MCKINSEY & COMPANY
Sure, but for how long?
That’s the question being asked at McKinsey. If Vault’s history reflects anything, it is that the top spot is like a hot potato between Bain and McKinsey with regularity. After all, McKinsey ranked #1 from 2018-2020…after Bain held the top spot five times from 2011-2017. Considering McKinsey’s resources, reach, and renown, it is difficult to picture McKinsey being a runner-up next year.
That’s because McKinsey represents the biggest stage with the biggest challenges. The oldest management consulting firm, with roots stretching back to 1926, McKinsey is also the largest firm: home to over 30,000 employees in 130 locations and 65 countries. For many, McKinsey is a place where “the world is at your fingertips.” By that, the firm means that consultants can access any sort of expertise from anywhere across the globe.
A GLIMPSE INTO THE FUTURE
“I was immediately drawn to McKinsey because of its diversity in industries, geographies, and people,” writes Kaleigh Killoran, an HBS grad who joined the firm in 2020. “Specifically, McKinsey was the most global of the firms I was interested in, both from a client base and employee perspective. It was the most diverse firms in terms of industries it serves, ranging from significant public and global health contributions to private sector product design and transformations.”
This diversity also exposes consultants to something more profound: the future. “In many ways, we get a unique perspective on where change is going to happen before rest of the market. That is something that is pretty distinctive we get from our clients,” explains Danielle Bozarth, a McKinsey partner. “There are a lot of areas where we have not only built real capabilities where we see the growth happening and also concurrently see the growth before it happens because we have colleagues who are immersed in that part of that world where there is that growth and innovation.”
The firm also carries a certain mystique with its client secrecy. Being everywhere and seemingly working with everyone makes it the proverbial hidden hand behind every political or organizational shift. Alas, the reality is far less imposing. Yes, “knowledge is king” at McKinsey — but so too are systems and strategy. That’s because being a McKinseyite involves taking apart a problem in a consistent, step-by-step process. More than that, it is an approach for communicating to CEOs, always telling stories behind data and communicating regularly so there are no surprises when the findings are presented. That requires a flat structure and consensus-driven philosophy where everyone — even newbies — have the obligation to dissent if something seems off. That’s why, as the joke goes, the McKinseyite often assumes the leadership role in any room.
“A lot of people talk a lot of smack about McKinsey,” writes one Vault consultant. “I’d challenge anyone to find a private sector organization of our scale and impact that is as fundamentally committed to its purpose as McKinsey. We’re not perfect, but it’s the only organization of its kind that I have ever seen which actually does aspire to be perfect and refuses to simply ‘settle.’”
Settle? Not if you look at 2022 Vault data. This year, McKinsey boosted its scores in 19 of 20 employment factors measured by Vault. That includes a .220 of a point bump for Compensation. The same could be said for Hours Worked (+.627), Internal Mobility (+.425), Work-Life Balance (+.276), and Health and Wellness (+.429). These changes are reflected in feedback given by McKinsey survey respondents.
“McKinsey is investing heavily in employee mental health and well-being,” observes one anonymous employee surveyed by Vault. “The leadership is focused on it and there are meaningful conversations about supporting people who have or are in recovery from mental health challenges. I have noticed a marked shift in a short period of time regarding the firm’s culture around these issues. Also, there are great programs like Take Time that allow you to go to 90 or 95% time and go do fun things like go on a trek or take extra time with your family. There’s also a [Ramp Off Ramp On] program for people who go out for parental or other extended leave. I have personally found the flexibility offered by these programs very helpful.”
Overall, McKinsey notched the highest scores of any firm in four areas. One was Internal Mobility, which aligns with the “Make your own McKinsey” philosophy that enables consultants to move around to gain experience and pursue passions.
“McKinsey is great about offering new opportunities for development and advancement that allow me to stay and grow inside the firm,” writes one Vault survey respondent. There’s so much flexibility that I’ve reached almost 20 years of tenure and have always been able to find or create the role that fits me best. I’ve worked in other consulting and investment banking firms where you really had to leave if you wanted any advancement at all.”
A BRIGHT FUTURE
Another survey-taker lauds the firm’s commitment to its employees. “Literally no other company (in consulting or even tech) invests as much in people development as McKinsey, either in terms of protected time or resources available for learning or the on-the-job mentorship/apprenticeship from experienced practitioners, then it’s combined with a strong culture of regular actionable feedback. When things get off-track in your development, everyone swoops in to help course-correct and give you actionable steps to get back on track.”
McKinsey also produced the highest scores for Innovation, International Opportunities, and Selectivity. The firm also finished 2nd overall in five categories: Benefits, Diversity, Informal Training, Level of Challenge, and Supervisors. Not surprisingly, the firm (again) ranked #1 for Prestige considering its legacy for nurturing top CEO talent like Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman. As McKinsey nears its hundredth year, the future continues to look bright thanks to its careful curation of its culture and proactive approach to serving the marketplace.
“I’m encouraged by the outlook of the firm and consulting in general,” notes one survey respondent. “The seriousness of client challenges to solve and McKinsey’s focus on digital and tech are two reasons I am positive about the firm and being here. McKinsey is almost 100 years old and I’m interested in, and generally positive about, how Bob Sternfels and other partners will lead in the next few years.”
“McKinsey is thriving and will continue to do so, because of its people and the passion each brings as well as because of our approach to innovation and investing in new and exciting ways of working,” adds another survey taker. “The breadth of colleagues we hire with diversity of capabilities is unmatched and gives me confidence in our ability to serve our clients in a distinctive and unmatched way.”
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