Buzzword of the day: professional development

Published: Jul 21, 2010


As companies scramble to rebound from the recession and make up for lost time and dollars, their main concern is hiring the right talent and retaining them for the long haul. I've brought this issue up many times before. Companies are well aware that their people are their most valuable asset, and they're putting more and more effort into not only hiring the right talent, but into professional development—they're looking to make a long-term investment in their employees that enables them to stay on for the course of their career. As Consulting points out, most consultancies view careers at their firm as a job for life, which is why firms are increasingly putting career management programs in place.

In its Best Firms to Work For survey, Consulting identified six firms that excel in the area of professional development: Bain, Booz Allen Hamilton, Deloitte Consulting, KPMG, Stroud Consulting and ZS Associates. In the 2010 Vault Consulting Survey, we delve into the issue as well, asking respondents to provide feedback related to their firm's promotion policies and training offerings. While we can't reveal who topped the rankings in these categories, we can provide you with some choice quotes directly from consultants at those leading firms, to give you some idea of how they perceive their professional development opportunities.

-- "College was a waste of time after the 10 days of training here." – Technology associate

-- "The on-boarding training program is world class. They do an excellent job of immersing you in a simulated project to prepare you for real ones." – Entry-level consultant

-- "Most of the learning takes place on the job, but there are plenty of more formal options to explore interests and areas for development (Friday workshops, office lunches, web trainings)." – Analyst

-- "While consultants learn a tremendous amount on the job through project experiences and mentoring, virtually all consultants receive formal classroom training each year." – Partner

-- "We have great resources and training structure. The on-the-job training is one of the top priorities of the management, and I always feel I can seek additional outside training/classes if need be." – East Coast insider

-- "We have unbelievable formal training and continuous learning programs. [My firm] did not cut a dollar from training in the downturn, which highlights the dedication to it." – Finance consultant

To sum it up: Firms that lead the pack in professional development all offer comprehensive initial trainings, after which employees are largely expected to learn as they go—that the bulk of the quotes reflect an emphasis on on-the-job training is no accident. All of the top firms promote mentoring above all else, and in recruiting seek out candidates' ability to learn on the fly. Respondents view this type of development as a positive cultural asset—rather than assuming it's a way of patching over a lack of formal opportunities—and appreciate their supervisors who take the time to coach them along.

Of course, the firms that truly excel in the area of professional development accompany this informal training with a bevy of formal, classroom-type sessions for those who need them or want to get ahead. One common complaint among consultants is that with heavy utilization rates, it's difficult to find the time to take advantage of such opportunities.

To find out which firms excel in the area of professional development, and which firms are best to work for overall, be sure to check out the updated Vault Consulting Rankings, to be released at the end of August.


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