learn about what makes our top firms tick. And whether you’re an employee, an alumnus or a prospective hire, you’re certain to have an opinion on the rankings, as well as on those companies whose names you don’t see here. We want this to be an ongoing dialogue, so please share your thoughts. Additionally, if you took the survey this year, thank you. We look forward to seeing your evaluations again in 2008.