Last week I attended my first MCA event. For those that don’t know the MCA is a representative body for the UK’s leading management consulting firms and has been running for over 65 years. When they release their annual survey, it’s a broad perspective on what is happening in our industry today.
What do you do?
This is a question that management consultants often dread. Put simply, how would you explain your specialism? This may sound boring. However, what’s interesting is the way we explain our roles to our children or the way our children describe our roles based on what they have overheard.
My favourite response to this simple yet heavy question of the evening was, ‘I help people solve their problems in the businesses and organisations, a bit like a doctor for business.’ I believe this was a step up compared to the explanation my son gave me some time ago… ‘Mum does PowerPoints’. He was 10 years old then and by age 15 we had progressed to, ‘she does brain stuff’ (for reference, one of my main specialisms is behavioural science) which I thought was marginally better.
Fun aside, what are management consultants ACTUALLY doing at the moment?
The key themes that were derived from the evening were:
- Consultants are people who provide certainty and clear pathways through change. The need for this support is increasing each day.
- Supporting digital change. All businesses/organisations we work with are grappling with WHEN and not IF they will be embracing digital change. This is where we step in to help them through this process.
- Consultancy and how it’s done is changing. The young MCA members highlighting the need for change within the industry i.e. hybrid working, career progression, motivation and mental wellness.
Certainty and clear pathways – the trusted advisor.
Over 100 senior management consultancy leaders, and over 1000 consultants were involved in this survey which showcased interesting insights as to what may happening in the next 12 months.
- GROWTH - Consulting activity grew 25% in the last year and is expected to grow 13% in 2023. Politics, pace of change, and the pandemic are leaving organisations with a plethora of challenges to solve. The ability for them successfully land change in the current climate is slim, therefore the need for consultants has increased greatly.
- DIGITAL - Digital technology is expected to be the biggest growth area in the next 12 months. Organisations have discovered that the under investment in previous years means they’re not future proof in terms of technology, resulting in the inability to change now. If you add to this the sheer pace of technology change, data-based decision making, cloud services and AI – organisations have no choice but to implement digital transformation agendas to keep up.
- COST - Cost reduction will be the next biggest area of growth in the next 12 months. We are all acutely aware of the need to tighten our belts financially. Organisations are no different. In the coming months, many organisations will find themselves needing to reduce their overall costs, and arguably, if they knew how they would have already done that. Many organisations will discover the need to invest in consulting expertise to find creative ways to make significant savings over the next 1,2 or 3 years.
Our industry is changing, and younger consultants are leading the way.
There were 2 speaking panels throughout the evening. Our seasoned professionals/consultancy leaders provided macro views on trends, global challenges, inclusion and diversity. For me, the raw and unfiltered opinions of younger consultants was deep, insightful and dare I say, emotional.
- OPPORTUNITY. The diversity and inclusion discussion is a hot topic, and for good reason. One of the young MCA members pointed out that ‘talent is everywhere, opportunity is not’. The head of DE&I for KPMG explained the shift to non-Russell group recruitment policy. Education levels both low and high are being included in the recruitment process as consultants have identified the need for a mixed talent pool. Talent not only comes from education, but from diversity in thinking. You will not gain diversity in thinking if recruitment is achieved in one area alone.
- CAREER – There is a change in how younger consultants are thinking about their career as a management consultant. Many are considering taking career breaks, to travel and experience the world, and ultimately bring that richness back into their lives AND their careers. It’s clear that making a difference in society is top of the list for many young consultants. Having the ability to explore different industry sectors, including the public sector, to see where they can be of the most use, is such a huge part of what makes consultancy an appealing career.
- WELLNESS – As we are all aware, the pandemic highlighted the great importance of mental wellbeing and the non-negotiable need for a positive work life balance. The key takeaways from this topic at the MCA evening were:
- Discussions about wellness is encouraged and asking downtime if it’s needed is okay.
- Time spent in ‘the office’ with others, while not full time or dictated by certain days allows for the opportunity to learn from others, socialise, and have a laugh. This is what matters and organisations are STILL on a journey of working out what’s best.
- Consultancy is hard work – multiple hats are worn within this job role. Not only is there the main client work, but every consultancy, as it always has, expects their consultants to be involved in internal projects, and growth activity. And to be honest, sometimes this is just too much. Whereas, in previous year, burnout occurred more regularly with consultants trying to ‘do it all’ without voicing the need for help and support.
So, are we ‘doctors for organisations?’
I realise that this could be a contentious question, my intention is not to divide this audience. Just as we may need to go to a specialist to heal our bodies, there's a growing need to go to a specialist to support the problems that organisations are facing. Problems could be to do with technology, people, change, or cost savings. The good news for everyone is that, if the MCA evening is anything to go by there are many very talented young, and older, specialist advisors out there to help them.