Boston Group: Working hard and over hours are history

22 October 2012 2 min. read
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It has been known for decades that consultants work hard. And strategy consultants, who work in the top of customer organizations, usually work even harder. Workweeks of 65 hours are “quite normal” in that industry in certain phases of a project. However, hard work is not a prerequisite for productivity and satisfaction. Boston Consulting Group, one of the world's leading consulting firms, has found a novel way to get more from its workers in less time: switch off their smartphones and send them home early.

According to BCG, the new system is a great success and it is gradually changing the nature of its consultants from “workaholics” to “successaholics”. Its latest internal evaluation of employee satisfaction reveals that its workplace is becoming more humane and that its 5,600 employees are happier and more productive.

BCG Hard werken verleden tijd


BCG aims at reducing the 24/7-work culture. Throughout the world it is increasingly using non-work related Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) to measure success. For example, the extent to which employees meet their personal commitments is part of the measurements. Visiting your child’s school play or going out at night have become work KPI’s. The program, called, “predictable time off” (PTO), started in the Boston head office several years ago and is now used in the majority of BCG's 75 offices around the world.

Skeptical consultants initially protested, and suggested that they should “always be on” in case the client would contact them. However, internal research from BCG demonstrated that the unnecessarily amplified work pressure was driven by demands of colleagues rather than clients.

Going home earlier than partner

“We have talked about the fact that we also have a life outside of BCG,” said Grant McCabe, partner at BCG Melbourne. When he started to work for the company, junior consultants remained in the office until the partner they worked for left. Now partners are leading by example and juniors “feel fairly comfortable when they go home while the partners are still there.” Employees warn each other when they work too much rather than for being “off” too often.

Honesty towards customers

According to McCabe, key is that demanding clients are informed properly. He said that BCG does not make up excuses to clients about absences but instead the consultants try to explain the program. Clients were “typically really excited”' and interested in how they can apply it, he said.