How to navigate staffing?

Bain & Company BCG consulting McKinsey
New answer on May 16, 2022
6 Answers
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Anonymous A asked on May 14, 2022

Hi all,

I joined MBB recently and have had a poor experience with staffing.

I am not able to reach staffing via slack or email to discuss on how can we work together moving forward in staffing me in projects that can leverage on my strength or sharpen my weakness areas.

Currently, everything seems like a blackbox where staffing only communicates once everything is decided, I would like at minimum have a communication channel with staffing however they do not respond to my messages unless a PPL is involved.

Any tips to navigate staffing as an associate?

Thanks

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Cristian
Expert
Content Creator
replied on May 15, 2022
McKinsey & Oxford / 100% success rate beyond 4 sessions / top 25% best consultants in the Firm

Hi there, 

This is not surprising. I had a similar experience. 

A few suggestions of what worked for me:

  1. Speak to a few people in the office to get their opinion on what best works with staffing specifically in your region. In some places they'll tell you to ignore staffing, in others they will have specific tips. 
  2. Lower your expectations of what staffing can do. In most places they do virtually nothing aside from admin work.
  3. Give feedback to the staffing Partner in your office and tell them you've been struggling to connect with staffing. They'll then take care to take this up further. 
  4. Do use any sort of event where staffing is present to connect with them and build a relationship. We are all human and humans like and are influenced by relationships. I'm not saying that they're going to treat you better because you're friendly with them, but … they will. :)
  5. Change your mentality re staffing as being more of an entrepreneur rather than a resource waiting on the bench. Write to people, connect with them, ask about projects they have in the pipeline and gradually grow and maintain your network as you do more and more projects. The ideal point that you should arrive at is when you have worked already with a few teams that you like and whenever you current project is getting close to finishing you can write to them and ask if they're looking for someone or about to start a new project.  
  6. Say no. If staffing puts you in a project that you don't want to join, think of a few reasons and just say no. Write to them, write to the team that wants to staff you, write to the staffing Partner in your office. Staffing also get their way many times because people are keeping quiet despite being unhappy with their situation. I said no many times which made them annoyed, but at least they remembered me afterwards and they never pushed crappy projects in my direction. 

Best,

Cristian

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Ian
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updated an answer on May 16, 2022
BCG | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

Unfortunately, you're not alone!

As a new-hire you really don't have much control in the matter.

Over time you want to do a few things. 

1) You want to build a good relationship with your staffing manager!

2) You also want to build up a good reputation a

3) Network well inside the company. 

If you want to determine your own fate, you need to get to know the people you want to work with (i.e. either they're great and/or in the industry/function you like) and get yourself front and center of their minds when it comes to staffing their projects!

What do 1-3 really mean?

Network, network, network.

Unfortunately, you can't just reach out to seniors to express your interest...if they don't know you/your name this will serve no purpose!

You need to build stronger relationships with these seniors. "Water cooler chats" and firm functions are great ways to build relationships and get notified of opportunities. 

Put yourself out there socially in order to advance professionally. As a "bonus" also try to demonstrably develop your skills...if you're completely green, noone will take on that risk for you. If you can get certifications, side projects, etc. that show your ability to be a star in certain topics, then do so as often as possible!

(edited)

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Anonymous B updated the answer on May 16, 2022

Hi,
This is a great question. And the first element is that I think you should (i) lower your expectation regarding staffing and (ii) think of the bigger picture.

Regarding staffing procedure. Staffing is quite complex. It's not simply staffing the next mission but actually arranging the pipeline so all the next X projects can be launched properly (with trying to optimize the situation for the next few months). So no, the staff cannot take the time to sit with every single consultant to get their need and put them on the right mission. More often that not, the partner will simply say I need X consultants for Y weeks and I would like this manager. The staff will then simply take whoever is free to fill the count and make the situation works with the other projects to launch. 

Moreover, as a new recruit, you don't have the view to know what is good and what isn't. Even for people with years of MBB under their belt, it's not uncommon to think a project looks good on paper and turns out to be awful (because of the team, the clients, the duration of the mission, or key elements that are missing…). And the opposite is also not rare.

So what you should do:

Regarding staffing. You actually should connect with partners and managers. Learn what new projects will begin and if interested ask them to be part of it if possible. If you do a good work, they will gladly take you with them. Hell, you probably will not even have to ask. I personally think it's not a good idea for new recruit (because consulting advantage is the opportunity to discover new fields, new projects and new situations often, so narrowing your field of opportunities as soon as you join does seem contradictory) but to each their own.

Regarding working on your strengths and weaknesses. I think you are looking at the problem under the wrong angle. Most missions will have a lot of different components and with any mission you will have the opportunity to work on at least a few of your shortcomings. So in my opinion and from experience, the best way is actually to connect with the manager or the senior once you've received your staffing and ask for a quick discussion when he has the time. Use the opportunity to tell him the projects you've done (with who), the tasks you've took care of and the feedback you've received. Then mention your axes of progression and ask if it would be possible during the mission to be exposed to a stream that will allow you to work on that (or to discover a new aspect you've never touched so far). 

Regarding staffing members, it sure is annoying to not get a response, but usually the best way is actually to discuss face to face with people. Discuss with them about the next missions and if you've already been staffed. Once you've receive your staffing always reply with a thank you mail for the new mission and so on. Even when you're staffed for the next few weeks, go ask what the missions for next week will be and stuff like that. People may call that networking or whatever but in my opinion, this is just being polite. If you only talk to people to ask for a favor of course, they will be less incline to help you.

(edited)

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Ankit
Expert
replied on May 14, 2022
Senior Manager at Strategy& I 12 years of professional experience I Personalized experience to get you the best offer

Hi, 

Staffing does seem like a blackbox at first but as you advance further in your journey you will realize the amount of efforts and work that goes behind in that blackbox. It is not always possible to staff all the client staff as per their needs or liking - its a typical supply demand matching situation

What you need to do as a new A is to be proactive and reach out to the seniors (senior managers/principal) to directly understand the needs and see if the team would consider staffing you. In the initial few months, you will have to push a bit to get staff. Once you gain some credibility, you will start getting the pull across different projects from the seniors.

Good luck!

 

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Clara
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replied on May 16, 2022
McKinsey | Awarded professor at Master in Management @ IE | MBA at MIT |+180 students coached | Integrated FIT Guide aut

Hello!

Nothing beats in person for that. I bet that, at this point in time, staffing sits in the office at least some days per week. Figure that piece out, and simply show up. 

Cheers, 

Clara

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Ken
Expert
replied on May 15, 2022
Ex-McKinsey London final round interviewer

Sorry to hear about your experience.  It's hard to generalise as I know different firms and even different offices of the same firm have very different staffing processes.  Having said that, the majority of consultancies are partnerships where it comes down to what do the partners believe is right for their clients and consultants.  If you're not getting much traction with staffing, I would try to find 2-3 partners and mangers you have worked with to take you under their wing.  They would know your needs far better than staffing and if they have a suitable opportunity, can pound the table for you.  Good luck!

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Cristian gave the best answer

Cristian

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