The Management Consulting industry is undergoing a rapid transition with notable growth. Despite the encouraging advancements in the industry, consulting firms should be prepared to face challenges to scale. Following this upward curve requires firms to recognize the current hiring trends and adapt to this transition. For consulting firms to remain competitive within the market, we’ve assessed the four key hiring needs in consulting for 2019.
Professional services firms have greatly emphasized organizational and departmental diversification to avoid lagging from other entities, such as Fortune 500 companies. Clients are now demanding a certain level of diversity in the consulting teams that support them. Firms are seeking to onboard diverse talent with “unconventional and creative aptitudes.”
“Diversity provides different opinions and perspectives,” Beecher says. “People from different walks of life enriches what companies do.”
The trend of diversity in hiring aims to increase creativity at the workplace, fosters innovation, and garners visions that will lead a firm into the future. Diversity facilitates richer brainstorming through a variety of ideas and input that lead to productive discussions and transformative strategic decisions. This trend facilitates better decision making that affects the stakeholders and the firm at large.
A proportional rate of expansion has sparked the need for more people to scale the firm. Growth cannot be fueled by promoting only internal candidates, however. Scaling requires the hiring of external talent with more skills and a different vision that will drive the growth of the firm. While an internal candidate’s institutional knowledge can be a benefit in some cases, the growing organization craves new perspectives that can positively change the firm and develop new, winning strategies. That is why 22 percent of CEOs hired in planned succession are external hires.
3) Executive agenda
Consulting firms have become more specialized over the past decade. As a result, many consultants have lost their capacity to function effectively at the C and Board levels because they understand only a particular part or capability of the client organization. While that is suitable for building distinctive capabilities of a firm, there has been a loss in the ability to see the broader, innovative view that drives the client organizations into the future.
Firms require “people who can take knowledge and transform companies with it,” Beecher says. “The big picture view is rarer among consulting talent now.”
Firms now see that the need for the functional generalist is back and 20% of consulting leaders need it.
4) Acute capabilities
As the need for executives with broader backgrounds is on the rise, there is a high demand for differential capabilities as another major necessity. Distinct skillsets are needed in certain areas to drive a firm’s areas of specialty. Currently, firms are faced with needs in three sectors of differentiation:
- Old model: Differential skill sets can be shaped by bringing in young candidates and appointing senior personnel to mentor them over a period of time. After years of mentorship, they’ve acquired enough skills and experience to become a senior member.
- Disruption/transformation: In consulting, there is an emphasis on those who can bring more skillsets, and skillsets that are new to the company. “There is a huge demand for people with transformation skills who can produce multi-year, transformative outcomes,” says Clark Beecher, Managing Partner at Beecher-Reagan Advisors.
- Digital, analytical, automation: The demand for digitizing more aspects of the firm has increased significantly as organizations seek to digitize areas beyond marketing, such as the supply chain. There is also a high demand for those specialized in analytics, who can perform complex tasks such as data mining, number crunching, and more. Further, firms have a greater demand for machine automation and how they can explore and incorporate its potential.
To tackle the critical aspects of firm growth in consulting, it is essential to address the need of diverse talent, the ability to scale the firm, the understanding of shaping the executive agenda, and the availability of specialty skillsets. Organizations who lack and cannot recruit these individuals will face challenges in their aptitude to truly be innovative as a firm and to clients. Therefore, it is essential that organizations be aware of these non-negotiables and build a talent acquisition plan that wins in these four phases and priority areas.