As the MCA launches its Consulting Excellence Academy and the associated “Guide to Professional Development in Consulting Firms,” William Johnson, MD of Associate Member PSfPS, examines why now is the time for firms to revisit their professional development strategies.
Leaders of management consulting firms tell us there are three key challenges at the forefront of their minds:
Consulting firms are constantly fighting to find new ways to attract, develop and retain the best people in the industry. The consulting market also faces increased pressure from high-tech companies and start-ups targeting a limited pool of talent.
The opportunities for consulting firms presented by the rise of advanced robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning are huge – there are many traditional consulting activities that can be done quicker and better by machines. Automation will have a profound effect on the skills required of consultants in the coming years.
The third challenge is how to address the continued divergence of the consulting industry into two: a high-volume market characterised by specialised knowledge, standardisation, verging on commoditisation, and a high-value consulting market where problems are often undefined and clients rely on the minds of consultants to help them make key decisions about their future direction.
At their heart, each of these three challenges share a common thread: people.
Recent research from the MCA suggests that the development focus in many firms remains predominantly on technical skills. To meet each of the challenges facing their industry, consulting firms would do better to shift their professional development activities towards developing behavioural and cognitive skills.
In the MCA’s recent Consulting Excellence Staff Survey, over 50% of consultants argued that the provision of clear career progression paths was most important to them. Firms need to ensure their opportunities for professional development are second to none.
As more technical functions become automated, the premium placed on thinking and behavioural skills will increase. The focus of professional development activities in many consulting firms needs to shift. According to the World Economic Forum’s “The Future of Jobs” the Top 10 skills that will be required in 2020 will be:
When it is hard for clients to distinguish between technical, functional and sector expertise, the real difference comes from the perceived value consultants will bring to the engagement. Clients often determine this value through interactions before and during the project. Consultants who produce the most value for clients can think critically, solve complex problems, use cognitive flexibility, demonstrate creativity and carefully manage all communications and interactions.
The time for consulting firms to act is now
Leaders of consulting firms face challenges on many fronts. While technology is changing rapidly, so too are client needs. All the while competition between firms continues to increase, not only for client engagements but also to attract the best talent in the industry.
The MCA’s renewed focus on professional development through the launch of the new Consulting Excellence Academy and the associated “Guide to Professional Development in Consulting Firms” could not be more timely.
Having partnered with the MCA to create the Guide, Associate Member PSfPS are happy to discuss any questions members may have regarding the Guide’s content and any perceived implications on their consulting firm’s professional development strategy. To arrange a discussion, MCA members can complete a contact form here.
Above is a summary of an original article written for the MCA by PSfPS. To read the article in full, please click here.