Secondary benefits

A job in the consulting industry is often challenging, but is also known for the development opportunities and the satisfaction it provides. On top of the intellectual challenge, working as a strategy, management or IT consultant can also be a very lucrative profession.

When applying for positions in the consulting industry, candidates typically focus heavily on the salary offered, but it is important to keep in mind that the total remuneration package includes more than just the primary conditions. Secondary benefits can make a big difference when it comes to total compensation, not just financially but also in terms of job satisfaction and work-life balance.

Secondary benefits are the rewards that you agree with your employer on top of your salary. Unlike the salary, secondary benefits are not always financial. Some well-known examples include a company car, use of sports facilities, the provision of company shares (albeit at a discount), or the infamous thirteenth month. Secondary benefits may also include use of a telephone, entertainment expenses, travel expenses, or medical expenses. Work-life balance oriented secondary benefits include, for example, the possibility of working from home or remotely, maternity leave or a sabbatical.

To compare the remuneration packages properly both the primary and secondary benefits need to be fully examined. Based on a meta-analysis of a range of studies into remuneration within the industry, presents an overview of the main secondary benefits available at consulting firms.

Bonuses are a form of secondary benefits whereby professionals earn more depending on their performance. A recent study shows that, internationally, more than 60% of the consultants receive a bonus, with the share of those receiving a bonus increasing as a consultant comes closer to the top of the organisation. The number of consultants that receives a bonus also varies by sector - in Strategy Consulting more than 90% earn a bonus, whereas the figure in IT and Management Consulting is much lower, at around 70% and 60% respectively. The study further highlights that men are more likely to receive bonuses than women.

The performance criteria which underlie a bonus varies by firm and by rank within firms. For example, junior consultants are often judged mainly on their billable hours and earn bonuses if the firm performs strongly, while the bonus of managers and higher ranks are more often dependent on their contribution to business development.

Financial & retirement
There are range of other financial agreements that fall under secondary benefits, including pension plans offered by firms, as well as share incentive or stock option plans.

Because consultants often need to engage with clients at their premises, they are required to travel for work. To support their employees in their transport needs, consultants are often offererd a company car. In countries where leasing is common, on average, more than half of the consultants are provided with access to a leased company car. Especially in the large professional services provided the percentage is high - estimated to be around 70% or higher.

Transport schemes
Consultants are not only offered access to a company car, but are also - though to a lesser degree - offered access to public transport. Several consulting firms offer public transport passes - which allows for travel by train, subway and bus. Other schemes include, for example, Bike to Work Schemes.

Training and study facilities
Consulting firms are known for their excellent provision of opportunities for professional development. But how professional education is offered varies greatly from one agency to another. Large firms often have large training institutions where regional consultants are trained and educated. McKinsey & Company, for example, has a university in the Austrian Alps, Capgemini has Les Fontaines university in France, whereas, for example Accenture (Chicago, Bangalore) and Deloitte (Dallas, Brussels) have several education centres worldwide.

These universities are often used for large training programmes, such as in the early weeks of new hire; level training, when professionals get promoted; as well as boot camps for young professionals to teach them all the necessary consulting skills related to working with Microsoft Office to extend their skills. Medium and small firms often have in-house development, or rely on external training agencies to complement their training offerings.

During their careers in the consulting industry consultants generally have a budget per year allocated to training, whose size often depends on their rank and learning requirements - especially the big agencies have an extensive training curriculum for gaining knowledge and improving skills. Some agencies allow their advisors the freedom to decide how this budget will be used, while others offer a curriculum within which consultants themselves can choose the courses that match their needs. The emergence of eLearning, an online learning offerings, has grown in recent years. 

Reimbursement and additional expenses
Reimbursement of expenses for things like parking fees, or other small cost, around the work of consultants are also offered at many firms. In most cases, a fixed amount per month - or monthly allowance - is available. The large majority of firms have some form of allowance or scheme, also larger cost items, such as travel, expenditure abroad, gifts and dinners are usually reimbursed by consultancies - these types of costs are usually declared separately and entered in a project or service line.

Telephone plans
Consultants frequently call for their work, and the majority of firms, for this reason, provide a company smartphone, and cover the cost of telephone calls conducted by their advisors. Often this is in the form of a mobile phone subscription which allows for unlimited calling. Some consultancies charge a (small) fixed amount, as a personal use contribution, to their consultants.

Inconvenience allowance
An inconvenience allowance is one of consideration given to compensate for operations that have a major impact on the (social) life of an individual, such as hard physical work, or in the case of consultants, working abroad. Because of globalization, many consulting projects have an international character, and therefore many companies have an inconvenience allowance. In essence the consulting firms 'reimburse' the consultants for temporary setbacks to their social lives at home.

In recent years, this part of the benefits package has been reeled in – the most recent survey found that around half of these consultants are offered reimbursement. The amount of reimbursement varies from on average £30 per day to over £100 per day, with big differences between firms. In some cases, the amount also depends on how far from home the consultant's work is. Some firms only provide reimbursement when the consultant is outside the EU, while other consulting firms set their fees on the guidelines established by international standards – and vary by country.

Health insurance
The majority of consulting firms have critical illness cover. The cover for the cost of health care and health insurance is left, in many cases, left to the discretion of the consultants themselves. A small number of firms, however, offer provide access to collective insurance schemes which offer a discount of between 5% and 15% of the premiums paid for health insurance. Some consulting firms go a step further and offer, for instance, the possibility of apply for company sponsored life insurance or dental insurance.

Vacation and time off
The number of holiday or leisure days offered to consultants per year are quite similar to the rest of the labour market. Junior consultants have an average of 26 vacation days per year, consultants and (senior) managers average 27 days, while partners may have a slightly longer holiday – with an average of 30 days per year. Schemes that allow consultants to buy or sell holiday are more often offered. Other areas that are growing in popularity are the possibility of taking a sabbatical (mostly unpaid time off / some firms include some pay) or bereavement leave. In line with Corporates Social responsibility (CSR) goals, volunteer time off or volunteer days are also offered.

Consultants often work long days and long hours. This is illustrated by an average of 9.3 hours of overtime per week across the consulting industry. Especially with strategy consultancies the percentage overtime is high, at an averaging of over 90%. One of the major differences between jobs in the consulting industry and other professions is the lack of compensation for overtime. Only 15% of the consultants indicates that his or her overtime will be reimbursed. This shows how "normal" it is in consulting to work overtime without receiving any (immediate) reward. However, overtime can be converted in some consultants to extra vacation days.

Family & Parenting
In the area of family and parenting consulting firms offer a growing range of HR policies. Many firms provide maternity leave for both men and women, and once children come into play, provide parents with support in the area of childcare, through for instance childcare vouchers. The flexibility to work from home, or follow a flexible hours scheme, is another benefit enjoyed at some consultancies, while many in addition provide the option to take an (unpaid) extended leave.

Sports through work
Promoting sport and physical activity has become an increasingly important issue in the consulting industry, especially because it is sedentary for the most part. On some days, consultants spend hours in front of their laptop to build mathematical models and charts. In order to ensure that their professionals remain fit, a growing number of consultancies own sports facilities or partnerships with local gyms, and offer discounts on sport activities. Work times also play an important role in sporting activities, with many consultancies relying on flexible arrangements so that their professionals are provided with sufficient time to exercise.

Other secondary benefits
Secondary benefits have become increasingly important in recent years, especially in the area of non-financial incentives that greatly benefit the wellbeing of consultants. This trend is reinforced by the changing needs of professionals, particularly those of Generation Y and Z, which attach more importance to flexible working, personal and professional development and the degree of challenge in their work. This increases the demand for career for customizing – firms are now providing consultants with a range of all flavours and allowing consultants to cherry-pick what they find important at this stage of their careers.