Business Strategy

Case Study – Strategy Consulting Firm

Case Study
Researching Employees' Perception of Work-Life Quality for One of the World's Leading Strategy Consulting Firms


The Financial Services Group (FSG) of this leading strategy consulting firm wanted to understand how they could make their Firm the best place to work, not just for attracting and retaining talent, but through a desire to enhance the work-life quality of all employees. The Firm was cognisant that the brightest and most talented have more going on in their life than just their career management, particularly with the confluence of working and starting a family.

The FSG executive team recognised that in order to address this question they needed to engage more deeply with the consulting staff, something that went beyond employee engagement surveys and tools.  Inextrinsic was engaged to conduct in-depth interviews that sought to understand the lived experience of the consulting staff and their own perception of work-life quality.  All participants were guaranteed confidentiality and all quotes or references were anonymised so that they could talk freely without fear of repercussions.

The Project

Having agreed the research parameters we wrote a research brief and an invitation to participate was sent out to over 400 consulting staff in EMEA asking for volunteers.

To ensure diversity there was a heterogenuous sample and 75 interviews were conducted across 9 European offices, representing all levels in the hierarchy (including Partners), men and women, parents and non-parents, and 16 different nationalities. 109 hours of interview time was recorded and transcribed. Each interview was listened to at least twice by our researchers and Thematic Analysis was used to determine patterns of meaning that emerged from the interviews. In addition, to provide some quantitative balance to the research, participants were asked to complete a brief questionnaire on work-life boundaries.

The Results

Following the Thematic Analysis it was clear that there were some distinct patterns that transcended the entire sample.   The core themes were:

  • Empathy - where technology has created a barrier to deeper connection amongst employees for example the use of conference calls and weekend emails.
  • Burn Out – an issue experienced by employees at all levels.
  • Work and Family Life Compatibility – a very prominent theme for parents and those thinking about starting a family.

The research was delivered to a project steering group and the presentation included verbatim quotations from employees.  The steering group chose to share the entire research with the organisation at an annual off-site and one of the lead Partners commented: "The overwhelming response from our people was that they recognized the issues and were really pleased with the open way in which we presented them, with a complete lack of sugar coating."

"I was meeting a client and one of my colleagues said “You look a little bit tired, are you OK?” Nobody has asked me that in so many months…someone is actually looking at and asking me something other than “tell me what’s on the slide”…we don’t spend enough time just saying “Are you OK?”


"The people that we hire here are not the people that will say “hey I can’t cope”, they are the people who try to cope until they fall down, so putting all the responsibility on the actual person who is not coping. That's probably not the best approach."


Burn Out

I love the people here and working with them - being part of a business that serially 'does the right thing'.

"I feel like I have an expiration date and despite what everyone says I can’t help but think that the day I have children I won't be able to do this job anymore."



Work and Family Life Compatability

The Outcome

Through this Thematic Analysis the FSG has been able to set up working parties under each theme, with the support of Inextrinsic, and hence continue the effort toward making the Firm the best place to work.  One of the Partners commented that there is a new vocabulary within the firm that is more empathetic and understanding of employees' life choices.

From an individual perspective, many consultants reported that the interview itself was therapeutic, which they had not anticipated. Having the chance to talk freely to someone independent of the organisation prompted self-realisations and helped them to make sense of some of their own thoughts.

Posted in New Case Studies.