Do we really know the job of a consultant?
In order to better understand the dissatisfactions of the employees of a consulting firm, let us first look at their job. Do we really know what a consultant does?
By definition, a consultant is an expert in his own field. He is sent to a client company where he looks for solutions to improve its functioning.
Some assignments may take several months or even years to complete.
The consultant may be seconded to the client organisation 5 days a week or less. Depending on the type of organisation of the consultancy, the consultant may have to juggle several assignments or concentrate on one...
This profession therefore imposes a particularly intense rhythm of life. This is why it is essential to take into consideration the needs and expectations of the teams in order to guarantee their motivation for the projects and thus support their performance.
This is evidenced by the aberrant turnover figures in consultancies.
In 2021, it was almost 25%, today it is around 33%.
This rate is particularly high compared to other sectors, the average being 15% in France over the same period.
But it is possible to change things!
This is why we have decided to establish, with the help of testimonials from former consultants, a top 5 list of employee dissatisfactions in the consulting world. This will enable you to better understand what drives your employees and to reverse the trend if necessary.
Many sectors face internal communication problems and the consulting world is fully concerned, generally due to the lack of fluidity in the hierarchical structure. This lack of fluidity slows down the transmission and circulation of information on a day-to-day basis, which in the long run hinders the smooth running of assignments.
This can result in different situations:
This last situation represents a real obstacle to the development of employees, but also to the satisfaction of managers and clients. Indeed, if, during an assignment, the objectives are met and the client is satisfied with the consultant's service, but the latter does not wish to renew the assignment, this inevitably creates frustration. Either the client and the manager let a good employee "go", or the employee is refused a request for change.
To combat this phenomenon, some consultants will even go so far as to threaten the structure with resignation in order to be heard. It can also happen that a consultant prefers to simulate his resignation rather than confront his client to change his mission, for fear of losing the latter.
Today, in the long term, the consulting profession lacks prospects.
With a junior/senior seniority system, experience and responsibility are gained over time. However, several factors can slow down this progression.
It is difficult for a consultant who has been working on a single assignment for years to gain responsibility and to be able to manage teams within his or her consulting firm.
Also, the fact of not being able to evolve easily within the client company fuels the distance with certain internal collaborators of the latter, who would not consider the consultant as their equal in terms of responsibilities.
The only career option that sometimes emerges for a consultant is to be recruited by the client to become an internal collaborator. This is not an ideal outcome for the consultancy firm, which potentially loses a competent employee with expertise in its subjects.
Moreover, taking a career turn by oneself implies using personal time outside the initial assignment, so as not to cause any delay. Few find the motivation for this over-involvement.
This lack of career visibility often leads to "brown out "*.
The consultant loses motivation and commitment because he/she no longer feels that he/she is contributing to something. The feeling that what he/she is doing is no longer meaningful.
Fortunately, the lack of career perspective is not a generality. Some consultancies have made career management and skills development a priority.
Making employees active in their work, their objectives, their training and their development is the key to enabling everyone to be committed and to participate in the company's performance.
Marine Normand, HR Manager at TNP consultants.
* definition: a decrease in employee commitment resulting from a loss of meaning in their work, a lack of understanding of why they are doing their job and a lack of perspective on their tasks.
As indirectly mentioned in all the previous points, the job of consultant can generate dissatisfaction, sources of stress and pressure.
Overall, how can this pressure be exerted?
Consulting is a sector that is constantly seeking to improve its performance. The image and reputation of the company to which the client has decided to place his trust depend on the work carried out by the consultants. This is not a bad thing in itself, it is also an unparalleled source of motivation. But from this image stems the idea that a consultant has no right to make mistakes.
This fear of failure stems from the fact that one can be much less flexible in terms of management with a consultant than with an internal profile. This is a source of pressure that can (more rarely) turn into frustration when interns rely on the efforts of consultants. Thus, it inevitably reinforces the already existing gap between the consultant and the client's employee...
Finally, to call upon a consultant reveals a crucial need of the client company on a well defined subject. Whether the client tries to make the consultant understand this or not, the latter is often considered an indispensable resource, perhaps even more than an internal collaborator.
Perhaps this is one of the causes of the rift that can arise between external consultants and company employees. In any case, this creates a source of daily pressure for the consultant, which will result in additional working hours:
In fact, it's an unspoken fact. Because we feel obliged to prove that we deserve our place as much as the interns, we invest ourselves even more. I have often stayed late when my assignments were completed, just to show that I was involved.
Clément, 32 years old, consultant for 7 years.
This point was made repeatedly in our interviews with consultants.
This is not a general rule, but it can happen that the client for whom the consultant carries out his mission does not take sufficient time to train his consultants on the internal functioning and its values, considering that he does not need it since he was recommended by the consulting firm.
Sometimes a consultant can be sent on an assignment without having the necessary skills to carry out the assignment properly. In this situation, the consultancy seeks to be reassuring, convinced that the skills will be developed on the job. Whether or not this vision of the work is successful and conclusive, it makes the consultant uncomfortable with the client and potentially the client uncomfortable with the consultant. Finally, if the firm provides training, it is often possible that it will be provided by a peer on their own time. As this organisation is perceived as a waste of time, the trainer (except in special cases) tries to finish it as quickly as possible.
This brings us to our final point in this ranking of employee dissatisfaction...
Feeling a sense of belonging to one's company is essential for maintaining motivation and performance. However, when the consultant spends most of his time at the client's, it is difficult for him to create a link with his fellow consultants, as he rarely sees them / works with them. It is also difficult to create and feel a sense of belonging to the client company, as the consultant is often considered an outsider by the client's teams.
It is a fact of life to be subject to this alienation when you are a consultant, and it often takes a great deal of strength of character to overcome it and ensure that it does not impact on the work.
Let's take the example of Isabelle, a consultant who agreed to testify for this article. She was surprised to find that her colleagues in the company regularly met and went out after work, without ever inviting her.
Despite all the dissatisfactions that may be felt, the consulting profession remains an enriching experience that allows for professional and personal development.
The world of consulting gives access to a great deal of knowledge and discovery of various professional worlds. This is the major learning experience of this profession:
Get out of your comfort zone.
A profession that allows for a great deal of autonomy and knowledge development, but which today has difficulty being considered as a career profession, for all the reasons mentioned in this article.
We hope that it has given you some answers or aroused your curiosity about this profession, and we thank you for your time and interest!
If you want to discover more details about potential improvements that can be applied to consulting, Napta has what you need:
Click here to discover and watch the replay of our webinar on Big Quit in the consulting world, presented by our CEO Arnaud Caldichoury.