Consulting – It’s Harder Than It Looks…

I saw this article while looking for something else. I thought it was an interesting observation of the market constraints on hiring even the “best of the best” resources and the challenge of retaining them, even for the most prestigious firms, the ones that these graduate students try so hard to get into.

CONSULTING: challenge to retain top talent

“There is both good and bad news as far as graduate applicants for jobs with the major consultancy firms are concerned. “It’s a good time to be a graduate, and it’s a very good time to be a very good graduate,” says Nick Lovegrove, a partner with McKinsey in London who leads the firm’s UK recruitment activities (as well as heading the firm’s public sector practice). “Most of the organisations that place a high value on attracting distinctive graduates are looking for people,” he says.

But a note of caution is introduced by Sarah Churchman, head of graduate recruitment and at accountants PriceWaterhouseCoopers (admittedly a different kind of firm, but one that is fishing in a similar pool). “Students who are graduating this year have got the message that there are more of them than there are jobs,” she says. “They might only have a one in three chance of getting the job they want. …

…A key characteristic of a career in consultancy is the acquisition of a broad and deep range of experience in a relatively short space of time, perhaps with a view to taking that experience away to a new employer. And some of the elite firms have a remarkably relaxed attitude to the idea that the way in to their offices may well turn out to be a revolving door.

“We don’t enjoy seeing good people go,” McKinsey’s Mr Lovegrove says, “We are in the talent spotting and talent developing business. But we are comfortable that some will leave, we hope with a good feeling about McKinsey. One day they may become a client of the firm. So there can be quite a lot of churn, but the system is equipped to deal with that, and it does help create a vibrant community.”

An alternative approach is adopted by … PwC. “It is one thing trying to recruit people, but retaining them is an even bigger challenge,” says PwC’s Ms Churchman. “We don’t want them all to disappear.” …

The challenge for the accountancy firms is indeed to retain bright, newly qualified colleagues after their initial three years of training. Having reached this stage, many will want to dash straight into a corporate setting and receive an immediate boost to their earnings. But, as Ms Churchman warns, by doing so graduates could forego the chance to rise even higher later on. “We have to show people that they don’t have to leave to get on,” she says. “Nobody wants to do the same work year after year, but if we offer a variety of work and opportunities people gain more experience and will in fact be more valuable to the market in due course.”

All the recruiters interviewed confirmed that today’s applicants are more sophisticated and much less naïve than their predecessors; indeed, less naïve than they themselves had been when they first joined their firm. Graduates are clear about the hazards of working long and demanding hours, while still wanting to enjoy all the benefits of stimulating and challenging work. Managing a management consultancy is no simple task these days.

Blind item: Which Big 4 firm, contemplating layoffs, has hired McKinsey to help them figure out whom to cut, since they have neither a good alignment between their resources and their “vision” for their business nor senior partners with the confidence to make tough decisions? Too bad they haven’t brought sexy back to their own consulting business yet. They could have advised themselves..

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