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If you are considering using a management consulting firm, no doubt you are going to search for the top consulting firms to choose from. The first thing you’re likely to discover is the consulting industry doesn’t consist of a clear-cut segmented group of firms. For example, one of the top-ranked consulting firms is Mckinsey & Co; a global company focused on strategic management within a macroeconomic environment. It also does some IT and Human Resources consulting. AON Consulting focuses on financial risk mitigation but also does human resources consulting. However, you discover that HR consulting is also focused on financial aspects, like benefits and retirement accounts.
So when you inquire about the top consulting firms, it’s good to first narrow it down to the type of consulting needed. There is general agreement in the industry that the top three consulting firms are McKinsey, Bain, and BCG (Boston Consulting Group). Still, these are global mega-consulting firms that are not necessarily suitable for many businesses. Despite their size, they don’t even offer all the services in the management consulting arena, like strategizing to stay union-free.
Looking beyond the “Big 3,” the following are five top consulting firms that are highly rated, emphasizing the management consulting perspective.
Kearney is a top global consulting firm that delivers management consulting services in more than 40 countries. The firm offers consulting services in a wide range of areas that include analytics, digital, operations and performance, and leadership, change, and organization, to name a few. Their leadership consulting is focused on helping organizations manage change through different strategies based on a deep dive into operations, interrelationships in its workforce, and culture. Kearney’s Network Navigation method applies organizational network analysis to understand how decisions are made, identify areas where people and teams need access to resources, identify influential employees, discover hubs of expertise and innovation and identify ways to empower employees at lower levels.
Oliver Wyman is part of the Marsh & McLennan Companies and offers management consulting services in 60 cities in 29 countries. It is frequently recognized as an employer of choice for consultants who want to work in an entrepreneurial culture. The consulting firm is also very socially conscious. Among the many types of consulting offered is operational consulting, which focuses on things like supply chain, product development, and innovation, and organizational effectiveness. The latter includes helping management engage its people to accelerate performance and guide systemic cultural development. The company’s organizational network analysis tries to identify informal relationships that aren’t on the organizational chart but can be instrumental in strategy execution.
Deloitte is another of the top consulting firms with offices in more than 150 countries and has several practices, which include technology, strategy and operations, and human capital. In the human capital practice, the consulting company leverages research and analytics to design and execute programs in Human Resources and leadership. Services include employee engagement tools, workforce planning and analytics, talent management across the spectrum for leadership and employees, and organizational transformation strategies to improve operational efficiency. Deloitte, like many of the management consulting firms, relies heavily on technologies to drive its consulting services, i.e., training employees for the future of work.
Ernst & Young (EY) has 700 office locations in 150 countries. The consulting firm has four service areas that are assurance, consulting, strategy and transactions, and tax. The consulting area has a program called Transformation Realized, which is a model in which value creation is based on innovation at scale, technology at speed, and humans at the center. The focus in the human capital segment is on creating more engaging experiences for employees so they deliver better customer service. The company also offers talent strategy development to help clients build a workforce with the right capabilities and focus. EY provides consulting services focused on developing adaptive leadership, like leading with emotional intelligence and incorporating continuous development.
PricewaterhouseCoopers is also global and operates in 158 countries. The company offers a wide range of services that include audit and assurance services, deals, legal, strategy, and more. It also has service areas in consulting and people and organization. PwC offers consulting in areas like culture change, change management, and leadership capability improvement. Consultants address areas like aligning the HR function to business strategies, enhancing the employee experience and employee engagement, and workforce planning and development to meet emerging business challenges. Workforce strategy includes talent planning, learning and upskilling, employee experience, and work environment.
Notice the large consulting firms have multiple practices and offer similar services on a global basis. They have vast networks of consultants ready to tackle the management consulting needs of global mega-corporations.
Now consider these statistics about businesses in the U.S. Per the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, out of 6.1 million employer firms:
Most businesses are not global mega-corporations and really don’t need global mega-consulting services.
All management consulting firms share similar concepts but use different approaches. Though the Big 3 and top five management consulting firms offer many services, they are too big for most companies. Many of their services are on a very high level and involve advanced technologies. Their billing rates are higher than smaller consulting firms, and they are geared more towards handing management solutions based on their analysis.
When searching for top consulting firms that may be a good fit for your business, you have to align your choice with factors like the size of your business and the goals you have in mind. Do you need assistance with staying union-free, employee communication, or leadership development? Consider the type of experience and expertise the consulting firm has, and determine if it can help you meet your goals based on the size and type of business you operate.
Evaluate the consulting company’s employee and leadership training resources, consulting strategy, and scope of operation. If you are a medium-sized business operating in the U.S., you probably don’t need to pay a global consulting company. You need a consulting company that is nationally or regionally focused. The top five management consulting companies are deeply involved in technologies like Artificial Intelligence and data analytics, but maybe all you need is help developing an employee digital communication system.
There are numerous top management consulting firms that are smaller than the top global firms when “top” is defined as high-quality and effective. Some are consulting firms specializing in a particular area, like technology, leadership development, employee engagement, and/or preventing union organizing. Niche or boutique management consulting firms are smaller-sized consulting firms that have close connections to their clients and usually have a specific area of expertise. Many of them are excellent companies, but it’s not simple to say which are the top consulting firms because they are local or regional.
Christian Stadler, author, and Professor in Strategic Management at Warwick Business School, discussed some interesting points about consulting firms that are not the largest. One consideration is that the largest consulting firms sometimes struggle to maintain creative thinking. They have deeply embedded methods and processes. Most of the websites for the firms mentioned indicate they are reworking their approach to talent recruitment and training in order to get creativity back into strategizing and the development of tools and resources.
Smaller consulting firms may be more agile and flexible with processes and methods. Another advantage of using management consulting firms that are not the largest in the industry is that they are more likely to work as collaborators with the client’s leaders rather than simply delivering a solution after analysis.
Going big is right for some companies but not for all. The top management consulting firms have a lot to offer clients, but so do the smaller consulting businesses. When you ask which are the top consulting firms, the answer really depends on what your business needs.
IRI Consultants has management consultants based in 27 states, with experience in 49 states. who are experts in everything from change management to leadership training and coaching. IRI Consultants is a market leader in labor relations and union organizing campaigns organizational development, change management, and internal and external communications, including the IRI digital solutions group, Projections.