Cultural integration is key to digital transformation efforts. Lack of cultural integration is a pervasive issue for consulting firms on the digital transformation journey. A 2017 study by Prophet consulting found that cultural barriers were one of the top three challenges for digital transformation initiatives. In our own study, Digital Transformation in the Consulting Industry, 65% of respondents noted that digital capabilities are only somewhat or not at all ingrained in their company cultures. Are consulting skills and firm cultures keeping pace with the digital economy?
Consulting Skills and Digital Transformation Changes
Building the right workforce is key for any company trying to stay ahead of the curve. This does not mean hiring replacements for all current employees, but rather identifying gaps where new positions are needed, acquiring new talent or hiring internally to fill those gaps, and ensuring that current employees receive the necessary training. Interestingly, we found that hiring more people with digital capabilities and making acquisitions to add digital capabilities were only middle-of-the-road priorities for most firms. While we saw an increase in both of these areas over last year (by 18% and 100% respectively), they were still far outranked by the top priority of updating value proposition and consulting portfolio.
Moreover, when we asked consultants to rank their firms’ priorities, attracting and developing talent was cited as a lesser priority for most firms. These findings suggest that most firms do not see an urgent need to update their workforces.
A few weeks ago, we examined the job requirements for the rising majority of the workforce, namely millennials, in today’s digital economy. Similarly, we wanted to know whether the digital economy has prompted any changes to the consulting skills firms are hiring for. As a part of our study, therefore, we asked participants to rank the skills and competencies they valued most in hiring and promoting employees. Problem solving and emotional intelligence were the clear front-runners, while adaptability and digital expertise came in last.
While these findings don’t indicate that digital skills are not important in recruiting consultants, they do suggest that the traditionally desired consulting skills of problem solving, leadership, and collaboration have not changed. However, perhaps the skills for which consultants are hiring need to change. We asked the same respondents what changes they would like to see to better enable employees and the number one and two areas were training and investing in digital capabilities.
To bolster our findings, we took a look at what some of the top firms advertise for when recruiting consultants. On a number of career advice websites (Bright Network, TARGETjobs, experience), digital expertise is not even mentioned as a desired trait at top consulting firms. Collaboration and problem-solving are consistently listed as the principal skills consulting firms seek. When we examined the career pages of three top firms, we found the following skills listed for the ideal candidate:
Bain & Company:problem solving, leadership, delivery of results, passion
McKinsey & Company:collaboration, problem solving, entrepreneurial skills, leadership
Boston Consulting Group:curiosity, creativity, collaboration, and leadership.
It would seem, therefore, that top consulting firms do not consider digital expertise to be among the most important traits for their employees. Perhaps this should not come as a surprise; a recent article by Forbes posits that top CEOs value soft skills, such as leadership, communication, and collaboration, over hard skills in new recruits. While hard skills such as technical expertise are certainly beneficial, soft skills are more difficult to cultivate. Forbes, however, lists an additional top three skills that companies will be hiring for in the coming years. These include attention, the initiative to push beyond a college education, and agility or adaptability. Because technology changes so quickly and continually, the ability to change on a dime and not give up at the first sign of difficulty is key in the digital age.
Talent gaps can quickly become a burden, especially in the fast-paced change of the digital age. Perhaps one way consulting firms can aid their digital transformation is by rethinking the consulting skills they hire for or invest in the training programs needed to better prepare their employees.