Understanding McKinsey & Company: why training is so important

Candour and plain speaking are key to the way McKinsey operates.

While you work

Much of the training is given on the job. Consultants typically receive regular feedback, frequently in the form of a review of their work on a most recent project. Performance evaluations are carried out twice a year, in part by a mentor known as a development group leader, or DGL. A DGL is typically a partner at McKinsey.

Mentoring is an important way of developing staff at all levels of the organisation. Many employees only remain with the organisation for a comparatively brief period of time – often between two and three years – and as the workforce is relatively fluid, there is a constant focus on training. More experienced consultants are expected to train newcomers who join their teams, sharing knowledge and experience and guidance on best practice on a regular basis. The company describes this approach as an apprenticeship model.

Employees are encouraged to take advantage of the experience of others around them and, whatever questions they may have, there is likely to be someone internal they can discuss it with.

Formal training

All new hires also receive around five to eight weeks of formal training during their first two years with the firm. New business analysts will attend a minimum of two training courses during their first year, each lasting a week:

Basic consulting readiness: the introductory course for all new consultants at the firm, teaching everything from culture of McKinsey to knowledge management techniques.

Business analyst training: taken between six months and a year of joining the firm, the course revisits and develops soft-skills such as communication and problem solving.

New hires are also likely to learn more about principles such as the McKinsey 7S Framework, a model developed in the 1980s by two McKinsey employees who identified seven ‘S’ words that needed to be aligned for any business to work coherently: strategy, structure, systems, shared values, skills, style and staff.

After the first year training increasingly depends on how the consultant’s career is taking shape, but is likely to cover the development of leadership skills and client interaction.

Further down the line

There are opportunities for international work with McKinsey, but this appears to be more likely for those in associate positions – essentially one rank up from the business analyst role that is most likely to be appropriate for new graduate hires. Consultants get involved in international work by taking part in a scheme known as the global rotation programme. Following an initial period of up to about a year spent getting used to an associate’s new responsibilities, those on the programme are then able to undertake two rotational placements of six to nine months, often running sequentially.

Employees are also encouraged to show some entrepreneurial flair in their work, and the company is willing to listen to a number of different proposals for development. Providing it helps the business, it seems likely that a well-reasoned and presented proposal will be listened to.

At this point employees may choose to shape their careers through consulting with clients in a particular section, such as healthcare or energy, to name but two, or regarding a particular business function. The paths available to employees vary depending on the office they are based in, their academic qualifications and the experience they have acquired during the course of their work.

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