Not a bang, but a toot. The economy's still got a ways to go before we can all feel comfortable again, but as the year comes to a close, it's nice to know that the consulting industry is, in some small ways, showing signs of pointing north.
First, last week UK-based Prism Executive Recruitment released the results of a market survey, which showed that nearly 80 percent of consulting firms are looking to recruit. In its survey of over 45 employers and over 150 candidates, Prism found that while most firms are looking to recruit, the buyers' market that now exists allows them to take their time and really sift through the piles to find the best of the bunch. And what are they looking for? Specialists are the order of the day, specifically those with skill sets in the public sector, energy/utilities, financial services, strategic IT, risk, lean and transformation. As one firm put it, "The market needs specialist consultants and the special combination of skills is difficult to find.” Difficult to find, likely because those in-demand consultants are gainfully employed.
This pickiness, undoubtedly, leads to a great deal of frustration on the part of job seekers, who sense that firms are taking their sweet old time in making their candidate selections and are focusing their searches on candidates who match every single one of their criteria.
The consulting industry got another vote of confidence from Universum, which last week presented the world's top-50 most attractive employers. Strutting their stuff in the top echelon were a number of consulting firms (OK, Google was No. 1, but who really counts Google, anyway?). The annual ranking collates the votes of nearly 120,000 students from the US, Japan, China, Germany, France, UK, Italy, Russia, Spain, Canada and India, and separates out the votes from business and engineering students. The business ranking saw PricewaterhouseCoopers take the No. 2 spot, Ernst & Young at No. 5, KPMG at No. 8, McKinsey at 9 and Deloitte at 10. BCG missed the top-10 by just one step (lower down the list, Accenture was 23rd and Bain was 26th).
The survey highlights the world's most powerful employer brands, in terms of attracting and retaining talent. The results show that students strongly favor large, multinational companies that can offer them good career references, an international career and be a "secure” employer—factors that often make them the "safest choice” (it's a bit shocking that those words even hold any weight any more).
The top companies are also those that work hard to spread their corporate branding. "These companies in the Top 50 really work with employer branding strategically. The Big Four, for example, are all in the top 10 business ranking, as they have employer branding as part of their business strategy. Many associate their corporate brands to people. This is normal for the service industry, but it's a new approach for other companies,” said Universum CEO Michal Kalinowski. "These companies are in the Top 50 because they are focused, consistent and differentiate themselves in their communication.” Accenture, then, has a lot of work to do in 2010 to keep itself in the running after its communication strategy went down with Tiger.
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