Vault's Careers Blog

Career advice and job search strategies for the modern careerist

Posts Tagged ‘consulting

The Vault IT Consulting 25 is here!

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This year, we’ve taken our consulting rankings a step further. Instead of simply listing out the top firms based on perceived prestige in the industry, we’ve gone out and asked consultants what matters most to them in choosing an employer. What they told us was that prestige alone is not a determining factor. Rather, the single most important issue when choosing a consulting firm is company culture (43 percent claimed that culture was most important!), followed by practice strength (14 percent), prestige (11 percent) and compensation (6 percent), among a few other options. We’ve taken this feedback and created a new Vault IT Consulting 25, showcasing the firms that are best to work for. This ranking was compiled using a weighted formula that reflects the issues job seekers care most about. (See below).

Don’t worry, we’ll still be releasing the all-important prestige rankings (check in next Tuesday for the big reveal!), and they do play a big role in the overall Vault IT Consulting 25 rankings. After all, a prestigious firm name puts a sheen on any resume, in addition to affording consultants access to a high caliber of clients and projects. That said, we believe that quality of life issues are at the core of a company’s appeal to job seekers. Let’s face it: In this post-recession era of recovery and growth, it’s a job seeker’s market, and job seekers are looking for a workplace that offers both prestige and an appealing lifestyle. Here’s the formula we used to compile this year’s rankings:

• 25 percent firm culture

• 25 percent work/life balance

• 20 percent compensation

• 20 percent prestige

• 5 percent overall business outlook

• 5 percent transparency

The scores for the first five categories are derived directly from the survey results; all categories except prestige are based on a firm’s own consultants’ feedback about their quality of life, whereas the prestige ranking is based on the perception of outside consultants. (Respondents were not allowed to rank their own firm in the prestige category.) The “transparency” category awards a 5 percent bonus to firms that distributed the survey to their consultants. Firms that did not distribute the survey internally received no points in this category. It is our view that, with increasing expectations of transparency and a free market for information, a company’s willingness to encourage employees to share their experiences externally correlates with a work culture where open feedback and self-criticism are valued—attributes that thousands of job seekers tell us are top priorities in searching for a new employer.

Stay tuned next week for the long-awaited prestige rankings!

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Accenture to Spend $100 Million on Skills Training

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Is $100 million the new threshold for signaling you’re serious about making a difference? Recently, it was Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg pledging that amount to the Newark school district. Now we learn that consulting giant Accenture will be spending 100 (very) big ones over the next three years on its Skills to Succeed program.

The goal of Accenture’s program seems pretty straightforward: the company wants to equip 250,000 people around the world with the “skills that enable them to participate in and contribute to the economy and society.” And to do it by 2015

A few examples of the type of work the Skills to Succeed program does—and will continue to do in order to meet its targets:

  • Building the skills of young entrepreneurs in Africa
  • Offering free skills training for the unemployed in Brazil
  • Training disadvantage young people in business process outsourcing and technology skills in India
  • Helping underprivileged students in the Philippines and Cambodia to develop IT skills
  • Training migrant groups in specialized technology skills in Spain
  • Helping disadvantaged young people to become entrepreneurs in the U.K.
  • Teaching business preparedness skills to students in community colleges and providing IT training for disadvantaged youth in the U.S.

In each of the endeavors, the company is working with partner organizations—some local and some international.

Now all we need are some jobs for that quarter-million people to fill!

Zappos: Rewriting the Book on Corporate Transparency

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Does your company have an HR handbook? Chances are, you’re thinking yes, of course. What about a culture book for employees? Zappos does.

The company, which started by selling shoes a decade ago, is today an Amazon subsidiary and has expanded to a multitude of merchandising. It is also probably one of very few companies to grow its brand around an idea of transparency, ethics and collaborative culture. For Tony Hsieh, cofounder and current CEO of Zappos, this was intentional from Day 1. In his recently released book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose—which I will be reviewing in the coming days on Vault’s CSR Blog: In Good Company—Hsieh devotes a whole chapter to the Zappos Culture Book.

In short, the book contains employee interpretations of what their company’s culture is all about and how it is different to other companies. And this is no mere PR exercise, designed to make the company look good: all of the entries received were inserted with minimal editing, even when they were anonymously submitted. Of course, Hsieh took a risk; no company is perfect and since culture is perceptional, the initiative could have resulted in a mudslinging session directed at Zappos management.

But it didn’t. While the majority of the entries were positive, not every employee was thrilled with the company’s culture—and that was reflected in the book. Hsieh, as promised, inserted both the criticism and the positive feedback when creating Zappos’ first Culture Book. His aim: To show existing and new employees what working there is all about, including the good, the bad and the ugly. In fact, much to his delight, the book has been downloaded by people who don’t even work at Zappos.

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh blogs regularly as well as staying engaged with customers and employees via Twitter

The company produces a new Culture Book every year. For Hsieh it epitomizes the evolution of the company’s brand over its short existence. “We wanted to be as transparent as possible, so we decided that none of the entries would be censored or edited, except for typos. Every edition of our culture book includes both the good and the bad so that people reading the book can get a real sense of what our culture is like. With each edition, it would also be a way of documenting how our culture was evolving over time.”

The idea of a culture book isn’t unique; it is Zappos’ treatment of transparency and accountability as a priority that makes this worth noting. Most companies conduct some form of employee survey to gauge problem points and get feedback on what’s working. However, publishing it without censorship in a publicly available document is what makes Hsieh’s approach sustainable. Even if it isn’t popular in every C-suite.

As a manager, how open are you to engaging your team in positive criticism? With new generations stepping into the workforce every year, ideas are bound to constantly evolve, but are management styles redefining and realigning accordingly? Whether you call it corporate responsibility, sustainability, or something else entirely, it doesn’t need highly designed websites and ad campaigns to work. It can start small: like spearheading a collaborative and transparent workplace culture. But it has to start from the top.

Hsieh puts it succinctly, “Even today, our belief is that our Brand, our Culture, and our Pipeline are the only competitive advantages that we will have in the long run. Everything else can and will eventually be copied.”

Join the discussion by leaving a comment, emailing Vault or connecting with us @VaultCSR.

Vault’s 2010 Consulting Survey: The Numbers Are In

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Well, folks, the 2010 Vault Consulting Survey has officially come to a close. After racking in close to 10,000 responses from consultants around the world, we are left with a rich pool of data, from which we can draw an interesting portrait of the consulting industry today.

While we won’t be releasing the consulting rankings until the end of the summer, below you’ll find some stats from our North American survey that will give you an idea of who participated and their general impressions of their respective firms.

Percentage of respondents who are men: 69

Percentage of respondents who are single: 57

Percentage of respondents who are non-White: 22

Percentage who said culture was the single most important factor that made them decide to accept their firm’s offer over others’: 44

Percentage who said prestige was the single most important factor that made them decide to accept their firm’s offer over others’: 14

Percentage who said that, knowing what they know now, they would make the same decision about which firm to join: 92

Percentage of respondents who worked as a summer intern at their firm: 18

Percentage of consultants who received a 2009 year-end bonus: 83

Average score on a scale of 1 to 10 (where 1 is “inadequate” and 10 is “extremely generous”) that respondents give to their compensation: 7.43

Percentage of respondents who work 2-3 weekends per month: 24

Percentage of respondents who work over 70 hours per week: 7

Average score on a scale of 1 to 10 (where 1 is “completely unsatisfied” and 10 is “entirely fulfilled”) that respondents give to their overall satisfaction: 8.07

Average score on a scale of 1 to 10 (where 1 is “in a precarious position” and 10 is “well positioned to thrive”) that respondents give to their firm’s overall business outlook: 8.66

–Posted by Naomi Newman, Consult THIS

The Goldman Effect? Poll Says I-Bankers Not Trustworthy

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It’s official: perception of investment banking as a trustworthy profession is rock bottom. Perhaps not surprising given the news cycles recently, but pretty damning nonetheless. As results from our recent home page poll show, investment bankers and corporate lawyers are not seen as paragons of virtue at the moment, scoring significantly below journalists, and not much better than used car salespeople. Management consultants, on the other hand, seem to be riding a wave of positive perception.

Let us know your opinion of the results: do they seem valid, or like a lot of consultants had a lot of time on their hands last week, while the I-bankers and lawyers were all watching Goldman getting grilled by the government? Drop us a comment below, or hit us with an @reply on Twitter.

Career Navigation in a “New Normal” World

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Leave it to those in the consulting industry to find a large helping of cold water to pour over what little belief any of us might have that we’re on the road to recovery. Summing up a new book by two partners at Boston Consulting GroupAccelerating out of the Great Recession—the folks at Consulting Magazine offer these terrifying little nuggets:

“Too few companies have taken the long-term, defensive measures necessary to survive and thrive in the wake of the Great Recession.”

“[T]here will be no return to the ‘old normal’ as tapped-out consumers will no longer be able to be counted on to help drive the economic engine.”

Of course, we should bear in mind that BCG partners have a vested interest in scaring the rest of us over the economy: when you’re in the business of getting hired to help companies cope with change, fear is a pretty strong motivator.

But looking at the comments—and indeed the review as a whole—it’s difficult to disagree with the overall premise. The “recovery” we’ve seen so far feels exceptionally fragile, and isn’t predicted to bring a glut of hiring any time soon. That points to a future where, indeed, the “new normal” is higher unemployment rates, which in turn continue to depress consumer spending, keeping the whole economic cycle on a very muted spin compared to recent years.

While the subject area of the book is aimed at helping executives to ensure their companies are equipped for success despite the economic climate, the core piece of advice for them in the summary applies equally well to careerists seeking to achieve the same thing on a personal level: “[G]o on the attack […] Now is the time to be proactive.”

Bottom line: companies need to try new approaches, to specialize in more areas, and to take a positive role in shaping their own futures, rather than sitting back and waiting for the ill economic winds to once again turn in their favor. Torturing that metaphor just a little longer, careerists need to do the same thing for themselves: now is the time for tacking, not drifting.


Health Care Bill: Vault’s experts discuss its career and education impact

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How’s the new health care bill going to affect the job market and your career? Vault’s career, education, and industry experts weigh in on what the modern student and professional should keep in mind.

Phil Stott, Producer, web content
Aman Singh, CSR Editor
Carolyn Wise, Senior Education Editor
Naomi Newman, Global Consulting Editor
Margaret Davidson, Manager of Editorial Research
Derek Loosvelt, Global Finance Editor
Linda Petock, Senior Producer, web content

Linda: Welcome to Vault’s first “In the News” roundtable discussion. I thought we’d start this series off with what everyone’s been talking about all week–the historic health care bill.

Phil: I think one of the biggest changes afoot in the bill is the end of people feeling like they’re tied to their jobs because of healthcare. Having grown up in a country with socialized healthcare, I’ve seen first-hand both sides of the coin, and it’s always struck me as somewhat strange that the quality of one’s healthcare should depend on the lottery of where you manage to land a job.

Of course, that isn’t going to end completely—employers will still be able to compete on healthcare plans—but my feeling is that having a “safety net”, as the President put it, will encourage more mobility in the job market. That, to my mind, means we’re going to see employers having to work harder to maintain loyalty among employees. It also means we’re likely to see more people taking chances in their careers, and a potential rise in entrepreneurial activity. Whether it also means—as I’ve seen some commentary in the blogosphere suggest—that some will just drop out of working altogether is another question.

Aman: The health care bill is meant to make it easier for everyone to have coverage, regardless of choice of job/industry. For those few who have the entrepreneurial streak but are buried under loan debt or simply cannot risk it because of family responsibilities or other reasons, this is another win for their freedom of choice. In terms of corporate social responsibility, a once-risky career choice will become more tempting and dare I say, common. This bill means people who want to make a difference and cannot with their current employers can now take the risk of actually thinking outside the box (or the system, in this case) without giving up basic rights like medical coverage.

The field of CSR as a career choice is so nascent right now that this bill serves as more encouragement. From my conversations with students and professionals, there are many individuals out there you would like to graduate with an MBA in Sustainable Business and professionals who are getting certified and trained for CSR work, but are not able to step out of the system and practice. This bill, for them, will make the road ahead easier, whether that means self-employment or working with small businesses to lead change in the marketplace. One step and one company at a time.

Carolyn: Speaking of students, the new health care reform bill is good news for current college students too. Most colleges offer health care plans for current students while they’re on campus, which include treatment in the campus infirmary if you’ve caught pink eye or strep throat, as well as physical health and well-being doctors and counselors. But once they graduate (and, sometimes, during the summer), many young adults find themselves uninsured due to unemployment or under-employment. Many internship programs, for example, do not offer health benefits under the employer’s plan; and entry-level salaries are sometimes so low that opting into an employer’s health care plan means significantly lowering one’s quality of life. I myself was an intern after graduation and found myself (briefly) uninsured.

Everyone talks about how the new health care reform bill will give U.S. citizens the “flexibility of choice,” and for students and recent grads that couldn’t be more true. Under the new health care reform bill, recent graduates will be eligible to remain a “dependent” under their parents’ insurance plan until they’re 26. This extended coverage will take some of the stress off of finding one’s bearing in the professional sphere, and allow recent grads to take jobs that offer more long-term benefits (e.g., job opportunities, networking, etc.), rather than ones that pay best and offer the most comprehensive benefits plan but may not be on the desired career path.

This increased job flexibility at graduation will also enable students to consider more diverse options when they leave campus—travelling, perhaps, or simply taking time for themselves to help transition from student to professional. Postgraduate internships will also certainly continue their upward trajectory. Last year, 55 percent of career centers at colleges and universities across the country told Vault that they’ve seen an increase in the number of seniors choosing internships over full-time employment after graduation. With the safety net of continued health care coverage, these grads will be able to pursue the internships and opportunities best suited to launch their careers.

Naomi: In the short term, I think the primary impact of the health care bill will be on HR consulting firms, who will be busy at work helping their clients understand the full implications of the new legislation on their health benefits packages. They will need to reconsider their offerings and make sure they are complying with all new requirements. And since the plan is so far-reaching, this will keep HR consultants busy for at least the next few years.

Linda: Do you think then that the field of HR consulting will grow? Does that mean more hirings in the consulting field overall?

Margaret: I don’t know about HR consulting, but it could potentially lead to an increase in hiring at firms that have a large public sector presence – or at least a shift in terms of where the opportunities can be found. Any time legislation dictates an expansion of some sector of the government, government consulting firms adjust their business development strategies to go where the money is. Similar to the way these companies focused on pitching to defense agencies when we got involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, I suspect that they will target agencies that are impacted by this bill. Thus, I predict that there will be a greater number of opportunities to consult civil agencies.

Naomi: Also look for health care and strategy consulting firms to get in on the action. They will look at all angles of the issue, from helping insurers and pharmaceutical companies to cut costs, to finding better ways of providing care to a much larger market, and improving long- and short-term outcomes. As more of the risk now shifts to consumers, finding innovative solutions for health care plan delivery and incentives will be of critical importance, especially as large employers do their utmost to reign in costs. More technically, pharmaceutical companies are now undertaking comparative effectiveness research to develop evidence of their products compared to others. Health care consultants are likely to weigh in on this process, as well.

Most see such possible solutions as taking three or four years to be conceived and put into effect, which means that the job market for consultants is sure to grow over the next few years. And due to stagnation in the market over 2008-2009, consulting firms are now really starting to bolster their numbers.

Derek: I think the largest effect on the financial industry, from a careers perspective, will be an indirect one. With most of the difficult work involved in reforming the U.S. health care system behind them, Democrats can now focus on financial regulatory reform, which slid to the back burner but is now shaping up to be the major rallying point come mid-term elections this fall. Coincidentally, Election Day occurs during the height of top banking employers’ recruiting season. This means that some of these employers (those who’ve been and will continue to receive boatloads of hate mail and bad press) will likely be spending serious amounts of time, energy and money attempting to dispel rumors and artificially sweeten the not-so-sweet past when they descend upon undergraduate and MBA institutions after Labor Day.

And while banks’ PR outfits and insiders work overtime, would-be finance employees from some of the top schools across the country (aka candidates for some of the highest-paying entry-level jobs in the land) will be faced with some difficult questions, including this one: Should I go into banking at all? With public perception of the banking industry at a low, if not all-time low, and the heat about to be turned up on banks for their recent indiscretions, it’s likely that this year choices between, say, Goldman and McKinsey, Morgan Stanley and BCG, and J.P. Morgan and Bain might be easier and come out differently than they had been in the past.

Linda:  Thanks everyone!  As Derek mentioned, the financial regulatory reform is coming up and we’ll cover that in a future “In the News” discussion.  Please feel free to continue the debate and leave your comments below.

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Previous coverage: Four Hiring Boosts from the Health Care Bill

Written by Linda Petock

March 26, 2010 at 3:16 pm

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