Consulting leader approval ratings among worst of professional services

01 June 2023 3 min. read

The professional services industry generally has the highest approval ratings for its leaders – but in the sector, consulting firms host some of the lowest rates. A new study suggests that management and business consulting each prompt higher numbers of one-star reviews than their counterparts.

An approval rating is a percentage determined by polling which indicates the percentage of respondents to an opinion poll who approve of a particular person or programme. In a world where businesses must constantly adapt to market changes, this rating has become increasingly important. It is a potential indicator not only of how well a CEO is doing when it comes to previous decisions, but how much trust they have when it comes to implementing future changes.

Bosses in the consulting sector typically enjoy a high approval rating from their staff – but when the tide turns against them, partners and boards understand the problems it presents, and often act swiftly to quell dissent. In recent years, this has seen the ousting of a number of high-profile figures in the industry, from Grant Thornton UK’s former CEO Sacha Romanovitch, to KPMG UK’s ex-Chair Bill Michael, to McKinsey & Company’s Global Managing Partner Kevin Sneader.

Consulting leader approval ratings among worst of professional services

Now, a new study from Leadership Dynamics has found that a growing number of leaders in the sector might also be looking over their shoulders in the coming months. While consulting firms were still among some of the country’s best performers for leadership approval ratings, in the professional services sector, they lagged behind.

Examining reviews from Glassdoor – a platform developed for staff to evaluate employers around the world – from across the UK, the researchers found that the wider professional services sector performed strongly. In particular, HR and staffing, and HR consulting firms did best of all, respectively seeing 35% and 22% of reviews come in at a 4.5 star rating or higher for satisfaction with senior management. But the prognosis was less sunny for other forms of consulting.

In comparison, business consulting firms, and management and consulting businesses had just 15% of ratings coming in at 4.5 stars or above. At the same time, they both had higher rates of reviews of a single star or less. In particular, management and consulting businesses saw close to 4% of reviews come back with this disappointing grade – the second-worst rate in the sector, narrowly behind advertising and public relations.

While this is a long way from the absolute worst industry in the research, that will not necessarily comfort bosses in the consulting sector. The lowest score outright was found among sports goods stores, where 8.11% of reviews were of one or fewer stars, and 0.98% were for 4.5 stars or higher. The segment has long been renowned for zero-hour contracts, minimum wage gigs, and shoddy workplace conditions.

Speaking on how leaders in the sector might improve their standing, Samuel Robberts, Chief Strategy Officer at Leadership Dynamics, commented, “Running a successful organisation goes beyond effective administration. They drive change, resolve conflicts and inspire their workforce. And that workforce’s opinion of senior management is influenced by a confidence in their effectiveness and the environment they promote within the workplace. Leadership teams can improve both their organisational effectiveness and their employee engagement at the same time, but first they need a clear and objective understanding of their strengths and areas for growth.”