On first view, it can be difficult to identify the differences between the top three consulting firms: McKinsey, BCG and Bain. The truth is, they are similar in many ways, but you’ll find nuanced differences between the cultures of the firms.
Candidates often get a general feel for which firm feels right for them, but sadly there’s no special Hogwarts Sorting Hat to help you decide. Instead, we recommend speaking to a number of consultants at different firms and trusting your gut when it comes to choosing which one feels right for you.
To help you understand the differences, we collected feedback from a number of BCG consultants and identified three key areas where BCG’s culture differs to others.
BCG promotes individuality and diversity
BCG is an incredibly diverse place. It’s recruitment process pays no attention to race, gender or ethnicity. Earning a place at the firm is about past achievements, current competence, and interview performance on case studies. However, what would be the point of all this diversity if, once you’re on the inside, success becomes predicated on conformity?
BCG puts no pressure on people to conform, whether internally amongst colleagues or externally with clients. Something that many current and former BCG consultants mention is that there is no ‘BCG way of working’ or ‘BCG way of acting’ or ‘BCG way of being’. They say they never felt pressure to conform to any cultural expectation. BCG promotes individuality—whether expressed through personality, through appearance, or through ways of working.
In the account of one consultant, he was more of a ‘night owl’ as opposed to a morning person. He felt no issues in discussing this with his project teams to see if they would accommodate a slightly different, ‘shifted’ work window. And generally speaking, where project constraints allowed, his project managers would agree.
BCG uses strength-based feedback
People have different combinations of strengths and weaknesses, and the former feedback approach at BCG was to focus on the weaknesses in the hopes that they would turn into strengths. However, the firm realised no one likes having a mirror held up to their weaknesses. This approach, also, didn’t account for people naturally being good at some things and not at others.
“Feedback should be built on differentiating strengths of the individual rather than their weaknesses.”
BCG overhauled its feedback process in 2016 with the introduction of strengths-based feedback. The new approach involves zooming in on an individual’s strengths to nurture them and to turn them into a platform on which they can progress. In turn, by spill-over, the weak areas also improve. Consultants at BCG now find themselves working in a highly supportive environment that still develops and stretches them.
BCG is a collaborative and fun firm
When asked about what makes BCG an enjoyable place to work, the consensus among current and former employees is that it’s the people. The firm presents a plethora of opportunities for colleagues to get to know one another. Varied social events (organised by the quite powerful Bonding Committee), monthly drinks, annual ski trips and more. There’s a whole host of activities that you go into with colleagues and emerge from with friends.
Why does BCG value and encourage such activities?
Well, one reason is that the firm wants to provide an environment that is open and collaborate—to break down the barriers between cohorts, between levels of seniority and between consultant/non-consultant staff. And they succeed. It’s not uncommon to find friendships between principals and associates, or partners and consultants.
The support network that fellow colleagues provide is a key contributor to a long-lasting and fulfilling career as a BCG consultant.
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