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Consulting roles likely to face talent retention challenges in 2024, report finds

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More than a third of consulting and industry professionals plan to look for a new role in the upcoming year, according to a Nov. 20 report from The Barton Partnership, a consulting and executive search firm.

Consultants said they’re looking for higher salaries, new challenges and better company cultures in their next roles. In addition, all survey respondents highly ranked remote work, company mission and health and well-being provisions when considering a new job.

“Job retention presents challenges for both consulting and industry, with 36% of respondents in consulting and 41% in industry expecting to change companies within the next 12 months,” Victoria Montagu, executive vice president of The Barton Partnership, said in a statement.

“This is despite strong salary growth and high satisfaction levels in relation to pay, bonus and benefits,” she said.

In the survey of more than 1,500 senior-level consultants and industry professionals worldwide, 78% ranked remote work as an important or very important factor when looking for a new role. After that, 63% said a company’s health and well-being provision was important or very important, and 53% said a company’s mission or purpose was a major factor.

Workers at all levels prioritized higher salaries and bonuses, despite recent positive trends in compensation, such as an average 9% increase in consulting salaries in the past 12 months. About 71% of those in consulting and 74% of those in industry said they considered their compensation to be at or above market average, according to the report.

Managers and project leaders at boutique or specialist firms reported the highest levels of satisfaction with their compensation. In addition, former consultants who moved into industry — especially in the oil, gas and utilities sectors — were typically most satisfied with their compensation.

“Consultants primarily move to industry for a better work/life balance, new challenges and greater accountability,” Montagu said. “Employers who are keen to attract new talent will be interested to read how gender can influence motivation, with career progression and financial reward being the most highly rated factors for male and female respondents (respectively) in consulting when considering a move, whereas in industry financial reward is more highly rated by men.”

With high turnover rates, employers see retention as a top operational priority, according to a recent Gallagher report. In response, companies say they’re adjusting compensation, expanding medical benefits and upgrading their well-being initiatives. 

As part of this, employee attraction and retention efforts need more emotional intelligence, according to an Integrated Benefits Institute report. This can mean prioritizing employee well-being and satisfaction through flexible work options, better communication and employee development programs focused on diversity and inclusion.

Flexible work options have played a major role in employees’ choices this year, and the trend could well continue next year. Mandating on-site work could hurt employee retention, according to a survey from The Conference Board. Nearly a third of workers required to return to the workplace this year said they were less intent on staying with their company.

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