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Companies to invest more in freelancers and tech skills but no increase in women in top consulting jobs expected over next decade

Comatch, the curated marketplace for independent consultants and industry experts in Europe, acquired by Malt in 2022, has revealed the findings of its new research on the trends that are set to impact the consulting industry over the next eight to ten years.

With input from almost 700 independent management consultants in the UK, Germany and France, the Consulting in 2030: An Industry on the Verge of Disruption report uncovers key findings including:

  • 66% of respondents think that consultants will increasingly choose to freelance over permanent employment in the next 8-10 years
  • 70% of independent consultants below the age of 35 agree that tech companies will beat consulting firms in the fight to recruit young talent.
  • When asked if consulting firms will invest in and encourage young consultants to specialise earlier in their career, 73% working in sustainability and 72% in digital and IT roles agree.
  • When asked if women will occupy at least 50% of the partner positions at top-tier consulting firms in the next 8-10 years, 62% of respondents in the UK disagree due to lack of support to break down the barriers that women face in the workplace.

Comatch (a Malt Company) conducted the research in December 2022 to gain a snapshot of how changes including digitalisation, the economic downturn and the global pandemic, have impacted the consulting industry, and what this might mean in the next eight to ten years.

Focus on Tech

The report found that recent business school graduates are increasingly choosing to work for tech companies rather than consultancies, drawn to the innovative and fast-paced culture of the tech sector. What this might mean is that consulting firms will continue to turn to experienced, specialised talent, particularly in niche areas, but they will also cast their nets wider to recruit young talent.

Equally, it won’t stop consulting firms from investing in and encouraging young consultants, particularly if their talents lie in areas such as CRM or data analytics, but they will be expected to choose a skillset quickly and master it.

The research does show that, due to the prevalence of remote work, companies need to develop formalised ways to foster learning and development. 84% of all respondents agree with this but, amongst those with a background in HR and organisation, a huge 94% anticipate investments in formal learning and development programmes will replace former on-the-job training opportunities.

Changing workplace

When looking at the future of working environments for consultants, 90% of independent management consultants agree that project teams in the next decade will be more mixed, combining both internal employees and external talent such as freelancers. The research also showed that strategy consulting teams will need to have most of their members experienced in digital skills, such as data analysis and programming, to meet demands for talent to support ongoing digital transformation projects.

When it comes to their views on diversity, the research respondents’ view of the next eight to ten years was discouraging, particularly given global efforts to provide more equitable corporate environments. When asked whether they think that at least half of partner positions will be taken by women, 55% of respondents across all three markets disagreed. A significant proportion of women objected to this hypothesis, with 68% disagreeing compared to 52% of men.

“The report reveals both expected and very surprising findings, but this reflects the ongoing transformation of the consulting landscape,” commented Will Jones, Managing Director, UK & North America at Comatch (a Malt Company). “We’re experiencing the rapid, and much needed, evolution of the workplace brought about by the pandemic years. Our task to 2030 will be to keep pace with the ongoing shifts in the market and ensure our platform is agile enough to connect great consultants with the right clients to benefit from their expertise.”