Consulting 2025 – Young MCA forecasts the future.

In celebration of its 10th birthday, the Young MCA network held a special event looking ahead at the next 10 years of consulting. Hosted by Deloitte and attended by over 200 young consultants, the panel event, titled ‘Consulting 2025’, considered four key areas; threats to the industry, future skills, diversity and work/life balance.

Panellists: Nadun Muthukumarana –Partner at Deloitte; Madeline Lewis – Director, KPMG People & Change; Des O’Connor – Former Young MCA Chair and Consultant at Mott MacDonald; Lisa Unwin, Founder – ‘She’s Back’.

Panellists began the debate by discussing the likely big disruptors over the next 10 years. Robotics, automation, technology and self-sufficiency were all raised as key risks that the consulting industry needs to prepare for. High value, low transactional consulting will become essential for businesses to thrive. Des O’Connor, former Young MCA Chair and Consultant at Mott MacDonald, encouraged the audience to always be looking for the next thing; being a change agent and a change specialist will set you apart. Madeline Lewis, Director at KPMG People & Change, agreed – ‘If you can manage change, you’ll have a job for life’.

The discussion led to panellists identifying the key skills needed by consultants of the future. Lisa Unwin, Founder of She’s Back, was clear ‘skills don’t change’; being clever, focussed on client service, connected and being able to make change happen are core skills now, were 10 years ago and will continue to be in the future. Madeline felt that technology would quickly become a base skill for all; coding, programming and a strong understanding of how processes work would be essential. Nadun Muthukumarana, Partner at Deloitte, raised the issue of the ongoing talent gap: we don’t have enough graduates now to fill the demand for technology specialists or enough women in science and technology, but clients want more analytics and data science skills so firms have to recruit from the rest of the world to fill these roles.

Looking at bridging these gaps, the panel were asked how to build a diverse workforce without it appearing as a tick-box exercise. Nadun highlighted that diversity is one element of a bigger picture; firms need to be able to demonstrate that they respect the uniqueness of individuals. Lisa reminded us that this is not a new issue. Despite business releasing targets, the new words and new goals don’t address the issue of why people are leaving in the first place. Almost all companies are in the same boat, starting at an even share of gender at graduate level, a slow funnel to partner by which point large numbers of women have left, yet firms don’t appear to be focussing enough on retention – ‘why not work out why the people you employed ten years ago have left instead?’

Back Row L-R: Mary Scott, KPMG; Howard Rees, CSC; Faye Simonds, Transform & Jer Lau, PwC. Front Row L-R: Nadun Muthukumarana, Deloitte; Madeline Lewis, KPMG; Des O'Connor, Mott MacDonald & Lisa Unwin, She's Back

The debate flowed into the topic of work/life balance – long hours, travel, strong focus on utilisation – will this ever change? Lisa feels the consultancy philosophy needs revising and 60% of the audience agreed – feeling that consultancy doesn’t offer a work/life balance. The panel were asked for tips on managing work expectations to allow for a better balance. Looking for a culture where the team wants to succeed together and choosing extra-curricular activities which align to your own career goals or interests were suggested as the best way to do more, without doubling your workload or setting an out-of-office for 6pm-9am! Driven and engaged consultants with an interest in broadening their knowledge is exactly what consulting needs, so as long as you take care of your wellbeing at the same time, it is great to do more                                                                                                              

The event closed with Alan, MCA CEO sharing the changing landscape of the business world over the last 10 years. He impressed that ‘there’s never been a more important time to be a consultant’; with the MCA turning 60 in July and the arrival of Consulting Excellence; he challenged us all to line up the mark and play our part in shaping the next 10 years of the industry.

Written by Mary Scott, Project Manager at KPMG, as part of the Young MCA Update.