Having spent much of the past few years under the same kind of financial stresses as its clients, there are signs that the consulting industry is getting back to being a growth industry. From firms launching new business units to a renewed focus on strategy work (with an accompanying turn away from turnaround and restructuring-related work), the outlook for the industry is turning positive—a fact that emerged in both the qualitative and the quantitative data from our industry survey this year.
But it's not only the industry leaders that have reason to celebrate; this year's rankings show that firms of all sizes are competing with one another to attract and retain talent—with would-be consultants emerging as the winners of the war. In addition to having more options (a result of an increase in hiring activity), those seeking positions in the consulting industry are more likely to be able exert a degree of control over the type of work they get to do, or the industries they operate in, than peers who were hired even as recently as two years ago. For confirmation of that, be sure to check out not just the positions on this year's Best to Work For rankings, but how tight the scoring is between top firms—truly, this was not a year where any firm can be said to have "dominated" rankings; rather, the scores reflect the strong efforts that firms are making to keep employees satisfied.
The rankings are based on the results of Vault’s annual Management and Strategy Consulting Survey. More than 7,500 consulting professionals of all levels assessed their peer consulting firms on a scale of 1 to 10 based on prestige (respondents were unable to rate their own employers and rated only firms with which they were familiar). Consultants also rated their own firm’s quality of life in a series of "Best to Work For" categories such as firm culture, compensation and work-life balance, among others. For the Vault Consulting 50 Ranking, a weighted formula was used to combine findings from both prestige and selected best to work for categories to identify the top 50 consulting firms operating in the U.S. today. .
The Top 10 Best Consulting Firms Based on Vault’s Annual Consulting Survey are:
- McKinsey & Company
- Bain & Company
- The Boston Consulting Group
- Booz & Company
- Oliver Wyman
- Deloitte Consulting
- The Parthenon Group
- A.T. Kearney
McKinsey’s ranking marks a return to the top of the Consulting 50, the result of marked improvements in its Best to Work For scores including overall satisfaction and firm culture. "McKinsey is a place where you will get much more than you give. It is a 24/7 learning environment. You are constantly exposed to an atmosphere where you can improve as a person and a professional,” said one employee at McKinsey.
Last year's top firm, Bain, again performed strongly, and only missed out on retaining the top spot by 0.17 points. "I worked at another top consulting firm before joining Bain,” said one respondent, emphasizing the firm's commitment to its employees. “I honestly have a hard time believing there is a better place than Bain in the management consulting space.”
Other changes taking place in the Top 10 included PricewaterhouseCoopers making a significant jump, up three spots to round out the Top 5. “The firm cares about people; it cares about employees,” said one PwC consultant.
Oliver Wyman came in at No. 6, the same position as last year. “The firm does an excellent job recruiting the select few amongst the best and brightest who also value life outside of work,” noted one respondent.
The Parthenon Group—taking the survey for the first time in several years—emerged at No. 8. “Parthenon's culture is incredible and supports a vibrant atmosphere at work, which contributes to make being at work a very enjoyable experience,” said one respondent who also noted the firm’s improvement in attitude toward work-life balance.
Rounding out the Top 10 was Accenture. “Management and leadership really has a vested interest in making sure their employees are successful and fulfilled in the work they do,” according to one employee from the firm.
Best to Work For Rankings Marked by Strong Performances from McKinsey and Bain
McKinsey took the No. 1 spot in an unprecedented 18 Best to Work For categories: Ability to Challenge, Benefits, Compensation, Firm Leadership, Informal Training, Innovation in the Industry, Interactions with Clients, Internal Mobility, International Opportunities, Overall Business Outlook, Promotion Policies, Relationships with Supervisors, Overall Satisfaction, and Selectivity, in addition to topping the rankings for Minority Diversity, Diversity for Individuals with Disabilities, Diversity for Military Veterans, and Overall Diversity.
According to respondents, the firm’s commitment to its staff is noticeable right from the onset of employment. “Career development is a top priority at McKinsey, with each new hire having a team of people including a designated professional development officer and a partner working to prioritize their development, through providing an optimal project mix as well as access to a variety of firm training programs,” said one respondent.
Like McKinsey, Bain also scored strongly in all Best to Work For categories, while taking the top spot for Formal Training and LGBT Diversity. Additionally, Bain took the top spot in one of the key Best to Work For categories for predicting job satisfaction, according to Vault.com users—firm culture.
“Everyone...literally everyone is dedicated to my professional development; from the senior-most director to my direct supervisor,” said one employee at the firm, with another adding, “Bain has one of the best work / life balances amongst the strategy consulting firms.”
In other Best to Work For categories, the following firms were No. 1 (along with quotes from employees):
- Diversity for Women: Health Advances (“The amount of female leadership at this firm is unprecedented and gives hope to all younger women hoping to achieve the dream of career mom.”)
- Green Initiatives: Triage Consulting Group (“There is a human side factored into decision-making.”)
- Philanthropy: Jabian Consulting (“Jabian encourages employees to get involved—in their work, in their personal lives, in the business community, in philanthropy, etc.”)
- Hours: Censeo Consulting Group (“Hours are very flexible and everyone is able to have their own family or personal life outside of work.”)
- Travel Requirements: Jabian Consulting (“Jabian has a local model for consulting. We don’t travel, so we get to do the same exciting and challenging consulting work in the city where we live.”)
- Work/Life Balance: Censeo Consulting Group (“Censeo lives up to its reputation as the best work-life balance firm.”)
McKinsey & Company Remains Most Prestigious; Accenture Tops Three Practice Area Rankings
McKinsey emerged as the Most Prestigious Firm for the 12th straight year while also finishing No. 1 in six categories on Vault’s Practice Area Rankings: Energy Consulting, Financial Services, Healthcare Consulting, Management Consulting, Retail Consulting and Strategy Consulting.
Peer consultants at rival firms noted McKinsey’s “longstanding reputation,” calling the firm “incredibly impressive,” “innovative,” “thought leaders,” and the “gold standard.” Respondents also said McKinsey represents “strategy consulting at its best,” and believe “they define prestige.”
Accenture also performed well, taking the top spot in three categories—Operations Consulting, IT Strategy and IT Operations. Peer consultants called Accenture “elite,” “IT/Ops focused,” and “competitive and smart.” They recognized Accenture for its “talent pool,” and called consultants at the firm “workhorses.”
In other Practice Area Rankings news, Lockheed Martin Corporation was rated No. 1 for Defense Consulting, with respondents calling the firm a “legitimate defense contractor” and a “leading aerospace company.”
NERA Economic Consulting, described as “super smart” and a “leading niche provider,” outperformed other firms in the Economic Consulting ranking.
Mercer once again laid claim as the top HR Consulting firm. Mercer was heralded as “the best in HR,” “extremely accomplished,” and simply “good at what they do.”
And Booz Allen Hamilton, lauded as “a top consulting firm” and a “leader in the public sector,” was ranked No. 1 in Public Sector Consulting. Respondents believe that Booz offers “the best service” and that its consultants are “well researched” and “great people.”
View the entire Vault Consulting Rankings.