Hiring and retaining young consultants in the UK

04 May 2020 Consultancy.uk 4 min. read
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Young consultants have different motivations and objectives then more experienced consultants. So what motivates young consultants in joining a firm, and what keeps them happy in their work?

Consultancy is all about people delivering complex and valuable change for their clients, and despite the advent of technology and solutions, in the end it is the quality of people that determines the success. Attracting top talent is therefore a key priority for consulting firms – but it is easier said than done.

With the consulting industry being more competitive than ever, with challenger brands also snapping up to firms’ prospective employees, standing out to attract high-skilled workers is increasingly tough. So what can consulting leaders do? A recent study by the Management Consultancies Association took in the opinion of over 200 young consultants to reveal what young consultants – Analysts, Consultants and Senior Consultants – think is most important in their choice for joining a consultancy.

What consulting firms could offer to attract the best talent

Unsurprisingly, the material needs of the bulk of respondents came first. Having entered the workforce more recently, and subsequently not built up any major savings at this point, most young consultants said competitive pay was their top priority when weighing up new employers – something which falls away as a priority for consultants of over five years of experience. Following that, younger respondents also said that sensible hours and training and development – something the consulting industry is noted for rapidly supplying to new arrivals – were high on the agenda.

Notably, the research by the MCA does not consider the weight of a consulting firm’s reputation as part of the factors for attracting talent, while known is that this is of huge importance. Firms specialised in this segment such as McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Company and OC&C Strategy Consultants all enjoy a top reputation, and if given the choice between one of those or another firm, the largest share of graduates would likely plump for those strategy consultancies. The same is true for the Big Four, which enjoy a powerful brand among students across most parts of the consulting landscape.

Areas of your role that provide the most job satisfaction

Diversity and inclusion are also increasingly important for potential consultants. At present, over half of young consultants have a background attending a Russell Group or Oxbridge university – however, the industry is making a noted effort to improve its social mobility intake, to advertise the fact that it is open to more than just the same old social caste that has always held top jobs in the UK.

Often, obtaining top talent is only half the struggle facing the HR departments of top consultancies, however. Once they have sourced the right consultant, firms then need to ensure that they can hang on to their top performers. So what do young consultants find important in their job?

According to the MCA’s study, as mentioned earlier, younger consultants are very concerned about the learning and development of new skills, and gaining exposure to large, global clients, at 36%. Once younger consultants have their feet under the table, they seemingly become less concerned about pay, with 22% saying pay was a key factor for their retention. On the other hand, 27% of consultants with more than five years of experience said pay was important, but most of all they wanted greater recognition by clients at 33%.