Consulting is an industry full of bright, ambitious people – so aspiring candidates will naturally want to know: which are the best firms to work for?
The problem is, how do you define “best?” Lots of different rankings exist, but the truth is that what matters most to one job seeker might matter less to another. One person might be looking for the best place to use their technical expertise in a field like biotech. Another person might want the most prestigious brand on their resume to maximize their chances of a future shot at business school – or the C-Suite.
But what’s one thing all consulting firms have, good or bad? Culture. And what’s one of the most important things to consider when deciding whether a firm is right for you? Culture.
Culture isn’t the only way to rank consulting firms, but it’s definitely one list we think you should pay attention to.
In this article, we’ll discuss:
- Why is culture extra important when considering the best consulting firms to work for?
- The Vault Culture survey methodology
- Vault’s Top 5 consultancy firms for culture
- Insights on the best consulting firms to work for from this list
- How to explore whether a firm’s culture is right for you: top tips
Let’s get started!
Why Is Culture Extra Important at Consulting Firms?
A strong culture is essential to any organization. It typically originates from its founding partners’ values, beliefs and behaviors, and how they’d like these to be reflected in their work and the people they hire.
Employees are more engaged if they’re aligned with and invested in their employer’s culture which, in turn, leads to higher individual satisfaction, more cohesive teams, and improved performance for both firm and employees. It can also help to differentiate similar organizations, which is particularly important when hiring, as a strong and healthy culture is increasingly important to job seekers.
Although culture can evolve over time, it’s rarely something that completely changes, as it’s so deeply held by its employees and ingrained in the way the firm operates.
For consulting firms, a strong culture is especially important because of the collaborative and results-focused approach they apply to working with their clients and because of how intensive the demands of working in a consulting team can be.
By hiring employees who relate to the culture, it’s much easier to inspire and empower them to grow and develop into high performers who collaborate, innovate, and go the extra mile to achieve results for their clients. Bringing these like-minded people together and having clear behavioral expectations prevents friction and makes decision-making and workflow much more efficient.
Consulting is a competitive industry to get into, but is also very popular. Consulting firms need to be able to attract top talent by having a strong reputation for the work they do and the clients they work with. But they are also looking for people who can relate to their culture, so it’s key that this is unique to the firm and is demonstrated clearly through their messaging.
The Vault Culture Survey Methodology
Firm culture is tricky to rank because it’s so subjective. Different people will have different views about a particular consulting firm based on their own experience–they may work with a mentor who really values the company’s ideals and exhibits them in their work every day. Good culture is more of a “you know it when you see it” thing.
To assess culture, Vault surveyed consultants and asked them to rate their own firms’ cultures to get a feel for which firms scored better. Here are the firms that rose to the top!
Vault’s Top 5 Consultancy Firms for Culture
5. Boston Consulting Group (BCG)
BCG is one of the MBB consulting firms (McKinsey, Bain, and BCG), the prestigious firms that are engaged to solve strategy problems for Fortune 500 businesses and other leading global firms.
Firm perspective: BCG sees employees’ success as their success and has several values that enable them to hire and maintain the top talent who shares these. The firm strives to unlock the potential of people who want to have impact in the world while staying true to their principles and supporting their colleagues to reach the same levels of success. It’s not just about hiring recruits with the qualifications to do well, but those who apply both heart and mind to their work and are dedicated to helping clients to become the best they can be.
Employee comments: One of the strengths identified by BCG’s employees is that it cares deeply about its people and will work to protect them, ensuring that their voices are heard and that they’re considered equal partners in decisions that impact the firm’s direction. They focus on accelerating employees’ professional and personal development and foster an environment where employees go out of their way to help and give each other opportunities to grow. On the client side, BCG insists on client employees being active partners in problem-solving and developing solutions, rather than ignoring the people working on the problem daily.
4. Back Bay Life Science Advisors
Back Bay is a boutique consultancy that pairs strategy consulting with investment banking services for the biopharma and medtech industries.
Firm perspective: A consistently thoughtful and supportive culture with an ethos to always do the right thing is at the heart of Back Bay’s culture. The company values the unique perspectives of its employees and gives them the support to grow by providing interesting and engaging opportunities that will deliver high impact for their clients. They value collaboration between team members but also with their clients. Back Bay looks for people with technical and scientific expertise but also those who are motivated and committed to contributing to their culture.
Employee comments: Back Bay is a small but fast-growing firm making a big impact both with clients and its employees. It invests heavily in interpersonal relationships and career growth to create an inspiring, and supportive environment where being genuine and kind to each other is standard behavior and is sought through its hiring process. This approach is top-down, with the senior team valuing contribution, encouraging innovation, and supporting those who want to push through initiatives that are important to them. Because Back Bay spans business and life sciences, they bring unique expertise and perspectives to their clients to become trusted and long-term partners.
ghSmart is a boutique consulting firm specializing in leadership assessment.
Firm perspective: Credo and values are what define ghSMART’s culture. They emphasize their expertise in both business and human behavior and how this impacts the people they hire and the clients they work with. They focus on helping their clients to succeed individually and at the institutional level, not resting until their clients have achieved their objectives and following through on these commitments with 110% integrity.
Internally, ghSMART strives to ensure its employees succeed through knowledge sharing and creating opportunities for each other, so that each person can become the best version of themselves. A growing firm with a strong commitment to helping employees succeed while providing them the freedom to manage their own workload explains why they’re so high in the ranking for culture within the consulting industry.
Employee comments: ghSMART is a fast-growing firm that consists of many former McKinsey, Bain, and BCG consultants. But it has managed to create a culture that brings all of these perspectives together to create a unique environment where employees have the freedom and flexibility to shape their own careers. In practice, this means consultants can take on as much or as little work as they like depending on their circumstances, which gives a level of autonomy of workload that is quite rare in the consulting world. They also offer unparalleled exposure to senior executives and high-impact projects that allow employees to develop very quickly.
2. Bain & Company
Bain is one of the MBB consulting firms (McKinsey, Bain, and BCG), the prestigious firms that are engaged to solve strategy problems for Fortune 500 businesses and other leading global firms.
Firm perspective: Bain’s culture can be defined by its key values which focus on:
- A passion for results rather than just reports so that clients can truly see the impact of their work
- The intention to always do the right thing by their clients, people, and communities
- A practical approach to their work so that they can set new levels of excellence with real value provided
- A one-team approach to foster a collaborative and supportive environment (there’s even a phrase they use internally: “A Bainie never lets another Bainie fail.”)
Because values are so important to Bain, they place a heavy weight on hiring for fit, not just smarts, and this commitment to support and collaboration has always been a strong pull for those looking to join one of the top consulting firms.
Employee comments: Known as the most employee-centric of the Big 3, Bain is an established firm that has continued to guard its culture even though it now has 64 offices worldwide. It fosters a very collaborative approach both internally and externally, enabling teams and clients to work stronger together and deliver great value. Training is consistent at all levels so opportunities are fairly distributed. Bain sees itself and its employees as smart but humble, putting the client at the core and making them the heroes.
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