‘Consulting Excellence offers the opportunity for smaller and mid-sized firms to raise their game’

Which sectors are you seeing most recruitment growth in?

There is significant growth happening now around digital which is affecting every sector. Consulting firms have been getting to grips with this over the last few years but the volume of work around digital is expected to continue to increase significantly.

For example, there are now a number of banks that are only accessible online and we recently had our first interest in building a team to look at working on driverless cars. The Government has put money behind these things and this is driving consultants to develop new areas and the capability to focus on them. Without a doubt, digital as a trend will continue and intensify.

Geographically, one of the major growth pulls will continue to be the UK. A lot of consultants in the middle east originate from the UK. One of our clients, within the Big 4 consultancies, is currently active in hiring UK nationals or Chinese speaking UK consultants who wish to move back to China for a project they are working on. The company are offering UK salaries to these candidates.

We are launching Consulting Excellence on 7 July, what advice would you have for firms around the 9 Principles?

I think creating a set of standards is beneficial for all consultancy firms. Firms demonstrating their commitment will be seen as a valuable to clients and candidates and could be a key recruitment tool.

Consulting Excellence offers the opportunity for smaller and mid-sized consulting firms to raise their game. Whether a candidate or a client, you don’t need to look to the bigger firms for best practice as not only are these smaller firms doing this but they are proving that they are adhering to it. Therefore, clients and candidates can widen their view when looking to work with consultancies.

How has Mindbench grown and developed as an organisation?

Mindbench has been running for 13 years. When it first began, the focus was more about helping consultancies with contract requirements. If consultancies needed extra resources for their projects because they had over sold or didn’t have the right people, Mindbench would help work with and support them with these projects. We set out to be ‘the bench of management consultancies’.

As the business developed further, we recognised a need to hire permanent talent for consulting businesses. The business evolved to offer a full sweep of recruitment services, specialising management consultancy.

Our office now has 13 members of staff, including recruiters, researchers, support staff and one member working internationally. We work on briefs within the UK and globally.

Our recent survey of young consultants suggests that firms are relying less on academic results and are recruiting less Oxbridge candidates – are you seeing a similar trend?

Whilst in the past, it is fair to say management consultancy was seen as looking for relatively elite graduates, there has been a shift on this and a movement in the larger consultancy firms, including the big 4, to look at the broader spectrum of universities and look for different things from the consultants. They are happy now to fish in a bigger pool.

The biggest change is the shift I have seen around technology as it is not just enough for the consultants to be the smartest people in the room. It is now recognised that people who have skills around technology may be the people that consultancies are looking to hire. This is something that is distributed much wider than elite university graduates. So actually, if firms can tap into that understanding of technology and the analytical skills that go with it, it doesn’t matter what institution they have come from.

There is now an aspiration level and interest from a bigger group of people around management consultancy. I have been involved in the apprenticeship scheme, we have had recognition from consultancies, including interest from groups who wouldn’t have considered it before.

What steps are you taking to try and match consulting with female talent?

Some companies are asking if Mindbench can make a special effort to find female candidates and in these approaches, we would look for the best talent, whether it’s male or female, but would make special efforts to attract, identify and discuss with female candidates and explain opportunities are available and the extent that firms are able to manage in terms of flexible working arrangements.

Some of our smaller firms work geographically, for example only work in London. Larger firms like Accenture, have back-to-work schemes for mothers returning from maternity leave where they make arrangements to try and give them a workload within their facility. This is typically attractive to women but is not something that can be offered by all firms.

We try to have an honest approach with female candidates but there is a perception that It is going to be difficult, so this is something that we try it overcome where possible.

What do you feel is the best way consulting firms can retain staff?

Firms are trying to retain talent as best as they can but one problem they generally face is based around the kind of work they do. If it involves lots of travel or is not hands-on enough, candidates may feel frustrated. In smaller firms, consultants won’t typically get the P&L responsibility that they may get working in a larger corporate. These are some fundamental challenges of consulting itself.

Having said that, consultancies will try to manage, using approaches such as mentoring, offering accelerated development opportunities and higher salaries. Other firms will offer sabbaticals or the opportunity to outside of the company or with a client and return.  The company Bain is very proactive in doing this.