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Management consulting and the growing demand for talent

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Management consulting and the growing demand for talent

In 2021, the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) revealed an 18 per cent growth rate within the sector, with UK consultancies bringing in over £14 billion in revenue. Those figures are very encouraging for a market feeling the direct consequences of the pandemic, including supply chain disruptions and environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns among consumers.

Growth is one thing, but it doesn’t simply sustain itself. To maintain great results, consultancies are forced to seek out exceptional talent. Across 2022, firms of all sizes increased the number of roles and growth is expected to continue through 2023 albeit at a slower pace. 

Hiring trends

According to the latest MCA data, small and medium-sized member businesses increased their hiring by over 1,200 people last year. Of these new positions, more than a third will be outside of London, with many more professionals looking to change their previous working patterns.

At least 400 new roles created by small to medium-sized firms will be filled by apprentices, graduates and school leavers who wish to pursue a career in management consulting. This represents an upward trend in the sector - we’re seeing more young talent than ever before, with a 51 per cent hiring increase within these demographics and an expectation that this will continue for at least the next few years

Large firms are experiencing positive growth, too. KPMG hired 2,767 more new roles in 2021, compared to 1,857 in 2020, whilst filling 1,085 graduate and apprentice vacancies that year in contrast to 909 the year before.

Elsewhere, PwC brought in almost 6,000 new starters across the UK, with just under 1,500 of these positions allocated to school leavers and graduates. Grant Thornton boosted its staff count by 12 per cent, up to over 5,100 last year.

EY leveraged its pool of consultants up to 5,100 and plans to double this figure by 2026, with more than half of these positions being outside of London, whilst Deloitte is forecasted to conclude this financial year with around 1,500 new professionals.

What’s clear from the data is that clients around the world are recognising the UK’s management consulting industry as top-tier, if not the best-in-class, fuelling growth and investment in more roles across the country.

Is the management consulting industry growing?

All of the figures mentioned above follow record growth in recruitment. 2021 saw a 14 per cent increase in consultancy headcounts, bringing the estimated total of management consultants in the UK up to 88,000. 

But why are we seeing this level of growth? Largely, it can be attributed to the way management consultancies have adapted to changing client needs, with even more recruitment expected across the next few years to address increasing demands.

To satisfy the need for more roles in the sector, many management consulting firms have been looking to previously marginalised demographics, with six per cent more firms now collecting diversity and inclusion data to boost employment efforts. 

Additionally, the number of consulting partners in the UK that identify as women has risen from 21 to 25 per cent in the last financial year. 

Will this growth continue?

Strong growth reflects major changes happening in the private and public sectors, with an emphasis on trends such as digitisation and operational efficiency, as well as resilience against cyber threats. Within the public sector, there are several examples of how 

management consulting firms are having a positive impact on society overall. CF helped the NHS to deal with the backlog of women waiting for breast screening due to the pandemic, while Atkins worked with the Ministry of Defence to create a cyber-aware culture.

In early 2023 there has been something of a slow-down in hiring as firms seek to integrate and embed the large volume of hires made over the last couple of years, and growth in the global economy as a whole has dropped off. KPMG and McKinsey have already cut jobs this month, following years of rapid expansion seen across the entire industry. At McKinsey, however, the cuts are exclusive to jobs that don’t work directly with clients, such as technology, human resources and communications. The market is still buoyant, and we’re continuing to experience growth, but it’s not as significant as it was during the post-pandemic frenzy. 

Whilst we don’t anticipate most firms making major redundancies this year, we do expect hiring numbers to be lower than last year. Areas of continued keen interest include artificial intelligence and data analytics, as well as organisational change and restructuring-related work. 

The growth in these areas can be attributed to companies looking to technology to help them streamline and increase efficiency in their organisations due to cost pressures and recent innovations. This allows for faster processes using AI-augmented approaches to tasks and also increases how effectively customer data can be harnessed. 

The UK continues to demonstrate its status as one of the world’s leading management consultancy centres and, as such, the volume of opportunities for talented professionals will continue to expand.

Hiring is one thing, but training and development have also become a key focus for firms looking to increase retention rates. On average, consultancies now provide approximately eight training days per year, compared to six in 2020. Moreover, the MCA already has 50 firms actively participating in the Chartered Management Consultant award. This represents over 4,000 consultants on the path to achieving chartered status, signifying an extraordinary level of quality from the UK management consulting industry.

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