Research: New insights Into Today's Consulting Talent War

Posted by Deltek Guest Blog on November 17, 2020

Year after year, the Hinge Research Institute’s annual High Growth Study: Consulting Firm Edition highlights an ongoing challenge for consulting firms: attracting and retaining talented team members. The consulting services marketplace is changing fast. Buyers are changing the way they purchase services; consulting firms are adapting to a radical shift toward remote work; and more specific skills are needed across marketing and business development teams to help firms be found, build trust, and close deals.

Meanwhile, on the HR front, a quiet war for top talent continues.

A Timely Second Study

For a second time, the Hinge Research Institute has conducted its Employer Branding Study. The largest of its kind, the study fielded responses from 1,034 talent recruiters and job seekers across 10 industry groups around the world. Respondents were segmented by industry, career stage, and job search status—non-seekers, passive seekers, and active seekers. You can download the Executive Summary for free, as well as join our webinar reveal of the study findings.


New Insight Into Today's Consulting Talent War

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The study was conducted as consulting firms around the world grappled with the recent health, economic, and political crises. So now more than ever, it is essential that leaders of consulting firms understand and adapt to the ever-changing recruiting and employee retention landscape, if they are to thrive in an evolving world. So, what did we learn?

Culture, Culture, Culture

First, according to the study, 57% of job seekers consider company culture as important to them as pay when evaluating job prospects. Corroborating culture’s importance, cultural fit edged out work history and experience among 75% of recruiters.

Criteria for Job Seekers and Employers

In today’s employment environment, potential hires are taking a hard look at whether prospective employers’ values are aligned with theirs, while recruiters and talent evaluators are putting a premium on maintaining a healthy workplace culture. Consulting firms should pay as much attention to their employer brand as they do to their financials. Their reputation as a workplace, and value proposition to potential employees is crucial to attract and keep the people they need to deliver on their brand promise and get through any disruption.

Career Stage Matters

Study participants categorized themselves in one of three career stages: entry level, mid-career, and senior professional/leadership. When it comes to selecting a firm to work for, salary was the most important factor across all three levels, but company culture came in second for mid-career and senior-level employees, and tied for third place among entry-level candidates. Culture is an enduring theme across the employment process and the different career stages.

Career Levels

Career priorities varied depending upon career stage. For entry level job seekers: having an opportunity for growth (career advancement) and the office’s geographic location & distance from home mattered the most. For mid-career job seekers: being respected & being allowed to contribute and not being spread too thin were their major career priorities. For senior professionals: the ability to work remotely and having their voices heard were most important.

Crisis and Merger and Acquisition Response

Responses to questions on how their firms handled major disruptions show participants’ heightened concern about company culture, as well as culture’s impact on turnover.

When it comes to the pandemic, most employees gave their firms passing grades. Only 17% were dissatisfied, giving their firm a score of 6 or lower on a 10-point scale. The most common reason respondents gave a poor rating was their firm’s lack of a plan or slow response to the crisis.

Satsfaction with Covid Response

The pandemic is not the only way in which firms have experienced radical change. Mergers and acquisitions present a unique disruption on the employer branding front. When asked what respondents would change about how their firm handled a merger or acquisition, 69% cited having a formal integration strategy and a plan for employees to prepare and adjust

When Employee Retention is at Risk

Retaining top talent is a daunting challenge the consulting industry is more than familiar with. There are many reasons why employees choose to change jobs. But there are also some predictable patterns that can help you recognize where the risk is greatest, inform expectations, and point to possible solutions. As part of our Employer Branding Study, we looked at three groups:

Three types of job seekers

It is important to note that the consulting industry had the highest percentage of active job seekers as compared to nine of the 10 industries studied. In fact, the likelihood of someone becoming an active job seeker increases substantially after only one year at a consulting firm. And the percentage of active seekers reaches its maximum level in the 3-5-year window, making it an excellent target for retention efforts.

Length of Time Spent at Employer

Key Insights

The study throws three key insights into relief:

  • Cultivating a strong employer brand is a strategic imperative, as it plays a crucial role in recruiting and keeping talent
  • Businesses should tailor employer brand messaging according to a candidate’s career stage, industry, position, and talent profile
  • As job seekers make decisions based increasingly on information that they find online, companies should close the gap between what they do and what they say they do

We have just scratched the surface when it comes to the Employer Branding Study and consulting firm talent acquisition and retention. To pick up more actionable insights and tips, be sure to register for and attend the following Deltek Thought Leadership webinar featuring the study’s curators:

Title: New Insights Into Today's Consulting Talent War


Lee Frederiksen Ph.D.
Managing Partner

Kelly J. Waffle
Managing Director
Hinge Research Institute

Watch the on-demand webinar at your convenience!

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