Deloitte’s recent announcement that it is launching a leadership consulting practice sheds light on an HR consulting segment that is a study in contradictions. Leadership development is a mature, yet fragmented consulting sector characterized by low barriers to entry, where differentiation has historically been driven by charismatic thought leaders or trademarked approaches to training. And while there is a wealth of research that speaks to the failure of leadership development programs to drive business results, client demand continues to grow at a very fast rate. KCRA’s most recent estimate of client spending hovers at a CAGR in the high single-digits over the five-year period ending in 2016, making it one of the fastest growing areas of HR consulting.
Against this backdrop, Deloitte has invested considerable financial and intellectual resources in a leadership consulting capability that is highly competitive. The firm was, in fact, named to The Kennedy Vanguard of Leadership Development Consulting Providers in our 2013 study of the same name.* However, with the recently announced acquisition of alliance partner Kaisen Consulting, a boutique consultancy of about 40 occupational psychologists, Deloitte has strengthened its global market position.
The firm now owns an end-to-end service offering that spans consulting on leadership strategy to leadership assessment and competency modeling to leadership development programs that blend passive and active learning modalities. In addition, the firm has access to a database of tens of thousands of executive assessments that can be mined for industry, regional, functional, and role/level benchmarks. In this sense, the Kaisen acquisition continues Deloitte’s strategy of helping clients drive business impact through evidence-based human capital consulting, as it has done so successfully with the acquisition of Bersin & Associates, now Bersin by Deloitte, over two years ago.
But how does this differentiate Deloitte in the leadership development consulting market? This is, after all, where Aon Hewitt, DDI, Hay Group, Lee Hecht Harrison, and Mercer also display breadth and depth, not to mention Big Four peer, KPMG, whose Lane4 alliance looks an awful lot like a Kaisen capability. My take is that Deloitte will have an edge in its ability to integrate leadership development into its strategy and transformation consulting practices.
“We can introduce leadership development when we are helping organizations develop stronger performance capabilities or execute a business transformation,” says Dimple Agarwal, Deloitte’s global leader for Organization Transformation & Talent. “The intervention can be anything from an operating model design to a cultural integration program to a new market entry strategy. If leadership development will help drive the change, we can provide those services.”
In this regard, Deloitte’s move presents a more serious challenge to strategy consulting firms, which focus leadership consulting almost exclusively on the development of executive talent. In an era when the workforce majority is tipping towards meritocracy-driven millennials, and buyers of human capital consulting services increasingly prefer one-stop shops for strategy and implementation services, providers such as Deloitte are positioned to win.
*I will be updating this research in Q4 2015.