Building a Consulting Firm Culture That Appeals to Today’s Grads

28-Apr 2022
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Chelsea Williams SENIOR COPYWRITER

Like many other industries, consulting has been forced to adapt in surprising ways over the past couple of years. Potent economic trends — reduced travel, workers quitting in record numbers and lasting pandemic-induced pressures — have given rise to an evolution that consulting leaders can’t ignore. 

To meet the growing demand for consulting services amid the ongoing Great Resignation, firms need to understand what today’s consultants want in a workplace.

In this article, we’ll explore:

What Grads Want From Employers in 2022

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, a generational shift had started to impact the workforce. Young professionals watched their parents fight work-related stress for years and, as a result, crave attentive leadership and lifestyle benefits.

Reflective of sweeping changes in the consulting industry, MBA graduates, in particular, seek an entirely different experience than their predecessors did just a decade ago. 

Following are five top factors today’s grads are looking for in an employer. 

1. Flexibility and progressive benefits

The spike in remote work started as a circumstantial change but has quickly become the new norm. Owl Labs reports that 16% of businesses globally are fully remote, and 57% of those who have returned to the office prefer working from home. 

If a fully remote team isn’t in your business plan, offering schedule flexibility at the very least, plus extensive or unlimited paid time off, will keep your firm competitive.

Another essential part of the work-life balance picture is benefits. To place your firm at the top of a great candidate’s list, offer a benefits package that includes more than health insurance and retirement options — things like mental health coverage and generous parental leave. 

2. Socially conscious companies

While it used to be taboo to mix business with social or political issues, many brands are now committed to corporate social responsibility: speaking out publicly about where they stand on matters of societal concern such as sustainability, racial justice and mental health. 

Workers, like consumers, don’t want to have to guess about a company’s values.

Your consulting business doesn’t necessarily have to align with one particular cause, but demonstrating support for the issues your employees and interviewees care about most can go a long way in making them feel psychologically safe. Safety equates to job security, which helps people see themselves working for you for the long term. Socially conscious efforts could include philanthropy, internal training, company-hosted events or any other expression of social consciousness your leadership team favors.

3. Forward-thinking management 

People who enter consulting have traditionally had high expectations of racking up experience quickly and climbing the proverbial ladder. But employees want something more in 2022: meaning.

That develops in an environment characterized by strong connections and collective purpose. Hierarchy exists in many workplaces, but deep and supportive relationships are harder to come by. Whether your consultants are in-house or contractors, they’ll appreciate managers with solid leadership skills who encourage personal growth and professional development above mere career progression.

4. Supportive technology

Digital skills aren’t just desirable from the employer’s perspective; they’re also something employees expect to gain on the job. The level of digitalization in individual businesses should represent the technology reliance we see in the world at large. 

As consulting services in various industries expand beyond strategy to encompass execution, technological literacy across all business functions is growing even more important. Choosing a tech stack made for consulting, which increases efficiency and takes busy work off your consultants’ plates, can give your firm a leg up in both hiring and client work. 

5. A sense of being valued

People want to feel significant. A combination of great leadership, competitive compensation and the tools they need to do their jobs well gives modern workers the sense that their employers value their contributions.

Corny as it may sound, work is becoming more human. Treating people like humans is the bare minimum that the new generation of workers will accept.

Whether you’re looking to bring on consultants fresh out of school or hire more experienced team members, the above factors are nearly non-negotiable in today’s labor climate.

Tips for Adapting Your Consulting Firm’s Culture 

Understanding what today’s grads are looking for can help you and your recruiters better relate to candidates, but it’s important to translate that understanding into action. 

These five culture shifts can improve the employee experience and foster loyalty.

1. Upskill your existing managers

According to Gallup, 70% of a person’s engagement at work is derived from the effectiveness of their manager. The people your consultants work most closely with are primarily responsible for their impressions of the company. While hiring great people to manage your team(s) is fundamental, it’s also possible — and necessary — to improve their skills over time.

Good managers are masters of interpersonal communication, especially listening. They bring a sense of warmth to every interaction while remaining professional. If your managers already have these building blocks, providing them with the training and materials to expand their repertoire of skills will induce a ripple effect.

2. Offer sufficient professional development

New hires want to develop consulting skills that keep them competitive. Rather than worrying that professional development (PD) might contribute to flight risk, think of it as an investment in the people you’ve chosen to help build your business. As individuals improve, so does an organization as a whole.

A LinkedIn study found that 94% of employees stated they would remain in their current positions if their employers offered PD. Furthermore, by allowing them to choose the opportunities they’re most interested in, you’re telling employees you’re supportive of their careers apart from their role in generating returns for your firm. This gesture goes a long way towards providing them with the sense that they’re valued.

3. Pay your consultants competitively

The pay factor is always high on job seekers’ priority lists. But with skyrocketing inflation making it harder for people to meet their basic needs, competitive compensation is not just nice to have; it’s an absolute must to avoid high turnover.

Take care to stay knowledgeable about average salaries in your sector of consulting. What are your competitors offering? Matching or exceeding that may be necessary to attract the best of the best. 

What about the reality of budgetary limitations? You can stay relevant in the talent war by:

  • Balancing solid compensation with the other benefits on this list
  • Being transparent with employees about your business’s finances and growth potential
  • Communicating about opportunities for pay raises and bonuses

4. Listen to your employees

One of the most critical elements of good leadership is listening, but taking employees’ opinions into account doesn’t mean they make the big decisions. You’ll probably find your team doesn’t expect to be heavily involved in choices above their pay grade. They simply want to know that their frustrations and suggestions aren’t being ignored.

Make listening a core management technique to minimize internal conflict and unexpected quits across your organization. To determine how best to establish a culture of listening, think about how you would make a friend feel heard. The subject matter may be different, but the goal of colleague communication is similar to that of personal conversations. 

5. Use smart tech to make up for skill or staff shortages

If you’re in the two-thirds of consulting firms that are short-staffed, consider adopting innovative tech solutions to avoid putting too much pressure on current employees — or on yourself — to cover the excess workload. Instead of blindly signing up for software subscriptions, think about how they work together and how you can consolidate by using consulting-focused platforms.

Tech certainly can’t replace every function of every position, but the right system can help everyone be more effective and happier at work.

New grads and consultants with a few years under their belts will appreciate your firm’s efforts to build a culture representative of their values. The changes we’ve suggested require genuine commitment, and you deserve support to make them happen. 

See how a client work management platform like Accelo can help.

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