Acquiring top talent is critical for the consulting industry. In fact, the traditional consulting business model relies on firms being able to market themselves as warehouses of top talent. As firms become more digital, putting thought into recruiting consultants is only becoming more essential. The jobs that businesses consider critical are starting to change. Data mining, for example, is becoming more important in virtually every industry, and consulting is no exception. In order to build the workforces they need for the future, therefore, firms cannot afford to wait. They need to quickly fill the talent gaps they identify based on the change that digitization brings.
The Rise of Millennials
The millennial generation (those born between circa. 1981-1996) is entering the workforce in rising numbers. In 2015, millennials surpassed Generation X as the most represented generation in the workforce, and by 2020 they are predicted to be nearly half. It makes sense, therefore, that many companies are placing focus on how to best recruit millennials.
There are certainly many misconceptions where millennials are involved. Many companies have expressed frustration, for example, because they perceive millennials to value money over company loyalty and building a career. But as recent research by Harvard Business Review shows, this perception actually applies to every generation. In recruiting consultants, firms should take care to examine closely their sources of information.
Fighting Attrition Rates
Fortunately for the industry, consulting continues to be the top choice for business school graduates. The problem is that graduates are attracted to consulting because they see it as a good opportunity for career development and furthering their education. Statistics show, in fact, that talent from top business schools have little interest in work/life balance, compensation, or career stability. As a result, they may be more likely than other generations to leave a job if they find something better.
While millennials are interested in consulting as something that can further their education, they may not embrace it as a long-term career. In fact, studies show that millennials as a whole feel less loyalty towards their employers than past generations. Firms that want to recruit talent for the long term, therefore, need to rethink what they can offer millennials that will attract them to consulting as a career rather than just what will attract them initially.
The old consulting firm mandate is not meeting millennials’ requirements for a career. And millennials are unlikely to be content with the way things are done just because that’s how they have always been done. Unless they change what they offer their millennial recruits, firms will struggle recruiting consultants.
In order to determine what they need to do to retain millennials, firms should examine what millennials are looking for in a work environment. What makes them happy and fulfilled? What do they want in a career? How can they be persuaded to stay long-term?
There are endless studies by all the top business publications discussing what millennials want in the workplace. Fortunately for consulting firms, they meet one of the top qualifications millennials seek by offering excellent training and development opportunities. But there are a number of areas where firms are falling short.
More Empowerment, Less Bureaucracy
Studies consistently report that millennials seek more empowerment in their jobs. They are not content with the opaque manager-employer relations of the past. Instead, they want a manager who is more like a mentor, while they have more freedom and self-direction in executing their actual work. Moreover, millennials are looking for less bureaucracy in an organization as a whole. They want to know exactly how they are contributing to their company’s bottom line, and they want their work to have clear meaning and purpose. Consulting firms are traditionally hierarchical, so in order to appeal more to millennials, they should consider making their organizations flatter and allowing associates more freedom to manage their own client relationships.
As the world goes digital, it becomes more flexible. We can shop for groceries, watch movies, and complete projects on digital devices. In the past, we had to do those things in a specific time and place. Millennials are looking for similar flexibility in a work environment. They do not want the constraint of the traditional nine-to-five business hours. Instead, they want the autonomy to work where they want and when it makes the most sense. They want their superiors to measure their work by the output rather than the physical hours put in. Firms wanting to attract millennials should emphasize flexibility options in working from home, taking time off, and hours on the job.
Rather than work/life balance, millennials desire work/life integration. With their desire for flexibility, it makes sense that employees will want to blend their work and home lives. Of course, that also means that they need to truly enjoy their work. The more that firms can design their workplaces so that employees can feel that their work and home lives exist in harmony, the better millennials will like it.
Tech-Forward, Digital Focus
As we discussed above, consulting firms need to think about the gaps in their workplace that digital disruption is creating. The millennial generation is the most tech-forward generation to enter the workplace, so it makes sense that tech-related jobs are top contenders for millennials. In order to attract millennials and fill these gaps, firms will need to consider how they can take a more digital approach to consulting. They need to offer consultants digital tools and platforms that allow them to do their jobs more quickly, accurately, and with more flexibility.
With the rise of the millennial generation and digital transformation, recruiting consultants is becoming a whole new game. While business graduates may find consulting jobs initially attractive, keeping the top talent around is a different story. Consulting firms thinking about how to build the best workforce for the long term will need to think about what to offer millennials that will inspire them to choose consulting as a career.