In this piece, Anna Agafonova, Manager of our Hong Kong Banking desk, gives her view on the foremost talent issues facing the ever-changing management consulting market...
By its very nature, the management consulting industry has been historically risk-averse, but it must embrace change, adapt its processes and offer out of the box solutions in order to retain clients in 2018. The past couple of years have been particularly complex for the environment in terms of technology, regulations and legislation, with firms needing to react quickly to protect their internal growth and competitive position. Being a headhunter in the global strategy and management consulting industry for a decade – including work on mature and developing markets – I have seen my fair share of talent challenges over the years. In my opinion, the main ones for 2018 are coming from flux within the industry itself, as well as the macroeconomic context and its growing war on talent…
Emerging and rapidly growing digital technologies are creating new business models
The consulting industry needs candidates who can think conceptually to move with changing tides in digital tech, but rather ironically, candidates from digital backgrounds don’t always fit the profile.
The best candidates tend to come from non-corporates or start-up environments, so be open-minded. Employees who have experience driving and delivering unique projects can be valuable assets, offering a different perspective on your current model. Look beyond work history, exploring their connections, motivations and interests. What events do they attend? Who inspires them? Do they spend a good amount of time on self-development? Ensure you optimize the process to suit these more creative individuals, utilising a different interview methodology.
Talent retention and succession planning
There is inequality in the corporate ladder, where many partners, directors, associates and consultants can stand alongside a weak layer of senior consultants/managers and managers. When someone talented leaves, it is more difficult to stretch your resources across projects without an equal replacement.
It is important to secure strong, long-term talent to breed the next generation of leaders in consulting. Continue meeting new people of all levels; even if you aren’t recruiting for a certain level at the moment, you might be in a month. Consistently reaching out to contacts and interviewing with them will aid a strong pipeline of candidates at all levels when you need them. Moreover, in consulting, there is always capacity to find a bright talent who will bring in business so it’s worth proactively hiring.
On top of that, it’s very difficult to provide flexibility in consulting so try to give an option for your candidates. While people understand that long hours are part and parcel of the industry, offering the opportunity to work from home or different locations will make it far easier to attract talent.
Client attraction and development
Felt by firms of all sizes, this challenge is the biggest one faced in the consulting industry. Business development is something not everyone in consulting sees as their destiny, hence why so many consultants leave a grade for in-house roles where they don’t have large financial targets. Consulting executives are looking for employees that have well-rounded skill sets.
Though there is no clear-cut answer to this obstacle, from my perspective, what could help is being more open to good sales people with strong industry knowledge, while having different business targets within the team. Equally, the freelance-based consulting model is continuing to grow. As well as bigger firms, consider working with freelancers to combine your expertise and serve clients better. In the last year, dozens of one-to-one consultant firms have been launched to focus on quality.
Locating talent in a candidate-short market
It’s difficult to find good people in this industry, not only because the marketplace is competitive, but the overall standard of candidates is incredibly high. I have successfully recruited for stagnated, very mature markets, as well as fast-developing and booming spaces; for niche consultancies, companies with tough reputations, those where everyone wants to work, ones in downturn and ones riding the wave of success. Though all different, each and every case had its own unique struggles.
Every placement requires close partnership and cooperation. The most important element is to have a smooth and quick interview process, since candidates talk to numerous recruiters nowadays. Give quick and detailed feedback, spend time with the rejected candidate and explain the reasons for rejection, especially if the candidate had couple of interviews. Keep in touch, and be positive and professional in your conduct. As a company, you’re looking for the best talents and the best talents are looking for the best employers.
If you would like to discuss your recruitment strategy for 2018, have a need to hire top talent or are confidentially looking for a new challenge, please contact Anna Agafonova on +852 3708 5527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.