Working in Consulting is not about the Money

Date: 11-07-2007

As attrition rates across the management consulting industry soar, the incentives employers implement to try to retain staff are not always what consultants want the most, according to the latest in-depth industry survey from, the leading career web site for management consultants.

According to 2007 Retention Report: A key challenge for the Management Consultancy sector, based on surveys of 140 consulting recruiters and more than 700 consultants from a wide range of firms - from the Big Four to niche consultancies - attrition rates in the industry across the globe are reaching the 15% - 20% range and many firms are losing consultants at higher rates.

Besides attrition rates, the study focused on what compels consultants to stay or to leave their employers and what consultancies are doing to keep their staff.

The number one retention strategy employers have used is money. 51% of firms have made surprise salary or bonus increases or have raised more than planned scheduled salary and bonus increases.

However, for consultants, the number one reason that would make them stay was improvement in management, including more inspiring leadership.

Improving management procedure was 4th down the list for employers, (9%), after introducing more flexible work hour arrangements and other benefits aimed at striking a better work/life balance (18%); and increasing the number or improving the quality of career development options (12%).

Extending ownership and profit shares was the fifth retention strategy employed by companies (6%) and 4% of firms conducted survey and sought opinion for improving retention from their staff.

Consultants on the other hand, seem unanimous in wanting three key things, which account for almost 70% of all responses. Aside from improving the management of the practice (37%), consultants want better career development (18%) and a clear, transparent and fair path for career progression (16%). Many consultants complained that more and more work on projects was becoming routine, so they wanted other avenues for developing new skills. External workshops and industry seminars were sited as some examples. 

Promotions have always been a key element in this competitive industry, where the practise of up-or-out is practised widely. Now, more than ever delivering on career progression promises can be a significant differentiator between firms.

Better salary and bonus are the forth most important incentive for employees at 14% of respondents. Now that revenues are rising, consultants want a bigger cut. A further 6% of consultants explicitly want a profit share scheme.

Being staffed on interesting projects of their own choice, a major swaying factor in previous years, has moved down the list to number 5 with 8% of respondents' votes. Picking your own projects was followed by improving consultants' support structure (4%), which included things like personal assistance, concierge services, better technologies and other upgrades that will allow the consultant to spend more hours working in this time of increasing workloads.

These are just some of the key findings to emerge from's 2007 Retention Report: A key challenge for the Management Consultancy sector. The full report is available to download in PDF format